Category Archives: leverage

Street art – suitable for children!

As street art has evolved and become more mainstream, a new audience has been found – the kids who live in the areas where artists strut their stuff.

And rather than covering their darlings’ eyes to protect them from the scribbles of taggers, the profanity and the inexplicable, savvy inner city parents are exposing their children to street art, to kickstart their creative development.

Street art has begun to feature in children’s books, and school holiday art programs are likely to incorporate a street element. Wilkins Public School in Sydney’s Marrickville recently had street artists Akisiew, Bafcat and Jumbo create giant murals on the school entrance and library. A bit further west, Dulwich High is a new Visual Arts centre, where street art heroes like Skulk run workshops for the next generation.

stripey underpass

Areas where street art is prolific are dense and accessible, so there’s always lots of people taking in the art, on informal and formal walking tours. (The idea for our first book came while pushing our sleeping newborn along Marrickville’s graffiti-rich back streets, and now other parents take their kids on treasure hunts to find the Stripey Street Cat.)

Why not plan a walking trip yourself? Take your time, get lost, discover something nobody else has seen. And go back again and again, because it will all have changed, that’s one of the great beauties of street art, its immediacy, and its confrontingly short lifespan.

Bring your camera, and bring a camera for the kids – they will amaze you with their different perspective on the art.

Here’s four of the best family friendly street art hotspots in Sydney and Melbourne for you to check out on foot, and some honourable mentions:


Newtown, Enmore, Marrickville, St Peters

This area showcases the diversity of street art… murals and paste ups and tags, elaborate pieces, and minute stickers and sculptures. It has a great mix of legal and illegal work, by artists like Akisiew, Hazzy Bee, Fintan Magee, Birdhat, Ears and Skulk, and stencils like The Stripey Street Cat, Pissing Boy and monstery.

sydney newington ears and skulk

Start at Camperdown Park in Newtown. The cemetery wall, featured in The Girl Who Made Rainbows, features works going right back to the late 80s. Then check out the famous Martin Luther King mural on King St. Station Lane hosts the Akisiew/Hazzy Bee masterpiece “The Birds of Arkansas”. Walk west to see a cluster of spectacular murals on Phillip Lane, the ever-changing walls at the corner of Enmore Road and Newington St, and the Live to Create mural on Scouller St.

sydney akisiew and hazzy bee

Stop for lunch at the family-friendly Vic on the Park, which has a huge street art wall out the back, where you might even see a work being created. Then head east on the 308 bus from Marrickville Metro to May Lane at St Peters, one of the best legal street art sites around (and it’s opposite Sydney Park, if the kids need a break.)

sydney mays lane

Regent Street, Redfern

Among the emergent retro stores and new cafes, muralists Bafcat and Jumbo have created a series of imaginative and beautiful pieces. It’s not far from Redfern Station, and you can loop back via the Australian Technology Park with its fantastic old workshops and machines and dimly lit cathedrals of columns and archways.


An honourable mention to the large legal wall at Bondi Beach, which is updated regularly, and has the advantage of being near a skate park. Oh, and Bondi Beach.


CBD Laneways

Melbourne’s lanes are the jewel in Australia’s street art crown. Almost anyone who is anyone has pasted, sprayed, drawn or scribbled in its filamented ecosystem. I’ve seen a Banksy, a paste up dedicated to Aboriginal cricketer Eddie Gilbert, and ”Bill Henson can’t paint” graffiti. Miso made her name here with elaborate paste ups that tore at the heart, and Be Free’s pieces always achieve a perfect, poetic synergy with their settings.

melbourne lane

Amongst the service shafts and garbage compactors, Centre Place has nooks and crannies full of visceral pieces, great places to eat and shop, and possibly the most breathtaking 100m of urbanity in Australia. Degraves St always has a new paste-up or two. Hosier Lane is one long mind-blowing canvas, of colours and layers and competition over style and place. Union Lane is a fantastic canyon where new artists often come to show off their stuff. And there’s about another 30 laneways with street art and cool shops and cafes.

melbourne union lane

The grid of streets either side of Brunswick St are replete with works, especially around Rose St – you could combine a trip with a visit to the Artists’ Market on weekends. Clever pieces take advantage of the walls and poles and hydrants.

melbourne fitzroy lane

On the east side of Brunswick St around Argyle St, there are fabulous pieces on fences and buildings, their grittiness thrusting against the quaint bluestone pavers. Along Johnston St toward Collingwood, there’s a cluster of studios, giving birth to impromptu installations and pasteups, and pop up cafes and bars.

