Category Archives: urban improvement program

Hazy non-fantasy

The winter passed too quickly

Now we swelter in the heat

In the streets the buzz of flies

The stench of rotting peat

Cut grass fills the lungs

Some stupid Christmas song

Gargles like a choking magpie

As the haze goes on an on

(In defence of slightly cooler weather, and better cricket selections)

 


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:

SYDNEY

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.

And…

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.

MELBOURNE

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

Fitzroy
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 http://www.pozible.com/project/187175

 

All photos copyright Rachel Williams, Not Quite Newtown


One day in Newtown, and not quite Newtown…

IMG_7757

Beck, looking all Brian Jones, beckoning me up King St

IMG_7763

Nobody gives a fig about cyclists!

IMG_7766

GBH – girl by herself?

IMG_7769

You Majesty looks like the Piss Boy!

IMG_7773

IMG_7774

IMG_7775

Gumnut babies

IMG_7777

Fitzroy Lane mechanic mural

IMG_7789

Devo devotee, or Rust Never Sleeps?

IMG_7791

This art is truly not FUKT

IMG_7795

Off Denison St, cool geezer but he reminds me of William H Macy

IMG_7809

I’m always touched by your presence, dear!

IMG_7823

Reality imitating art imitating shit

IMG_7826

Newtown Art Seat, and seater

IMG_7827

Rasta metal mongrel!

IMG_7828

One last rest at the Hub

IMG_7839

IMG_7840

Bailey St. oi!

IMG_7841

Bailey beetles

IMG_7842

Purple rain
, IMG_7863

X marks something or other

IMG_7867

Postie therapy

IMG_7868

Cathay away

IMG_7872

Wild cats of Don St.

IMG_7875

Aorta have more heart than to make a cheap pun about this

IMG_7879

Don’t know about you, but I’m scared!

IMG_7880

This was at the back of a house we lived in once in Fulham St. With the rents, this is about all we would be able to afford now : (

IMG_7881

Big M little m what begins with m… Many marvellous murals on Margaret, look at them!

IMG_7882

IMG_7883

IMG_7884

IMG_7885

IMG_7886

IMG_7887

IMG_7890

Oh yeah, you light up my dogshitbag dispenser

IMG_7891

This is actually handpainted. Nice touch!

IMG_7892

Giving me the good cat, bad cat routine, are you?

IMG_7894

Sausage vent?

IMG_7895

Enmore Tafe students colouring in between the lines

IMG_7896

Ink ink, you stink

IMG_7801

Australia St area mural by Akisiew and Hazzy Bee

IMG_7802

Akisiew and Hazzy Bee signatures by Akisiew and Hazzy Bee

IMG_7849

IMG_7857

And these last two are from one of Newtown’s best kept secrets, in Station Lane, a mural by Hazzy Bee and Akisiew inspired, I can only presume, by the mass bird deaths in Arkansas over a couple of years : http://abcnews.go.com/US/dead-blackbirds-fall-sky-beebe-arkansas-years-eve/story?id=15269793

All photos copyright Peter Warrington, copyright for the original street art pieces remains with the street artists responsible.


Steel you away a.k.a. Big Whoop to Wuppertal :p

I’ve got a thing for steel. In construction, it’s the real deal. I’ve no engineering cred, and failed metalwork (and woodwork and leatherwork and music and art). But I have this thing for steel. The Sydney Harbour Bridge, its gray and thrusting glory, its curves, its brutal functionality – I choose her, over 100 Sydney Opera Houses. (And I choose the hammerhead crane at Garden Island, doomed as she is.)

I was late to love. I’d been to Paris many times but delayed gratification as long as I could; I think it pays to leave another reason to visit. So when I finally touched the Eiffel Tower in mid-2004, I was ready to commit. That busy and almost-embroidered superstructure, that soaring summit surrounded by lawn and river and six storey walk-ups. Amazing from a distance, and even more so up close. There was a firefighter stopwork meeting held beneath the buttresses, firecrackers and foghorns, an ampitheatre of solidity and sensitivity.

DSC01046

Later I researched Eiffel and how his innovative use of steel girders was applied to skyscraper design and construction. Even if the Tower had been dismantled as planned, his legacy would have been secured.

Years passed – six years, years of stopping and starting and false starts – it was time for another trip, with partner and child and grandparents. Paris was obviously on the list, but I decided to adopt a broader “steel” theme. Paris-Wuppertal-Bilbao. The latter was an obvious choice because we had always meant to “do” Northern Spain but had wavered and fizzled, the Guggenheim was there and so was the Bizkaia at Portugelate. More of that later…

Wuppertal was the one that had everyone scratching their heads. Especially the Germans. Why the fuck Wuppertal?  It’s just a smallish provincial city northeast of Cologne. But it has the Schwebebahn, the gondola monorail. Built in brutal steel. Innovative, effective, but an engineering dead-end.

