Three creatives enjoy the sights and talk about their town. Brisbane seems to be coming out of puberty. Will people stop leaving soon?

Words: Bri Lee
Photos: Angela Ferro

Since finishing high school most of my creative mates have followed the siren call of a “richer culture�? down south in Melbourne. The braniacs from class are swapping briefs and shares in Sydney or Hong Kong, and the pretty girls who became flight attendants are partying in Dubai. Life in Brisbane feels like a house party where I’m comfy on a couch but people are leaving the room. Kinda makes you stop and think – do I stink?

Rhea Isaacs and I met after I fan-girled over her art (she works under the name Young Earl Grey) at the Not Your Sweetheart exhibition and I interviewed her for Hot Chicks with Big Brains. I was introduced to Angela Ferro by mutual friends at an actual house party in Paddington, and we hit it off talking about feminism and her photography.

All three of us grew up in Brisbane. Rhea is moving to Paris in November for art and love. Angela is in New Zealand for the foreseeable future. I’ve committed myself to Brisbane for at least 2016 because I have faith in this town, but I can’t call myself a true believer – I’m wondering if there may be more for me elsewhere. We hung out together at Southbank in the last week of August to have fun with dinosaurs and reflect on our town.

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Bri: What was it like for you, growing up in Brisbane?

Angie: Pretty idyllic! My family lives on really beautiful acreage in an amazing house on the outskirts of town and most of my childhood was spent surrounded by sprawling greenery, fresh air, and quiet. In high school and university obviously there were times when I was frustrated there weren’t as many opportunities here compared to the bigger cities, especially being a creative, but looking back on it now I’d be foolish or deluded to think I hadn’t been brought up in a wonderful place.

Bri: Yeah, I’m grateful I grew up in Brisbane, but when you hit the teen years it’s easy to feel like you’ve outgrown it. I know a lot of mates that feel the same.

Rhea: I was obsessed with Back to The Future when I was a teenager. I went to school out in Bald Hills which has a sort of similar feel to the 80’s suburbia in the movie – bleak nothingness and blue skies. I used to pretend that Doc Brown was going to pick me up in the DeLorean at any minute and take me away on some adventure. I was constantly imagining myself in the world of the movies and media coming from American culture, and I actually ended up dissecting that fantasy years later for my thesis at university.

Bri: So why are you leaving?

Rhea: I’m actually back here for a few months for the first time since I was 18. I love Sydney (where I’ve been living since, plus a stint in Melbourne), but I couldn’t afford to live there and save for moving to Paris at the same time. I don’t think I would ever choose to live in Brisbane again though – there isn’t enough here for what I do, and I feel like it reminds me too much of growing up. Too many memories I’m not fond of.

Bri: High school sucked.

Rhea: Yeah.

Angie: Ultimately it doesn’t matter if you grow up in Bundaberg or Brisbane or Berlin – if you’re a curious person and you’re determined to live a full, rich life you’re going to leave this place, if only for a little bit. I’ve had strong wanderlust for as long as I can remember, and the more time I spend abroad, the more I’ve come to the realisation that travel is going to be an integral part of my future. As long as I’m traveling and shooting, I’m happy.

Bri: Creatives always talk about there not being enough “opportunities�? in Brisbane, and that other places have “more opportunities�? for them. I think they just mean work. And infrastructure for creative people to make work. Do you agree?

Rhea: I feel the scene is definitely growing and expanding which I’m glad for. I mean, maybe in ten years there will be more things to do but right now, for what I’m interested in, there’s not a lot.

Angie: There are many more opportunities now than even a few years ago when I was in high school and first developing as a photographer. I feel like there are creative initiatives kicking off all the time now, it’s so wonderful. It’s still not on the level of Sydney or Melbourne, but it’s really getting somewhere. This generation of Brisbane creatives has the opportunity to ride the cusp of it all and really make something of it. I think we get so caught up comparing Brisbane to the advantages of larger, more culturally developed cities that we perhaps forget that with a lot of opportunities comes a tidal wave of similar minds, and with that a lot of market saturation. Brisbane creatives have a real advantage there.

Bri: I’m definitely excited for 2016. The development here in the last couple of years especially is so exciting. I’m hoping that next year – both for me and for Hot Chicks with Big Brains – will offer a perfect combination of pond-size to fish-size. Does that make sense? I mean, as a writer, if I were in Melbourne I’d be a tiny fish, but here in Brisbane you can become a pretty big fish in a short period of time, but what’s the point swimming in a small pond? I guess also I’m wary of becoming too comfortable here and not challenging myself enough.

Rhea: I think just now Brisbane is finally getting its boom. When I was a teenager, there was barely anywhere to shop – now there are vintage stores, TopShop and cool international brands. I remember when the plaza opened on Adelaide St with David Jones and it was such a big deal!

Bri: We even have way more awesome independent designers here now too! Angie do you want something?

Angela: Yes please. What did you get?

Bri: Bananas, marshmallows, musk sticks, a killer python, peanut MnM’s-

Angela: A peanut MnM please.

Bri: Done.