About the author

 Peter Warrington is half of Not Quite Newtown, publishers of street art photography books for kids. Check out the crowdfunding campaign for the latest offering “you make the dreams” – featuring Akisiew – at


All photos copyright Rachel Williams, Not Quite Newtown


Paralytic on Parramatta Road

Leichhardt is in Sydney’s inner west. Leichhardt’s council area is a collection of peninsular enclaves, remnants of the great Italian immigration wave of the 50s and 60s, the new North Shore of Sydney in the form of Annandale, two brilliant transitional suburbs in Rozelle and Lilyfield, and it borders Sydney’s new north-south divide: Parramatta Road.

Across Parramatta Road in our beloved Marrickville, we sniggered when Leichhardt’s state seat of Balmain split three ways in the last election – almost equal shares for the Labor Party, Greens and the conservative Liberal Party. (Marrickville’s Conservative vote was about 16%, easily the lowest in the whole state, and remarkable given the landslide the Liberals were enjoying – they don’t call us the People’s Republic of Marrickville for nothing).

The gentrification in Leichhardt has been manifesting itself in many ways, sadly one of which is the war against music. Don’t get me wrong, Marrickville has faced similar issues, and will continue to do so. Save the Sando, and all that – at least it’s going to remain a music venue. Tim Freedman of the Whitlams had a horror run with his live venue on Sth King Street. The last few weeks has seen a history war of sorts, about the day the music died in Leichhardt, and the new Mayor’s plan to bring it back to life. The iconic live venue the Annandale Hotel has recently changed hands, allegedly primarily because Council would not approve a later trading licence, due to a few residents’ complaints. I think that’s the gist, it’s been a long story with court cases. Public opinion seems on the side of the former owners, the Rule brothers.

The Labor Mayor Darcy Byrne recently floated a proposal to entrench that area around the Annandale Hotel, along Sydney’s love-to-hate strip Parramatta Road, as  a dedicated live music precinct. That would provide certainty to residents, business owners, and make resolution of disputes easier. There was talk of turning the area into New Orleans, minus the floods I guess. I think they were talking about the all night cluster of venues and related businesses.

I’ve got history with Parramatta Road. Anyone who has worked in transport or city planning has been roped in at some stage to the ongoing soul-searching into Parramatta Road. The Parramatta Road Taskforce from 2003-5 had a red hot go at reinvigorating the road. There were some great some ideas, some fruit loop stuff, and most of the smoke seemed to be about making a proposed super-motorway palatable. Here we are 10 years later, the motorway proposal is government policy, so the discussion turns back to Parramatta Road.

But this idea is a bit different. It’s not your bog-standard developer wank about how the motorway will calm the streets and create new urbanist heaven for the residents. Oh, and the 100,000 or so extra people that might be plonked along the route.

Back in the day, I think we had a pretty mature understanding that big, wealthy cities like Sydney will have some busy, nasty streets like Parramatta Road. But with the congestion and the blight comes economic opportunity, for businesses such as bulky goods suppliers, for specialty shops capitalising on the drive-by exposure and the cheaper rent. And for deviant activities, things that smell, and are loud, like your average inner city band and followers. These sorts of places were termed “enterprise corridors”.

Such is Parramatta Road, which for more than 200 years has connected Sydney’s CBD to the burgeoning west, facilitating economic activity. It’s always had a healthy live music scene: in the late 80s, when I peaked, you could trawl along from East to West and find, within 50 yards or so of the Road:

  • the Graphic Arts Club
  • the sublime and unfortunate Phoenician Club, where Nirvana and My Bloody Valentine played
  • the Lansdowne Hotel, on the corner of City Road
  • the Manning Bar in Sydney University
  • the Annandale Hotel
  • the Empire Hotel in Leichhardt, with its blues and rockabilly emphasis
  • the Bald Faced Stag
  • in Petersham, Max’, scene of some of the great gigs (Falling Joys, Cruel Sea, Bughouse, June 1990). And it’s even grungier spinoff, the Pismo Bar.

There were music festivals in the 1970s at Victoria Park.