I had been obsessed with the Schwebebahn since it starred in Tom Tykwer’s film The Princess and The Warrior. Franke Potente also starred. It’s a fascinating, arid love story of misfits, and the dreamlike sequences shot on the Schwebebahn captivated me. Round and round the city it went, straddled over dense streets and the river, a giant eel, fishing and gliding. In my past life, it became a running joke for me to proffer up a Schwebebahn as the solution to Sydney’s transport problems – it wasn’t the dumbest idea I had; you should have heard the one about a metro from… never mind : (

When we had visited Europe in 2004, we had to travel from Luzern to Lyon, and someone had left a copy of a newspaper on my train seat. On the front page was a story about the 100-year anniversary of the Schwebebahn! Even through the jetlag, I was resonating with coincidence. But we didn’t go that time.

Jump back with me to 2010 and the detailed itinerary planning. I figure I can sneak to Wuppertal by highspeed train and be back the same day. This is it, it’s now or never. So I book a ticket to Cologne on the Thalys and it’s cheap and I’m excited and everyone else thinks I am weird and consistently I treat that as a compliment and that is how I live my life and will keep on living it.

We come to Paris and I revisit the Eiffel, this time with my daughter, aged two and a half. She buys a small pink replica to hang off her backpack. Her grandparents are in Paris for the first time and he, a fitter and turner of some genius and decades of resilience, is also in awe of the engineering masterpiece. And he can explain it to me and translate the structural principles into a sort-of English. On our first night we had looked out and the Tower had been lit with flashing lights and fireworks, kitsch but we were kids in the kitschen, rushing to get our cameras.

Then the day dawns for me to go Wuppertal. My Thalys leaves at 6:30 so I’m up at 4, having a shower in our rented apartment and scalding myself on a baroque piece of exposed pipe. It wakes me up properly, and I am grateful of a variety, I see the irony in pain inflicted by metal on this day of all days. I take the metro to Gare du Nord and have a breakfast and decide to buy the last book in the Lisbeth Salander trilogy even though I haven’t read the other two. The Thalys is red and sleek, bound for Brussels then either Cologne or Amsterdam, one being an IT and media headquarters and the other still a mercantile wet dream. Even on Sunday, there are business people being propelled along this great economic corridor at 320km/h, blowing away the BMWs on the motorways, throwing shadows as fast as hurricanes on the golden fields.

DSC05584

Belgium arrives and I remember from a much earlier trip how British the coal towns look. It’s as if Orwell or someone wrote a “coalmining towns for dummies” and franchised it in Benelux languages. And then we’re through Aachen into Germany for the first time in 15 years despite saying I would never go back. But that was before the Schwebebahn.

The Deutsche Bahn office in Cologne is a monument to efficiency and courtesy, and integration of each and every transport need is achievable with the push of the right button, the periodic advancement in a queue and the exchange of Euros. There is a pass that lets you travel to Wuppertal and use all public transport – including the Schwebebahn – and that is what I buy. It is about 10am by now and I am feeling so fucking smart, and start getting the camera ready.

I would like to say the road to Wuppertal was paved with good intentions, but I went by train, and the carriages were mostly filled by people seemingly going from village to village for church services. After about 40 minutes we started to come into the outer suburbs of Wuppertal, and I was like a laughing clown, turning from side to side to catch a first glimpse of the green supports and the rails. There she was. Between some buildings. And again, over there, as the track looped around. The train pulled into the Hauptbahnhoff and I grabbed my daypack and threw the camera around my neck, expecting to join the swarm of daytrippers and trainspotters on the platform.

DSC05616

It was pretty dead. Germany is quiet on Sundays. Most retail is shut. It’s none of my business if they want none of my business. I grab a map and discern where the main Schwebebahn station is. I see the rails, and a train sitting there. I decide not to run, the frequency is pretty high. So I control my excitement and just walk around the corner into the station. The barriers are down. I look for another entrance. Barriers. WTF? Maybe this station is closed on weekends. I go to the ticket office. And there it is, the simple handwritten notice, “closed for repairs Sunday 12 October. Buses operating.” I gag. I have had 4 or 5 coffees and too much pastry and I can taste it all. Or is that it? Could that be something else in my mouth, a sad taste of rude awakening?

I check the date and my ticket and the sign and gesture and swear and the drunks who are everywhere gesture and swear and drink their beer. And I walk, I follow a crowd of people who don’t look drunk, into a modern shopping complex, where I figure I will hide and recover my haughty and work out my next move or how to spin this all to my advantage. But the shops are shut, people are window shopping in a mall on a Sunday because there is FUCKING NOTHING TO DO IN WUPPERTAL! And I know I deserve this, because I have been told, by multiple Germans with no axe to grind. I am the dictionary definition of bathos. In my own bathysphere, big enough for one.

