Get pickled after dark!

26 April 2023

Perth’s Pickle District serves up its annual arts party, After Dark, next month. Ara Jansen sticks her hand in the jar to find out what you might discover.

It’s not often that getting totally pickled is something you’re encouraged to do – and do with gusto.

But that’s exactly what you’ll be doing at the free roving art crawl called After Dark 3.0. Just to be clear, you’ll be getting pickled on all things arts in The Pickle District.

If you’ve not yet discovered The Pickle District, this is your chance. It’s a thriving West Perth arts hub, nestled between the city, Leederville and Northbridge. Within a 300 metre area, the precinct is home to art galleries, design and photography studios, a boutique theatre and event spaces.

A group of people standing in an art gallery, chatting and drinking.
Punters at The Backlot, enjoying last year’s Pickle District After Dark event. Photo supplied

The Pickle District came together in March 2018 when local businesses and owners decided to form a loose cooperative group as a way of promoting the arts. A dozen businesses, including the Holmes à Court Gallery, Linton & Kay Galleries, Fridays Studio, Voxlab, Cleaver Street & Co, and The Backlot, make up the district.

Andrew Kailis is the district’s co-ordinator. Often considered the glue of it all, he’s the only resident of the area. For well over 10 years, he and his family have lived in a house which has been in the Kailis family for 80 years.

You can choose your own adventure as you walk around. People bump into people they’ve not seen for ages.

“I love it here,” he says simply. “There’s always something interesting happening within walking distance.”

This year at After Dark 3.0 – The Pickle District’s third annual party for the arts on May 5 – the dozen or so businesses and venues in the area will throw open their doors for visitors to enjoy a variety of art experiences. The over-18s walk-around event will feature exhibitions and installations, music, food and projections.

“It’s something a little bit different and unique in the sense it’s all about what you discover when you walk through the area,” says Kailis. “It brings together all the businesses and activities in the area.

“It’s such a fun night … you can choose your own adventure as you walk around. People bump into people they’ve not seen for ages.

“We get a great crowd, not just people who are interested in art. Everyone seems to have a smile on their face.”

It comes together because everyone who is part of the district volunteers their time, talent and businesses to create and support the event.

The over-18s walk-around event will feature exhibitions and installations, music, food and projections. Pictured is a scene from a previous incarnation of After Dark. Photo: Matthew Gedling

Artists Bec Juniper and Jon Denaro have their warehouse-sized art studio in The Pickle District, which is also headquarters for their business Voxlab.

The large workshop at 5 Aberdeen Place is where Juniper paints and Denaro sculpts large scale pieces of public art.

“I absolutely love it,” Juniper says of the space. “It’s just great to be in the middle and part of things. There’s a lot of life here.

It’s the best part of being an artist – having people see what you do.

“The festival is one of the things I really look forward to. I love having people come through the space and seeing their faces when they see what’s here. It’s a dream space.”

She loves observing people’s reactions to seeing a working studio, particularly if it’s the first time. It’s sometimes easy to forget it’s not a daily occurrence for most people. With a couple of shows coming up, Juniper says there will be plenty of work to see. She doesn’t tidy up too much, so what you see is her real creative environment.

“It’s the best part of being an artist – having people see what you do. I love the doing and making side of things.”

‘When people come to the workshop to see what’s going on, they can be amazed and inspired,’ – Jon Denaro, pictured making work at Voxlab. Photo supplied

For Denaro, After Dark 3.0 is all about discovery and a chance to get a glimpse into the internal spaces and lives of artists and the people in the district. A peek into what happens after dark.

He also likes the idea of an arts and creative event in the hands of people who actually make art across different mediums. He suggests that the more diverse the artistic arms that work together – whether it’s art or fashion or music – the better chance there is to create a scene or a precinct that is fertile and undeniable.

“While we’re having a festival, it’s more than just a festival,” says Denaro. “There’s still a link between economic areas and having a thriving artistic and culture base. In a very practical way, you bring into focus that creating connection to community can be through the community of arts precincts.

“When people come to the workshop to see what’s going on, they can be amazed and inspired. We’re trying to keep this type of making exciting within the precinct.”

Down the road at The Backlot there will be live music in the courtyard. Proudly supporting the WA film industry, they’ll also be screening the international award-winning short film Fading Numbers multiple times, which will be introduced by young Perth director Aron Attiwell.

“The way the area has grown organically from an inner city, light industrial area to a burgeoning arts hub since we opened nine years ago has been very exciting to watch,” says Ian Hale, managing director of The Backlot and HALO Films.

While it isn’t the reason for the event, The Pickle District’s members hope it also draws some attention to a threat to the area. The industrial area across Newcastle Street, Cleaver Street and Old Aberdeen Place is slated for redevelopment, so a section of The Pickle District might well be living on borrowed time. Kailis and other district members have been advocating for the retention of arts-related spaces within the new development, which reportedly will include a Bunnings.

“We’ve become friends who created a little neighbourhood out of nothing,” says Kailis, whose wife Belinda has a business in The Pickle District. 
“After Dark is a celebration not only of the arts, but the community we’ve all been involved in creating,” Hale says. “It’s incredibly important for areas like The Pickle District to be nurtured so it can grow and be a creative space for all of the arts community to congregate, work together and feel like they are part of something bigger that contributes to Perth as a whole.”

The fun starts at 6pm and the after party is at Old Aberdeen Place from 9pm. While the event is free, it would be appreciated if you could sign up for a ticket to help with planning.

Pictured top and below are scenes from previous After Dark events. Photos: Matthew Gedling.

A neon sign that says "PICKLE DISTRICT after dark" glows in the dark.

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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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