There’s a swag of hotels further west, generally on the corners of the roads that lead down to the nearby suburbs, such as Burwood and Croydon. There are lots of small acts that perform here. We tended to never go that far, for some reason there was an outpost of the inner west scene up along Victoria Road (Banjo’s at Gladesville, Tracks at Epping).

If you look far enough afield, Parramatta Road leads to the super venues such as Acer at Olympic Park.

So, the Mayor’s plan is partly an acknowledgement of a pre-existing truth. Parramatta Road has always been a music precinct. And it’s nice to see someone planning to build on existing strengths, rather than try and engineer the impossible. His idea is to strengthen further the area’s identity – probably revolving around branding, as with the existing Newtown/Enmore road Entertainment Precinct, maybe some changes to Council regulations and policies, and potentially some facilitation of new music-related business growth (guitar shops, recording studios etc).

I would go further. Why not look to the east for inspiration, where the City of Sydney recently painted a rainbow pedestrian crossing for the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Parramatta Road has six lanes, a guitar has 6 strings: why not paint the tablature to famous Sydney songs along the route… You Am I’s Berlin Chair, perhaps. A bar chord out the front of every bar.

If we can guarantee safety for the hearing and seeing impaired, I would program the walk signal buttons at major intersections to pump out dance hits, such as Single Gun Theory, or Itch-E and Scratch-E.

Eventually, some truly innovative composer will capture the cacophony above, her Symphony #5 for strings and wings being performed live on the corner of Johnston St, rising and falling with the grind of the Singapore 767 and mellowing with the gentle wheesh of the Emirates A380.

The last thing I would do is rename the road. It’s one of my bugbears, these ancient namings, Parramatta Road comes from the time when it was the one road to Parramatta, which itself was “somewhere else”. There are now about 12 major roads that connect Parramatta around the clockface to its catchment. It could just as easily be called City Rd – but we already have one of those. Maybe a competition, there’s an AC/DC Lane in Melbourne and the Go Betweens Bridge in Brisbane, there must be a suitably musical name for this major artery? Part Desolation Row, part Yellowbrick Road. The Low Road from the Beasts of Bourbon is my best suggestion, I would love to hear yours.

Lighting should feature, it should be gaudy and garish and gauche. A neon strip. You should be able to see it from space. And Annandale. Every now and then there should be a strobe light, accompanied by the guitar solo in the Church’s Tantalised.

Eventually, when we decide we don’t want to be the only rich city of 6 million people in the world without a Metro, you might even able to glide along the precinct from station to station, each named after some suitable musical icon, venue, or maybe even just notes in a progression – Em, A, D etc etc.

Anyway, it’s gonna be great, you are right to be cynical about the genesis and the timing, but it seems to me the best, the only future for Parramatta Road. And it doesn’t mean getting into bed with a $16BN publicly subsidised private sector motorway abhorrence, the beautifully mis-named WestConnex.

Let me know what you think of the plan, how you would help build the precinct, and what you would call the artist formerly known as Parramatta Road… first right of reply goes to Mad Gorilla, from 1983…

My Bloody Eardrums

My Bloody Valentine at the Enmore Theatre, 18 Feb 2013.

Verbatim I-phone note, with setlist courtesy of


Enmore Road. Rainbow. Omen? 20 + years since Phoenician club.

20 kilos and grey hair, kids and mortgages. Swimmer’s ear.

So young. Keating about to be PM and Warne just about to debut.

A gig that continues to divide people. Some if us loved it! Most hated it. And have long memories…

Grunge was just around the corner anyway. As was PJ Harvey

Say no to nostalgia? Some worth the wait.  Chills were not.  Anyway, almost Valentines Day and there are small bars on Enmore Rd, the kids sleep. Onwards!

Fuck! Free earplugs at the door. You have been warned.

I only said.

When you sleep. Earplugs let you hear the great rock song under the noise

New You. Unknown – nice lights. Harmonies comprised of honey and mud. I get the name, now.

You never should. Fast and furious. Big kick in the middle. Crowd not really moving. Big fat distorted riff and sweet vocals by Bilinda. Coda.

Cigarette in your bed. Brilliant red lights. Acoustic. Slow and soft. Off EP. Huge harmony. Big guitar. Then soft again. Speed up near the end. Military drum.

