It was meant to be a $100k shimmering laneway – this is what they got instead

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Key points

  • VEE Agency was awarded a $100,000 grant in April this year by the City of Melbourne to create a sparkling laneway in the CBD. 
  • Electric Confetti was also part of the grant application and said the laneway installation at Meyers Place did not deliver what was promised.
  • The grant was part of the City of Melbourne’s ‘Dusk till Dawn’ program to reactivate the city after the coronavirus pandemic.

It was supposed to give diners and pedestrians in a popular CBD laneway the feeling they were inside an enormous disco ball. The reality was closer to a sparsely decorated Christmas tree.

According to the pitch, the Shimmer Laneway installation would turn Meyers Place into “a tourist destination like no other”.

An artist’s impression of the planned Shimmer Laneway installation from the pitch by Electric Confetti and VEE Agency to the City of Melbourne.Credit: Electric Confetti

VEE Agency and Electric Confetti applied together for a $100,000 grant in April as part of the City of Melbourne’s post-pandemic revitalisation program, Dusk till Dawn.

“Shimmer walls will line the streets and disco balls will be attached from above,” the pitch said. “Both will glisten and glint in sunshine and with the solar power lights we project onto them. Refracting light will project from thousands of small mirror squares, effectively turning the lane into a life-sized, walk-through disco ball.”

Shimmer Laneway was expected to be live for two months and attended by 30,000 people.

Announcing the grant recipients in April, Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the city’s Dusk till Dawn program would “back Melbourne’s twilight traders, support local jobs and help cement Melbourne’s status as Australia’s cultural and nighttime capital”.

The planned Shimmer Laneway installation from Electric Confetti and VEE Agency’s pitch.Credit: Electric Confetti

But Shimmer Laneway ended up with substantially less sparkle than was promised – only 200 shimmering panels were installed – not the 2000 originally planned – and just a few disco balls were hung from the awnings.

The grant was awarded solely to VEE Agency, an “experiential” marketing and event management agency.

Scott Jarvis, co-owner of Electric Confetti, pitched for a grant to create Shimmer Laneway in Meyers Place.Credit: Simon Schluter

Scott Jarvis, co-owner of Electric Confetti, a design company specialising in neon signs, said only 10 metres of the laneway had been activated, rather than the whole laneway as envisaged in the original pitch document.

VEE Agency did not respond to requests for comment.

One reviewer, from the website Weekend Notes, visited the installation, which ran from September to October, and said she was “a little disappointed with the shimmer which was unnoticeable at first glance”.

“The street looks a little ordinary during the day with not a lot of shimmer in sight; the only shimmer, some panels of coloured, reflective squares that lined a few of the walls and didn’t particularly stand out,” she said.

Bree McRae, assistant marketing manager at Meyers Place restaurant San Telmo, said the final result was “a bit different in the end”, but the restaurant backed any initiatives to bring more trade to the laneway.

“We loved incorporating shimmer into our cocktails and decorating our old-world bohemian-style venue with sparkles,” she said. “The business had to jump through a few hoops regarding heritage-listed buildings and landlord approval, but overall, it was a wonderful way to attract new people to Meyers Place.”

The panels installed for Shimmer Laneway in Meyers Place.Credit: Electric Confetti

Jarvis said he was concerned by what he believed was a failure to oversee grants at the City of Melbourne. He said that typically, 80 per cent of the grant was paid upfront, followed by 20 per cent at the conclusion of the project.

“There are no evaluations,” he said. “Businesses are just smashing out grants.”

Tiny disco balls in the Shimmer Laneway installation at Meyers Place. Credit: Electric Confetti

A spokeswoman for the City of Melbourne said the council had received a report on what had been installed, and this was being assessed against the application for Shimmer Laneway.

The spokeswoman said this was the standard process.

She declined to comment on the performance of the Shimmer Laneway installation or whether it had attracted the predicted 30,000 visitors.

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