Enthusiasm, the Creative Industry and the 'Creative Tropical City: Mapping Darwin’s Creative Industries' Project





enthusiasm, motivation, space, place, Darwin

How to Cite

Hill, C. R. (2009). Enthusiasm, the Creative Industry and the ’Creative Tropical City: Mapping Darwin’s Creative Industries’ Project. M/C Journal, 12(2). https://doi.org/10.5204/mcj.137
Vol. 12 No. 2 (2009): enthuse
Published 2009-05-09

I love Darwin, I love it up here, I love the north, I love the swamp. It’s the energy; it’s unpredictable, totally unpredictable. Whether that’s because people are coming and going… It’s probably because of the changeability of the weather; I love the wet season, it’s a dynamic place.  I am eventually planning to move down south for a while, I have to, I’ve got family commitments and so on and the thing that worries me most is that it’s all so predictable down there. So Darwin has an energy, it’s alive, I absolutely love it, I absolutely love it.  The people that come up here come here because they read that energy I believe; it’s a dynamic place, a very exciting place.

Enthusiasm drives all people to make decisions and act, often without thorough thought. It is an important aspect of human life and is needed for development and risk-taking. Much has been written about the key driving role played by enthusiasm in the creative industries in enabling them to thrive (Hesmondhalgh; Leadbeater and Miller). Indeed, much of the focus around enthusiasm and the creative industries has concerned itself with the degree to which exploitation of labour is made possible by the eagerness of creatives to ‘get a foot in the door’, or simply to do the work they love; this is most often discussed in terms of ‘precarious labour’ (Kucklich; Luckman; Neilson and Rossiter; Ross; Terranova). Precarious labour practices , as explained by Neilson and Rossiter, “generate new forms of subjectivity and connection, organised about networks of communication, cognition, and affect”. However there are also other ways in which enthusiasm can be apparent in the work of creative practitioners; for example, not only in relation to their work, but how this relates to, and is inspired by, the spaces and communities within which it is undertaken. As Drake recently argued, the relationship to locality is an important part of creative practice and can, in and of itself, be “a source of aesthetic inspiration” (Drake 512).  

This article will explore the relationship between enthusiasm, creative industries and place, using interview transcript data generated as part of the ARC funded Linkage project ‘Creative Tropical City: Mapping Darwin’s Creative Industries’. In keeping with the migration statistics which point to Darwin as a city with considerable population turn-over, many of the people who were interviewed discussed moving to Darwin and the reasons they have stayed. This poses important questions, for example: what has enthused people to move to Darwin to practice within their creative industries, and what has motivated them to stay?

The Relationship between ‘Enthusiasm’ and ‘Motivation’ 

Enthusiasm, defined here as “the dynamic motivator that keeps one persistently working toward his goal” (Peale 4) can be manifested in a number of ways. It can enhance creative activities, enable a move, and it can be a motivating factor in creating change. As Kant explains of enthusiasm: “The idea of the good to which affection is superadded is enthusiasm. This state of mind appears to be sublime: so much so that there is a common saying that nothing great can be achieved without it” (90). For enthusiasm to take hold there must first be a passion from which leads to an excitement that appears to be ‘sublime’ (Kant 90). It could be argued that this leads to decisions being made that may be regrettable, however the question remains, what enthuses us to make decisions that will greatly impact our life? There are many decisions that require enthusiasm for a final answer to be produced. Excitement must be present and well established for an enthused decision to be made. Cultural enthusiasm can be produced through mass motivation. As we will see here, the people of Darwin drawn upon here demonstrate such enthusiasm in regards to their creative community, especially when this has involved moving to (distant) Darwin, and leaving family, friends and existing networks. 

It is arguable that enthusiasm cannot exist without motivation, while motivation can exist without enthusiasm (Maslow, Toward). Motivation drives us to begin and carry through certain acts. Enthusiasm allows us the excitement and passion to create a change but motivation is needed to carry it through. Motivation is another step in the process of decision making from enthusiasm. A person can be enthused to take action, but there needs to be motivation to follow through on the decision. Max Weber argues that there is a “rational understanding of motivation, which consists in placing the act in an intelligible and more inclusive context of meaning” (Weber, Henderson & Parsons, 95). There are rational motivational factors that enable a person to participate in an activity, such as payment or reward. Motivation can be found through both paid and unpaid work, as Weber discusses “elements of the motivation of economic activity under the conditions of a market economy: … the fact that they fun the risk of going entirely without provisions, both for themselves and for those personal dependents, such as children, wives, sometimes parents” (110). Within contemporary capitalist culture there is a requirement to work to be able to provide for oneself as well as family. These opportunities require employment and/or an income. However, as the literature on precarious labour in the creative industries all too readily attests to, volunteer and unpaid work too, require forms of motivation, such a love of one’s work or the possibility of making more lucrative opportunities arise.   

