Gilbert Burgh and Leanne Vincent from The Swich Contemporary Artspace philosophise at the Cactus Espresso Bar.
Gilbert Burgh and Leanne Vincent from The Swich Contemporary Artspace philosophise at the Cactus Espresso Bar. Rob Williams

City philosophers get steamed up

FRENCH philosopher Rene Descartes could not have put it better when he opined "I drink, therefore I am".

Well, that's not exactly what he said, but regulars at an Ipswich cafe have certainly been musing over the meaning of life while sipping cappuccinos.

The ARTalk Philosophy Cafe is celebrating its first birthday this month and has proved a big hit among Ipswich's more thoughtful residents.

The brainchild of The Swich Contemporary Art Space Project director Gilbert Burgh, it has grown in popularity and spread its feelers over three local cafes over the year.

The cafe invites local residents interested in philosophy and art to discuss a set topic at each meeting, over coffee and cake at either Bon Laneway, Cactus Espresso Bar or Deann's Coffee House.

The group has debated topics such as images of women in the media, art and global disasters, and environmental sustainability.

Organiser Mr Burgh said ARTalk was a Queensland first.

"It's the only public philosophy cafe in Queensland," Mr Burgh said.

He said there was something about the Ipswich crowd that made the cafe so successful.

"I've tried it in Brisbane and elsewhere and it didn't really work, but in Ipswich it seemed to have a strong response right from the start," Mr Burgh said.

"It's still growing, too; it started with 22 people and now we have anywhere up to 60 people on some nights.

"The good thing is that it's not always the same people. I'd say about 120 people have attended the cafe at different times, which proves it's sustainable."

Mr Burgh said the cafe was an important part of Ipswich culture.

"The cafe's helped the art culture to grow, and the art culture has helped the cafe," Mr Burgh said.

"It's so important to have communication and dialogue because it betters people and communities in terms of collective values."

The first birthday was this year's final event, but Mr Burgh is looking forward to another positive year in 2012.



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