A socially distanced soiree

2 June 2020

Fremantle’s Kidogo Arthouse has found a new way to welcome back music, art and community as restrictions ease. Ara Jansen finds out more.

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“A magical, heavenly experience” was how one friend described the first night of Joanna’s Candlelit Soirees at Kidogo Arthouse last week.

With the loosening of restrictions, the Large Gallery at the much-loved Fremantle arts venue at Bathers Beach has been transformed into a cosy lounge, warmed by candles, carpets, plants and art. It’s the perfect place for Joanna’s Candlelit Soirees five nights a week for the next few months. The Joanna in question is Joanna Robertson, long-time owner of Kidogo and staunch advocate for the arts.

Joanna Robertson has combined her love of music and the arts to make a welcoming gathering place at Kidogo Arthouse.

The soirees feature loungeroom-style sets from local musicians and dinner in the company of 20 friends and strangers, who might well become friends by the end of the night.

Like a lot of arts activities, necessity has been the mother of invention for the Candlelit Soirees. Kidogo, like other venues, has been forced to move many of their planned public activities to later in the year and into 2021.

So, what to do in the meantime? Robertson wanted to create something which combined her love for music and the arts, support for the local industry and a welcoming gathering place. 

“What I’ve missed the most in the last two months is not being able to have beautiful music and performances at Kidogo,” she said. “When the restrictions loosened it became possible to bring a little bit of that back.

“For most of these musicians, this is going to be the first time they’ve been back on stage for months, so I think that’s also going to make it as special for them as it is for us. This is me and my family and friends hosting you and we want everything to feel special. I think it will also be a great place for other musicians and industry people to gather.”

From a musical perspective it’s a wonderful opportunity to get up-close-and-personal with a musician as they create art in real time, right in front of you. Plus, that connection in a small space will always have a different flavour and power to a stadium or concert hall show.

Robertson says the soirees created an opportunity for an important reinvention for Kidogo. While there are no promises, she already suspects these nights might continue well into the later part of the year and become a regular feature in the space.

“I love that we were able to come up with an idea which was safe but also helped live music be heard again. Performing in front of people is totally different from doing it on YouTube. The audience is the missing ingredient and that has always been part of the magic. Getting that warmth and support from the audience is wonderful.

“The room is small enough that the musicians can talk to the audience or have someone ask a question from across the room and have it heard. I love that the performers can also chat with the people in the room. It’s cosy and intimate. Quite a number of people have commented that the great atmosphere feels a lot like the original Fly by Night.”

The 20 people limit and social distancing is observed with plenty of space to lounge. There is no menu, but you’ll get a two or three-course home-cooked meal of fresh, healthy comfort food rounded out by Robertson’s famous homemade bread.

John Reed and Kavisha Mazzella perform at the reinvented Kidogo Arthouse venue.

Tuesday is Opera Night with a different artist each week from 6.30pm – 8.30pm ($75 for three courses). Soiree with the recently returned Kavisha Mazella on Thursdays, enjoy Friday nights with Bryan Dalton and on Saturday night The Artist’s Lounge features a different act weekly. Expect much music and maybe some blarney on Sunday nights with Irish Parlour Music.

Thursday to Saturday nights at Joanna’s Candlelit Soiree features two sessions – 5.30pm $55 for two courses and 7.30pm $65 for three courses.

“Kavisha Mazella, who is an old friend of mine, played our first night. It was both her first show back in Perth for a long time and her first time back on stage for many months. That certainly gave a wonderful energy to the night. Some of the people who came to see her play knew her from way back and someone even said they had known her when she was 15. It was a wonderful opportunity for her to chat and connect. Plus, I think each person in the audience felt they were able to personally interact with her too. I think that’s special.

“When the nights are cold, what more could you want than warm company?”

Joanna’s Candlelit Soiree runs five nights a week at Kidogo Arthouse

Pictured top: A socially distanced audience enjoys a performance at the newly reinvented Kidogo Arthouse.

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Author —
Ara Jansen

Ara Jansen is a freelance journalist. Words, bright colour, books, music, art, fountain pens, good conversation, interesting people and languages make her deeply happy. A longtime music journalist and critic, she’s the former music editor of The West Australian. Being in the pool next to the playground is one of her favourite places, ever.

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