‘Enthusiasm’ for Darwin as a Creative Place 

Enthusiasm can be achieved in many ways, however, in the case of the Darwin creative industry interviewees, what enthuses them to move to, or back to, Darwin? What is attracting them to stay? While leaving one’s home and/or established place of residence is always a big move, the choice to move to and stay in a small, extremely isolated city such as Darwin is almost always circumscribed by a strong emotional connection to the place. It is in this emotional relationship to place that a sense of the sublime can start to become evident, often expressed in terms of the city’s tropical savannah climate or unique remoteness from Australia, but proximity to Asia:


It’s just a marvellous place, in terms of the natural environment, I am mesmerised by it and feel a real connection to it, because it is just so marvellous. The other positives are you can't beat the lifestyle, living in shorts and t-shirts and literally outside all the time.  And the other thing I love about it is, in terms of the demography of the place, there really is no such thing as the best suburb, or the best street, it is incredible mix, so you can have million dollar mansions with a housing commission block of flats right next door, that you do have black and white and all the shades in between, living in the one street. My entire professional career, has been about promoting understanding and fostering tolerance and appreciation of other cultures. … The community here consider that Asian expanse just to our north as a connecting space.

So there are a number of factors connecting creative people to Darwin. On top of the more basic, yet nonetheless motivated reasons for working, there is an enthusiasm evident in peoples’ productive-creative lives. It is a remote area that allows people the time and space to be able to practice their creative activities, including architecture, painting, dance and music as well as the time to think. There are a number of locations that the 61 people who have acknowledged having moved to Darwin from. Some were born in Darwin and moved away for education only to return to practice their creative activities. For example, one acknowledged bringing her skills back with her:  

Originally from here, I was born in Darwin, so – and I left here when I was 21, and went to live in London, and then I lived in New Zealand for a while.  I lived in Sydney … as well, and then came back again.  So, bringing those skills, obviously, with me and to try and set up something that you’d find interstate.

Inspiration is a vital aspect of enthusiasm. Wordsworth speaks of inspiration in relation to the bible suggesting, “it has an ever-growing adaptation to the future, as the future rises into the present” (420). This idea of inspiration can be carried through to the people of Darwin, as they are inspired to complete works and to stay in Darwin their future ideas meld with the present and are acted out. As one interviewee discusses Darwin is full of inspiration: “The whole of Darwin inspires us because of what Darwin is, because of the natural environment, because of those special characteristics that Darwin has as a city, its different to the other cities in Australia.”

In the context of what motivated people to come to Darwin, for some the enthusiasm lies in the people and the situations that Darwin can offer: “One of the reasons I moved here and what I’ve discovered is …It’s less competitive …[there is a] welcoming nature [to] the arts community.” While there may be momentary excitement for an idea following an initial bout of enthusiasm, motivation is required for the idea to progress and manifest into a long-term situation. For a significant proportion of the Darwin-based creative practitioners interviewed as part of this study, this enthusiasm is sustained by the nature and environment of the city which, they believe, encourages and motivates them to stay. As one interviewee suggests: “Absolutely, I think everyone, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone that doesn’t appreciate the beauty of living here.”  

There are numerous factors about Darwin that have enthused people to relocate to the area. The main themes discussed were nature, the weather and family and the opportunities that were available. Interestingly, the isolation provided by Darwin is a factor that enthused people to move to the city:  

I mean that’s why I came up here, not to Darwin initially; I went out bush for 5 years because isolation, I love it. Darwin’s not truly isolated but it is a long way away from the supposed centres.  Darwin is in fact a centre itself but it’s just far away from the other centres.  

Such enthusing factors are prominent throughout the interviews. Darwin gives the creative community an opportunity to slow down and have the time and space to think, which is not offered by cities such as Melbourne or Sydney. Although some did not specify, six people moved to Darwin from Melbourne, five from Sydney and five from Adelaide. There are opportunities that are offered by Darwin that cannot be matched by such large and tightly packed cities. As will be discussed more shortly, such concepts relate to Abraham Maslow’s theories of Self-Actualisation: the need for privacy, “Independence of culture and environment; resisting enculturation” can lead to people moving to areas such as Darwin that allow for isolation and time (Monte 658). These elements allows the realisation of an individual which relies “on own judgement; trusts in self; resists pressure from others and social norms; able to ‘weather hard knocks’ with calm; resists identification with cultural stereotypes; has autonomous values carefully considered” (Monte 658). By fulfilling their ego, people are able to reach a stage of enthusiastic sublime, where enthusiasm is “an affect, the imagination unbridled” (136). Darwin has the space to allow such functions as resisting the social norms; this is not a function that towns such as Sydney or Melbourne are able to provide.  