Come in alone. Intro like an elk on heat. Slower than album. Drums almost funeral march. Like Mazzy Star record left in the sun. Heads starting to bob Ears starting to throb

Only Shallow. Loveless opener.  Beginning to remember why it was such a great song. Feel it in my pancreas. Ripping me a vulva with the kickdrum and bass. Hensonesque video backdrop. They are not distorted. It’s the rest of the world. Deep in your body you know this rhythm. Peristalsis. Crowd up and at ’em

Battery low :(. Shut up and watch


Much louder upstairs. Savage. Like the loud Singapore 767 that haunts my evenings.

Nothing much to lose. Except my hearing.

To here knows when. Dirge. With butterflies. Repetitive but intensely complex. Sort of Bach with bite.

Soon. Bumping into old friends and colleagues. Cancer. Survivor. Celebrate. Good version but can’t match the record.

Feed me with your kiss. Yes please.

Some complaints about the vocals. What vocals!?

You made me realise. Smackdown. Then meteor explodes inside the Enmore. People run for cover. Hailstorm inside your house. A tonal tsunami. Tarantino geysers of blood from ears. Just keeps coming, sound rolled around with debris and cars and mud and fish and Lucy. After about 4 minutes of white noise even I’m starting to grumble. Paid $100 to be whipped when can get it for free. On freecycle. 8 minutes. Have to wait now. The payoff must be incredible. 12 minutes. Done. Run. Yes no maybe no yes yes YES!

Not as good as 91. Neither am I, Warney or Keating. Mbv arguably aging the best.

Walking home. Jupiter almost inside the moon. Sums it up. Astral collision. Optical illusion. Once in a lifetime. Second time lucky.

Post – structure

Mine is a mind that roams a bit. Collects fragments of argument and evidence and then mangles it into a pseudo intellectual pop riff roller coaster, sort of like cooking risotto on a hotplate in your brain. Whilst watching the footie. And listening to a CD. While eating. And talking on the phone. It can be done, but it’s hard work. Especially for the person on the other end of the phone.

But some of you like your food straight, meat or tofu and 3 veg type of fare. You order, you get, you eat, you pay.

With the help of the good folk at wordpress, I will be able to respond to your needs as an audience by instituting, wait for it, STRUCTURE INTO MY BLOG!

On the general pattern menu bar, found on the right, you will see a number of categories. These are effectively sub-directories. You simply scan the categories you want, for posts and comments. So those allergic to sport never have to come into contact with its nuts; conversely, the pitter patter of geographers trying to discern a pattern is yours for the taking, or not.

You, the reader, are in control. See how far we have come as a species?

A quick word on each of the categories on the menu:

  • General – I will use this for administrative posts. and the Welcome.
  • Pattern – this will be for posts that explore the soft edge of geography, why things are the way they are etc – such as Kenny MacFaber’s great query today about the absence of trot tracks on the NSW South Coast.
  • ellipsis – feature type posts, essays, something to make you think…
  • out of the past – like the Mitchum movie, this will be smooth and noir, but content will be historical and mostly sport related.
  • maps and legends – not sure. love the REM song. love the title. should have been my blog title.
  • extra thyme – very excited about this. Recipes and advice on cooking stuff while you watch the footy. And the Ashes in England this year. Hopefully a cookbook comes from it. Peter’s 3-hour meals etc etc.
  • urban improvement program – some observations on cities, especially Sydney.
  • mug shot – photos from this amateur. everyone’s a photographer…
  • -verse – could be inverse converse perverse obverse adverse reverse, but it’s just some poems and kids’ books and things, often based on nursery rhymes, which you might like, especially if you have kids (of all ages).
  • crowdfun – this will be like an ideas trash and treasure, all the dodgy or brilliant ideas from my notebooks and piles of “lifeplans” that I know I will never get to implement. They are yours for the taking. Or use the page to reshape them into workable ideas that we could have a crack at. Therapy for me, op shopping for you. Everyone’s a winner.
  • leverage – links to other sites, youtube clips such as the Lene Lovich already posted, and the odd movie, book or music review.

Now, clearly, I would be remiss if some of my posts didn’t demand recognition in a couple of categories. Stick with it, I’ll try and get some logic into it, and also serve up something for everyone fairly regularly. Oh, and if you came looking for anal retentiveness, you need your eyes checked.

Here’s the REM song as a reward for those who made it this far. Thanks for coming!

New Toy

To help celebrate my new toy, here is Ms Lene Lovich from 1981…