Now I am convinced I will die and be buried in Wuppertal and I just have to get the hell out of there.  A souvenir shop yields two postcards and no mugs except this one. So I run to the station and jump a train back to Cologne, I know that there is a Thalys back to Paris at 13:00. I realise I can blame the DB attendant who sold me the pass for Wuppertal, she could have told me the line was closed. It would have made a small difference. I can blame her. So I head to her counter but she is gone and they won’t let me change my ticket without paying a supplement twice what I paid for the whole return ticket. I am starting to feel like Cary Grant in North by Northwest. I curse, tell everyone ahem that Sydney has a better transport system, or at least more caring staff, and head out into the wilds of Cologne with 6 hours to kill till my train to Paris. Did I mention it’s Sunday and everything in Germany is closed? Cathedral, trains, town square, beer, a third lunch. 5 hours to kill. Internet cafe, Australia doing ok in India, check work emails. Beer. Cathedral at dusk. Train station.

DSC05604

I have loaded up on German beer and have plans to drink to forget. I flirt with the idea of spinning it that the camera didn’t work but I still enjoyed the ride. But some deep, generally unrecognisable wellspring of maturity tells me that would make me even more pathetic. And then the beer goes flat because my heart isn’t really in it. I head up the carriage at 320 km/h to put it in the bin and we hit a curve at 320 km/h and the carriage jerks sideways and this jerk jerks sideways and throws his hands to the sides to brace and the wheat beer of great distinction essays a perfect curve all across the chest and face of a terribly nice and sympathetic woman of no easily identifiable lineage. Fuck me dead. This is it. They will kill me as a lager lout or softcock who can’t hold his beer, and it is OK, because i want and need to die. Right now.

She’s actually fine with being lathered in stale ale. Almost apologetic. Maybe my pathetic apologies and genuine harrow transcend the language barriers. Everyone nods and smiles and waves and does the old palms upturned peace man thing. Except for the prick in C32 who tuts and tuts and tuts. All the way to Paris.

Then my last metro ticket gets eaten at Gare du Nord and it’s almost midnight and I am convinced I will be eating by a dragon or mugged or at least fined for not having a ticket. But it’s OK, I walk through our arrondissement with the immigrants and the cats and the lovers. And by now I am enjoying the pain. You have to laugh, if not least because you know everyone else will – might as well get in first. So I laugh, a big head back, shrieking laugh. Like Sean Penn at the end of U-Turn. With better teeth. It’s after midnight when I get home and everyone’s asleep so I kiss my girl gently and tell her mum I’ll share my story in the morning.

The moral of the story is that only a dickhead would leave Paris and travel halfway across Europe and back in a day to ride around in a bloody toy train they saw in a movie. Guilty, as charged. But the story is better this way. I got to draw a line under my Schwebebahn obsession… if I had managed to ride the bloody ungainly beast that may have been the end of my transport planning career. I had to work much harder than that to reach the endgame.

We did get to Bilbao and ride the glorious Bizkaia transporter bridge, which we could see out the window of our swish room in a converted old palace. It’s a great town, Bilbao, and you could get seriously hard for titanium once you see the Guggenheim glistening in the sun. The guy who built the transporter bridge – a mechanism that hangs from turrets and shunts cars and people across a waterway without blocking shipping – was a disciple of Eiffel’s, and it shows. There’s only two or three left in the world that function, but that’s another story…

DSC05807

DSC05721


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…


Fifteen restaurant at Redfern?

We’ve been watching a lot of Jamie Oliver. Cooking in 15 minutes, 30 minutes, seeing 8 seconds of him here and there. Wall to wall Jamie.

That’s OK, he’s mostly a good egg. Putting his clout where it matters, with kids’ food at schools, working with the homeless, and just generally getting us all thinking about what we eat and cook.

About three years ago, Jamie was going to make a flying visit to Sydney. I had long harboured a desire to convince him to run a Fifteen restaurant at Redfern. It had come into my head on one of those long, balmy Redfern afternoons when I was in an obscure role in state government, ensconced in the unloved TNT buildings (which I loved). I did nothing with the idea at the time, and Jamie and Tobey Pittock put a Fifteen in Melbourne, global cool capital at the time.

If you don’t know the concept, here’s some background: Fifteen has always been about providing opportunities for troubled youths or those from disadvantaged families. Fifteen youths from across a city undergo training, work in the restaurant for a year, and hopefully move on to long and successful employment in the food industry. Then another 15 youths start the program…

I thought Fifteen at Redfern was an opportunity to do much more. What if half the intake each year was Koori kids from the Block, and the other half were from the Redfern-Waterloo housing commission towers?

