Idea Bombing: an idea whose time has come

There’s nothing new about brainstorming. Getting people together, throwing ideas around without judgement, and just seeing what sticks. But two young women town planners on the Gold Coast have taken it upon themselves to facilitate the mother of all brainstorming sessions.

Idea Bombing Gold Coast will bring together everyday people with a passion for culture and creativity for the sole purpose of just seeing what happens.

One of the organisers, Nicole Willis says it’s about collaboration and sharing knowledge.

“You have to be willing to give up what you know to get access to what someone else knows,” she said. “Planners like to consult the community. And idea bombing is about getting as many different ideas as possible, but getting them from people who wouldn’t normally get to present those ideas. Once ideas start to surface, people who have the same ideas from different areas can come together and collaborate,” she said.

The concept is one the ladies have “borrowed” from Sydney, where the community has already come together for a series of Idea Bombing sessions. The first session asked: how can we make Sydney more creative? And the second asked: how can we better connect? Not surprisingly the common themes for the creativity session focused on a greener, more connected and playful Sydney, as well as more support for creative industries.

Jes Johnston is the other half of the organising team. Jes went to high school here on the Gold Coast and university at Griffith, graduating with a post graduate certificate in social change and development. She says the first Gold Coast event will focus on getting ideas flowing.

“It’s being hosted at Burleigh Brewing Co,” she said, acknowledging the great space they have available. “We have three key speakers who will do a five minute presentation on making the Gold Coast more creative. These speakers will get the juices pumping and then we turn over to the people who have come to get down their ideas.”

“Then we put them together and analyse them and then we have to get them out through social media, write posts about them, put people to ideas, get further discussion,” Nicole says of what happens after.

The duo have both been taken under the wing of John O’Callahan who founded Idea Bombing Sydney. He was a speaker at a Planning Institute of Australia conference here on the Gold Coast and found himself touring the city with Nicole. “I started to tell him all these ideas and he said ‘you need to get onto this thing’,” Nicole told me.

I asked the ladies what their motivation is for bringing the concept to the Gold Coast and they said to effectively act as a ‘middle man’ between the community and council.

“I think a lot of aspects of the Gold Coast are untapped and maybe people don’t really know how to express themselves or find pathways or avenues to take to voice their opinions. We’re trying to move in those kind of circles to show them that we can help and maybe be the middle man with council,” Jes said. Which led me to ask what their relationship with Council is like. Jes said Cr Tozer had been supportive of the concept and that Council knows about what they’re doing.

“If we can show there’s enough people behind an idea, well council are always looking at new ideas to implement and introduce policy,” they said.

“My main motivation I think is in the fact that people don’t see the Gold Coast as being very creative or culturally diverse and a lot of the projects that get initiated seem a little bit contrived. It’s only been recently we’ve seen projects that tend to be from a grassroots level. They’re the ones that seem to work,” Nicole said.

Jes agrees and says that people don’t realize how much the Gold Coast has to offer. “It has a community feel, exciting things happening, new and interesting industries that people are really expressing themselves through. I don’t think that’s seen at the minute. People don’t come to the Gold Coast for that. We are really evolving,” Jes said.

It might seem a bit counterintuitive that planners are so interested in the cultural fabric that binds our city, but both girls agree that it’s critical to their professional work.

Jes talks about the social elements of planning and assessing people’s needs. “When you can join what people are looking for and what you can do from a development sense and bring the two together – that’s when you can facilitate a city with what the people want from it,” she explained.

“It’s important to gain understanding of the people living there. Once you can do that, you can plan for what they’re looking for and give them a sense of ownership over the area they live in.

And Nicole talks about the fact that planners both create and implement policy. “I’m more interested in is how we create better policy so we get that flow through to development. We have a lot of rules that are just rules because they’ve always been rules. And unless there is evidence to change them, they don’t change. We can have residential here and commercial here and industrial here, but where are the bits in between?”

“Creativity turns plans into place,” Nicole said.

“I guess we want to find those boundaries and then see how far we can push them,” Jes said and Nicole agreed. “We have no expectations. The ideas might be completely different to how we’re thinking. That’s the exciting thing. They’re ideas. They don’t even have to be legal.”

60 second Idea Bombing with Jes and Nicole

Private and public wall space for art

Shared spaces for pedestrian, cars and bikes

Any street art is good street art

Reopen dead space

If a car park isn’t used, find a new use for it.

Change late night noise regulations so people can have music concerts outdoors

Allow our urban fabric to be one big canvas

Vacant tenancies should be open to artists to use

Use tactical urbanism / popup devices to reactivate spaces

Unlock parks and and allow creative to do their thing.

Unlock the beach to artists andlocal businesses doing something creative.

Street trees should be fruit trees

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The Gold Coast’s first Idea Bombing session will feature five minute presentations by Salvador Cantellano (City of Gold Coast), Destry Puia (Arts Centre Gold Coast) and Terri Lew (19Karen Gallery). It takes place on Thursday 27 August from 5.30 – 8.30pm at Burleigh Brewing Co. The bar will be open for cash sales, Siguenos will be on site for food purchases, and Benny D Williams will be there plying his musical craft.

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