Walking down to Fremantle Oval from my place is something I’ve done hundreds of times – going to South Fremantle games, going to see the Dockers train and sometimes play, going to see the Fremantle Women’s team, going for a kick on the oval, even going to meetings. But as I walked down on Sunday afternoon I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
It was Before the Siren, part of the Perth International Arts Festival. I’m still not sure what it was but I liked it. It was made up by Lara Thoms and a ‘local art duo’ called Snapcat as a kind of celebration of the coming of the AFL Women’s competition and women in teams and groups and gangs and mobs everywhere.
It started with a ripping welcome to country by Marie Taylor, who mentioned Maurice Rioli, the Collard brothers and Stephen Michael, then we stood for the Before the Siren anthem sung by the great Gina Williams – we were supposed to sing along but probably needed a bit more workshopping.
Thoms and fellow commentator Hannah Gadsby in, I’m guessing, her first footy role, then brought on the cast of hundreds. A group of players from the Butler Falcons – all from refugee or migrant backgrounds, burst through a banner that read WE CAME TO AUSTRALIA and I wanted to bawl my eyes out. “This is the country I want!” I might have shouted if I was the shouting out type.
And the banners kept going up and the groups kept smashing the crepe out of them – roller derbyists, red hatters, embroiderers, a motor bike gang called The Lightning Furies, women called Shirley, Girl Guides, activists, the Gorna Liyarn Indigenous Dancers, members of the Dockers supporters group the Sirens, the Dockers banner group, who must have had a busy week, the Dockers cheer squad and a few old girls who still like playing footy. There was even a token group of young men – cheerleaders – it was good to see them involved in something active.
Before the Siren was all over the place, it was funny and inspiring and silly just as any community arts event should be.
The only disappointment for me was when the final siren sounded it wasn’t the real Fremantle Oval siren.