Despite earning a groundswell of community support and the approval of local council, St Kilda may be denied the addition of a brand new rock and roll landmark.
Authorities have blocked the application to officially name a laneway in honour of influential Australian songwriter and guitarist Rowland S. Howard, who passed away in December 2009 after a drawn-out battle with liver cancer.
A petition to Port Phillip Council to push for the honorary landmark named after the former Birthday Party musician gained traction from over 2,000 signatures, including musicians the likes of Henry Rollins, The Pogues’ Shane MacGown and Howard’s own former collaborators Mick Harvey and Nick Cave. The petition and subsequent application was approved by Port Phillip Council in April.
Located between Eildon Road and Jackson Street, near where Howard used to live, the laneway application was approved by Council but needed to seek exemption from the Office Of Geographic Names to approve the Rowland S Howard laneway on the basis that it “does not meet the Guidelines for Geographic Names 2010 (Principle 1H) because of the middle initial and the use of two names rather than just the surname.”
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.” 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.”
Today, a Port Phillip Council spokesperson has confirmed to The Courier that the exemption to use Howard’s full name has been denied, specifically due to the Office of Geographic Names only allowing surnames to be used for commemorative road names. “In this instance, the allowed name would be Howard Lane,” the spokesperson said, noting that it would make it easier for emergency services to find the location.
Nick Haines, the music promoter who spearheaded the winning petition, said his preference was Rowland Land over Howard Lane, with the latter potentially being confused for former Prime Minister John Howard. Mr Haines added that he didn’t think that Rowland S. Howard lane would be hard for emergency vehicles to find and was optimistic that a geographical tribute to the fallen guitarist would still eventuate.
“They have Sir Donald Bradman Drive in Adelaide, Polly Farmer Freeway in Perth and Go-Between Bridge in Brisbane,” adds Mr Haines.
Council added that they were seeking the views of the Rowland S. Howard estate on their preference on the alternative naming of Howard Lane to fit guidelines.
The naming issue is one that’s also being faced by the supporters of the Chrissy Amphlett Laneway in the Melbourne CBD, which could lead to two landmarks named in honour of the deceased Divinyls frontwoman following issues with the use of her full name in commemoration.
The petition to name the laneway after “the price of St Kilda” initially approved by Port Phillip Council gained 2,069 signatories for a tribute to Howard that 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.”
Nick Cave, Howard’s former musical cohort in The Birthday Party and The Boys Next Door, also wrote a poignant open letter to the City of Port Phillip prior to its approval, 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.”
You can view a handy street view of the proposed Rowland S Howard laneway below: