St Kilda welcomes a brand new rock and roll landmark today after a council meeting last night officially named a laneway in honour of influential Australian songwriter Rowland S. Howard, who passed away in December 2009 after a long battle with liver cancer.
As previously reported, the push to have the street named after the former Birthday Party guitarist and musician started with a petition from local music promoter Nick Haines, with the aim of naming the street in honour of “Rowland’s contribution to the cultural fabric of St Kilda and to the contemporary music and arts community past and present.”
The petition gained traction from local community and support from Rowland S. Howard’s estate as well as a number of high profile musicians. Henry Rollins and The Pogues’ Shane MacGowan were among the celebrity supporters, as well as Howard’s former collaborator Mick Harvey, and – most prominently – Nick Cave.
The Bad Seeds ringleader wrote a letter to the City of Port Phillip council reading: “Rowland and I were friends, bandmates, collaborators and fellow conspirators in the St Kilda music scene in the late ’70s and early ’80s. His artistic legacy endures, and I hope that you can honour him with the cultural recognition he richly deserves.”
The minutes from last night’s City of Port Phillip council meeting show that the final tally for the petition was “2,069 signatories (686 signed and 1383 online petition) requesting that Council names the lane between Jackson Street and Eildon Road, St Kilda, as Rowland S. Howard Lane.”
The petition also states that the naming of the laneway would mark “a positive affirmation of the important role contemporary live music has played and continues to play in St Kilda’s changing cultural landscape. An active live music community makes a positive contribution toward the diversity of our city and is highly valued by many of its residents.”
Howard first came up with Cave in the post-punk scene of the late 70s in the Birthday Party, forging a turbulent musical duo that was characterised by their excessive hedonism and in-fighting. Despite their differences, the two remained friends and Howard went on to become an infamous figure in St Kilda’s local music scene, and remained a local resident and performer in the area until his death.
The solo artist played his last show to a sold out crowd at St Kilda’s Prince of Wales in 2009 before dying on December 30th from liver cancer, a struggle of his later life that was beautifully chronicled in the 2011, Richard Lowenstein and Lynn-Maree Milburn-directed documentary, Autoluminescent.
The lane to be named in his honour, notes the council minutes, is located near Eildon Road where Howard used to live, and runs “between 29 and 31 Jackson Street, St Kilda through to between 19 and 21 Eildon Road, St Kilda. The lane has pedestrian access only (poles have been erected to restrict vehicular access through the lane). There are no properties addressed to the lane and no properties are accessed via the lane.”
Despite the approval by City of Port Phillip council of the naming of ‘Rowland S Howard Lane’, the council minutes do note that it “does not meet the Guidelines for Geographic Names 2010 (Principle 1(H)) because of the middle initial and the use of two names rather than just the surname.”
Additionally “the Office of Geographic Names has advised that the name is unacceptable, however a formal request for an exemption can be submitted to the Registrar of Geographic Names for consideration.”
The issue is merely one of bureaucracy, with the 2010 Guidelines for Geographic Names stating that full names or surnames without the use of initials is preferential, “this approach is to ensure that emergency and postal services are not delayed through inconsistent application of the name.”
The council has already applied for an exemption under the principle for commemorative names, and it is expected that the request to name ‘Rowland S Howard Lane’ will be granted.
Nick Haines, the man behind the winning petition, says the idea for the geographical tribute came after the changing of Corporation Lane to AC/DC Lane in 2004 by Melbourne City Council. “[Howard] really put St Kilda on the map when it comes to music,” said Haines. “It would be good to acknowledge a true local who had a phenomenal influence around the world.”
The move also gained support from local councillor Serge Thomann. “Rowland S. Howard is well loved in St Kilda and the two sellout concerts at Memo Hall two weeks ago as a tribute to the ‘Prince of St Kilda‘ is testimony of his legacy,” said Cr Thomann, remarking on the tribute shows to Rowland S. Howard that launched St Kilda venue The Memo, featuring the likes of Tex Perkins, Mick Harvey, Spencer P Jones, and a range of musical guests.
You can view a handy street view of the new laneway landmark below:
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