Skipsters - What These Hipsters in a Bin Tells Us About City Design
Skipsters - What These Hipsters in a Bin Tells Us About City Design

Skipsters - What These Hipsters in a Bin Tells Us About City Design

Is gentrification coming for our rubbish bins? Or is there more to the story of the #skipsters?

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I'm on Easey Street in Collingwood, and no one has a reputation for having a hipster culture. Now this came to a head right here. This was the exact point, where this photo was taken.

"I've never seen anything more hipster than lunch in a skip." That was the caption of the photo when it was posted to Instagram on a sunny Friday afternoon in 2015. And this photo truly went viral and all of these folks were being branded as skipsters. But was it true? Was gentrification coming to our dumpsters? Was ed gonna skip in Melbourne's coolest new trend? But it turns out there's more to this story than just a group of young professionals having their lunch in a bin.

And part of me understands why this is considered peak Melbourne. This is where the skip bin was. And just two buildings down is a place where you can get a beer or a burger in a graffiti train on top of a building.

So let's dive into what really happened. This incident took place at a time when the concept of hipsters was at its peak and hating on hipsters was just as popular. To give an example of this during my research, which mostly involved typing hipster and being into various search engines. I came up with this unrelated tweet that kinda shows my point.

So the same is picked up by a popular meme account Brown Cardigan and that resulted in thousands of comments and shares and likes. In 2015, just as hipsters was at its peak so was Buzzfeed. And turning popular social media post into listicles was their thing. And it was this image that topped the 23 photos that prove that Melbourne is the hipster capital of Australia.

And this reminds me of a passage from eat, pray, love of all things where Giovanni recommends a pizza place and "Given that the best pizza in Italy is from Naples, and the best pizza in the world is from Italy, which means that this pizzeria must offer, I'm almost too superstitious to say it the best pizza in the world." So if we take this five-year-old Buzzfeed listicle as fact and why wouldn't we? And apply this line of Elizabeth Gilbert thinking "if this is the most hipster period in history and Melbourne is the most hipster city in the country, and this is the most hipster thing in Melbourne. I'm almost too superstitious to say this, This is the most hipster moment in Australian history." caught on camera.

But I wanted to understand the truth behind skipsters and to understand the skipster, you must be friend of the skipster.

[Katie] My name is Katie, and I'm a skipster. I used to work at Co-design studio, which was the urban planning not-for-profit that did the infamous park in a skip.

[Julian] Katie was featured in a lot of media articles about this and her organisation Co-design studio was involved in pop-up placemaking and urban design projects, including creating parklets that is turning car parks into regular parks. And a lot of what this work actually involves is getting permission from councils.

[Katie] If you're a community member and you wanna do something cool in your neighbourhood there's enormous amounts of red tape. It's not intentional, but it's just really difficult to get stuff through council sometimes.

[Presenter] When Ian last applied for an outdoor dining permit. How long did it take?

It took about nine months.

[Presenter] Nine months?


So it was out of this frustration and a fun idea that led to this incident.

[Katie] So we had this skip delivered a day early to clean out the garage. And one of our interns was at a loose end and so, without really warning us ahead of time, had just decked, just put the AstroTurf in the skip and thought it would be cute. And one of us came down to check on her and was like, "This is amazing." Actually, this just costs us 20 bucks. We could just make a park like right now after a year and a half of trying and make a point to council about how easy it could be.

So while the picture may have implied there was sitting amongst the rubbish. It turns out the skip with it's artificial grass and seats was actually quite lovely. So while yes the whole skipster thing did form part of the narrative, the media stories did cover off on the issue of the use of public spaces.

[Katie] It is deeply absurd to have to have lunch in a skip because there's nowhere else to sit. Like normally when we have lunch in this neighbourhood, we just sit in the curb. Somebody from council actually called us up and said, " Ah! we see what you've done there. We've got a project for you." And that was definitely the best response.

And this idea of parklets is a global concept with these carpark takeovers happening all around the world, particularly for an annual parking day event. And that brings us to today, as the city emerges from lockdown, there are the two challenges of trying to keep people safe, but restarting the city's cafes and restaurants.

In Melbourne city council have announced a massive plan to revitalise the city and to get the hospitality industry back on track with outdoor dining.

Melbourne CBD could be transformed into an outdoor dining Mecca under a new plan.

The idea here is to use the streets, the laneways, even the car parks, to help our famous cafes and restaurants get back on their feet.

The $100 million plan aims to revitalize what's become a ghost town.

Thank you city of Melbourne for bringing back the soul and love in the city.

And the counsellors know that they've been slow on this issue in the past, but there has been a need to act and to act fast.

There does need to be some urgency with this. We don't want bureaucratic delays. We don't want arguments and debates.

There is no public space that we won't look at, and if it makes sense to use, then we'll be making it available so that we can turn Melbourne back on.

Then we need to become a city of yes.

And in just months Melbourne has turned hundreds of car parks into outdoor dining areas. Cafes and restaurants have moved onto the streets. This reclaiming of streets and car parks was made possible by people like this these skipsters showing how these transformations can be done.

Why should a place to park a car or a place to put your trash be more important than places for community to gather?

Although they still are known for that whole eating in a bin thing.

I was talking to some friends who live in Adelaide and they were saying, "Oh my gosh, isn't Melbourne awful. Did you see about those idiots in the skip?" I had to tell them it was me.

So when you think about it, maybe the most hipster part of what they did was simply that they were eating in car parks before it was cold. I'm Julian O'Shea, thank you for watching. Please do subscribe if you enjoyed this. There's more Unknown Melbourne videos coming up. That's it for me.

It is inherently absurd. There's a bunch of dumdums sitting in a bin.