The motivation to slow down and reinspire and re-energise as another interviewee discusses is an important factor that enthused some to move to Darwin: “Darwin produces the most amazing artists, you know, like it's such a wonderful place where you can feel inspired all the time. It's got that lovely country town feeling, but still being big enough to be a city, which makes it really unique.” It is important for Darwin to create enthusiasm such as this regarding the creative roles and opportunities available as for Darwin “creativity is the driving force of economic growth” (Florida xv). This is not the case for all economic growth, however, Darwin requires these creative people. As is explained by Luckman et al.:  

These sorts of aims (cultural flow, artistic influence, networking) appear to us more fitting reasons for seeking greater numbers of creative class professionals from southern states as ‘desirable residents’, rather than the usual emphasis on their bringing with them entrepreneurial skills, investment and cultural capital (especially given the need to find ways of accepting racial alterity). (6) 

Darwin’s economy depends on tourism and the creative community. Darwin’s strengths arise from the isolation and the seclusion that is available to artists of all kinds, as is discussed by one person: “I think that its strength lies in its isolation from the rest of the country and the fact that it’s a tropical city.” In regards to the weather of Darwin as an integral part of the charm the interviewee continues, “I think that’s a great selling point in that during the bleak weeks of winter down south you can actually come to a city and be part of an outdoor festival, which you’re not going to freeze, and it actually has a different feel than anywhere else in the country.” Many people have found the extreme weather conditions to be have a positive impact on their work. While some move away for the wet season others use it as time to be the most creative as it gives them time to think. For some it was the weather that enthused them to move to Darwin over any other Australian state, “I just came up for the warm weather really.” For others the wet season allows them time to be creative within different areas: “I like the wet season, I’d prefer it to the dry.  It’s too dry for me at this time of the year, I like the rain and I like the humidity and all of that, that’s why I’m here.”


Enthusiasm, Creativity and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs 

As in the case of one interviewee there were motivating factors that caused them to move back to Darwin, but there was not necessarily any enthusiasm involved. “I came back to Darwin actually to look after my grandmother and I’ve been back in Darwin and that’s when I’ve just been in the process of just continuing on with my choreography.” It is not to suggest that there is not enthusiasm involved in the process; however the motivating factors far outweigh the enthusing factors. Not all of the participants who have moved to Darwin have remained enthused about the decision and have very little motivation to stay. As one participant discussed, “I’m here because I’ve got my business here. That’s the only reason now.” Although some have lost their passion for the city, there is a wealth of enthusiasm amongst the majority of interviewees in regards to moving to Darwin to practice their creativity.  

Maslow establishes motivation as a vital factor in the human condition. There is a certain hierarchy of needs that have to be met for a person to survive and to thrive. “Freedom, love, community feeling, respect, philosophy, may all be waved aside as fripperies that are useless, since they fail to fill the stomach. Such a man may fairly be said to live by bread alone” (Maslow 37). There are many needs that have to be met for a person to be happy and satisfied beyond instinctual gratifications, such as sustenance, habitation and sex. Motivation allows a person to strive for certain needs and standards. For the people of Darwin, creativity, space, isolation, weather and community can be motivating factors to stay within the city. Once one need has been met, others will emerge and motivations will shift. As Maslow explains:  

The physiological needs, along with their partial goals, when chronically gratified cease to exist as active determinants or organizers of behaviour. They now exist only in a potential fashion in the sense that they may emerge again to dominate the organism if they are thwarted. But a want that is satisfied is no longer a want. (38)  

Although somewhat simplistic, Maslow’s hierachical schema is useful to deploy amongst the complexity of contradictory gratifications of interviewees. There needs to be both long term and short enthusiasm for a new want and motivation to achieve goals. Motivation needs to be upheld in order for enthusiasm for the practices to be maintained. Within the creative industries there is a constant need for goals to be met, such as sales or delivering quality goals, and there has to be enthusiasm to do so, especially in the face of unsure or no financial return on work or it will not be achieved.  

Motivations in life will shift and change with the change of lifestyle, job or situation. Darwin needs to be able to motivate the Creative Industry in order to sustain enthusiasm in the long term. There are certain standards and hierarchies that are present in every person’s life. Once the basic needs of life have been met, motivation can lead to self-actualisation. By moving to Darwin, Creative Industry people are allowing for opportunities for the fulfilment of self-actualisation.  As Maslow argues:  

So far as motivational status is concerned, healthy people have sufficiently gratified their basic needs for safety, belongingness, love, respect and self-esteem so that they are motivated primarily by trends to self-actualisation (defined as ongoing actualisation of potentials, capacities and talents, as fulfilment of mission (or call, fate, destiny, vocation), as a fuller knowledge of, and acceptance of, the person’s own intrinsic nature, as an unceasing trend toward unity, integration or synergy within the person. (25)  

The people who are practicing within the industry have goals and potentials that need to be met and which motivate them into action; for many of the interviewees in this project, a key action undertaken to enable this was moving to or staying in Darwin. As such Darwin is able to absorb the surplus labour of other cities and use it to enhance local industry on its own terms. Here there is an enthusiasm and passion for creative work that operates on a different level to that present in larger, more built-up cities, which cannot be matched by them. Creative work is inherently motivating through the self-actualisation it allows the creative practitioner. While Darwin allows for these aspects of the creative industries, its relatively small size, and slower pace than bigger cities works to enthuse a unique local creative community, which on a national level punches above its weight.  


This research was supported under the Australian Research Council’s Linkage Project funding scheme (project number LP0667445). 


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Author Biography

Clementine Ruth Hill, UniSA

I am a first year PhD Social Science (Communication and Information Studies) student from UniSA. My interests lie in subcultural and cultural studies.