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Our Laneways Need Serious Help

By Adrian Doyle

Published: October 29th 2018

So I run the Melbourne Street Art Tours and have done since 2008.

When you go on a tour you meet a street artist at Federation Square and the artist takes you on a tour of the Melbourne laneways giving his/her version of the history of street art, graffiti and Melbourne.

You weave through the stinky lanes finding hidden secrets and hearing anecdotes about artists and artworks. Then you end up at the Blender Studios where we have a small high tea style drinks and cheese platter before getting a VIP tour of the studios.

Since we first started the street art tours we have always proudly begun the tour with Hosier and Rutledge Lanes. And then we either head down Centre Place and Campbell Arcade or we head down AC/DC Lane and Duckboard Place.

So, now that the Metro Tunnel is being built, Campbell Arcade will be closed next year and with it the boutiques and arty shops like Corky St Clair, Sticky Institute and the gallery space that has been running in the boxes along the arcade for over 20 years.

A similar thing has happened to Centre Place, which was all but destroyed when the ANZ Bank put a big door and connected the lane to one of its corporate buildings, destroying what was once one of the best lanes in Melbourne.

The other option for the tour route is AC/DC Lane and Duckboard Place. AC/DC Lane has some okay art. There is nearly always a cool revolving mural at the front of the lane and a funny and interesting sculpture of Bon Scott by Makatron.

However, half the lane has fallen into disrepair due to unsanctioned advertising. As you go around and into Duckboard Place most of the art has been destroyed by development. At least the two Banksys have survived.

The top of this lane used to be a highlight of the tour but the council has cleaned off all the art and put up sanctioned areas for bill posting so they can rent it and make a little bit of money.

Between these issues and Hosier becoming a billboard for mediocrity, we also are dealing with the huge new Metro Tunnel shed in Federation Square which is being built right on top of our old meeting point, as well as the visitor information centre.

So that end of the city has certainly lost the charm that it once had.

Due to these circumstances I have been thinking of changing the meeting spot from Fed Square to the State Library. This opens up the north end of the CBD which is in great condition as far as street art goes.

The north end of the CBD has many interesting laneways and areas that not many people know about. These unexplored areas have many benefits. For one, there is not many tourists. (Hosier gets around 10,000 people a day) and much of the areas are unknown and looked after by the urban art community.

The issue I am having is if I set up the tours from the north end of the city then people won’t get to see Hosier Lane and the Banksy in Duckboard Place. The tour guides are sick of Hosier Lane. It can be like a war zone in there and is known to be hard to navigate when you have a bunch of school kids in tow.

Even the City of Melbourne considers this area too unsafe for their council workers to go there and work. But it is a place that gets so many tourists and it’s so famous. People travel from all over the world to see Hosier Lane.

Why doesn’t the council and the state government formulate a cohesive plan to bring Hosier back to its former glory? If such an important tourist attraction in any other circumstances fell into this kind of disrepair it would create a national outcry.

So here I am with the dilemma about whether or not I should change the route to the more vibrant north side, or keep it the way that it is and meet at a large shed in Fed Square just to see these two unimpressive but famous lanes that have slipped into a sad state of disrepair.


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