What if the restaurant had a stream of cooking traditional native foods?

Then you’d have a project that helped address the systemic economic and social issues facing Sydney’s iconic indigenous population. But it would be a project that united all of greater Redfern, the west and the east side of the railway. It would place a major tourist attraction in the heart of the Redfern-Waterloo redevelopment, helping to make it a place, not just a redevelopment.

My dream was that the restaurant could be the catalyst for rejuvenating the old art deco classic Redfern House building opposite TNT tower. This is a glorious building, but also a highly visible site for passing traffic. It may not be suitable for a commercial restaurant, but a similar site, in downtown Redfern, shouldn’t be hard to find.

In March 2010, with Jamie already on his way to Sydney, I bashed a submission together and sent it through to the then Premier, who was also the local Member and Minister for Redfern-Waterloo. I heard nothing back. Then I tried to get it through Jamie’s elaborate online fortress. Again, nada!

Now I have a blog, and an undertaking to share with you some of my crazy ideas, either to get them off my chest and move on, or in the faint hope that someone sees a glimmer of merit and starts taking something forward.

Lots has changed in Sydney, NSW and especially Redfern. The woman who does a lot of cooking training with the local kids now runs the fancy new café in Victoria Park. The model would be different, but the basic idea the same.

I must stress that I have never consulted with the local Aboriginal community, and I think that would be an absolute priority if anyone wanted to do anything with this. Their land, their people, their culture, their food.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. It’s free. And without prejudice, it’s yours. Happy to hear any feedback….

FIFTEEN REDFERN

               bush pukka!

Vision

Using the Fifteen model to bring economic opportunities to the under-privileged youths of Redfern and Waterloo.

Scope

  • A branch of the globally recognised Fifteen chain in central Redfern
  • Annual intake of 15 local youths aged 16-24 for training and employment – 8 from the Block and 7 from the housing estates
  • Emphasis on using traditional native foods
  • Potential to reflect the broader multicultural nature of Redfern

Why Fifteen?

Fifteen is a globally recognised brand, the brainchild of chef, entrepreneur and activist, Jamie Oliver. But it is a charitable foundation, with a proven record of establishing and maintaining programs – Fifteen restaurants to train youths in culinary and life skills; healthy lunches for school kids etc.

http://www.fifteen.net

Why Redfern?

It has major economic and social disadvantage.

It is the cultural centre of Sydney’s indigenous population.

It is undergoing significant gentrification and commercial redevelopment – there are fears this could exacerbate economic and social disadvantage. But an immediate home-grown clientele, of residents and office workers, is emerging.

It is highly accessible – all lines except the Airport line feed it; it is walking distance from the CBD; it is served by many bus routes; and cycling connections are strong.

Why a Koori focus?

It is (Ab)original – no Fifteen project has yet focussed on a specific group.

Empowerment towards economic development is crucial.

It would help break down barriers between indigenous and non-indigenous people. And link Redfern at its heart.

It would make the restaurant a national icon, not just another restaurant.

The food would be innovative – Redfern could become the heart of a new (very old) culinary trend (from a peak in the late 90s, it seems many “bush tucker” restaurants have vanished.)

International tourists would love it.

Key stakeholders/potential partners

Stakeholder Potential Contribution Likely Requirement Comment
Fifteen Foundation Establish restaurant. Administer training and employment program. Suitable premises. Possibly start-up or ongoing support – either direct, or for fundraising efforts. Planning approval with RWDA area. Jamie Oliver in town in March. Would Tobey Puttock be interested (he established the Melbourne branch.)
Redfern Aboriginal community (e.g. Redfern Aboriginal Housing Company) Support – for restaurant establishment, and for participation. Consultation and project ownership likely to feature. Could assist the Foundation with the governance of the program.

 

Consultation before any announcement advised.

Redfern-Waterloo Development Authority Site selection and development approval. Possible financial support (perhaps in-kind, or peppercorn rent?) Assistance with marketing. Long-term commitment from Fifteen. Has the mandate to transform Redfern, and the cachet to achieve objectives across a range of economic, social and cultural issues. Should easily be able to locate a suitable site in the heart of Redfern. Within the parameters of sound policy, should be able to expedite development approval.
Sydney City Council Inclusion of the concept in its Sustainable Sydney 2030 Strategy – especially the Eora Journey cultural initiative. Consultation. Consistency with RWDA objectives. Council can assist with marketing the restaurant – e.g. signage along the Wilson St cycleway, support in its publicity materials etc.
Other Redfern cafes/

restaurants

Support during the program for placements. Possible employment of graduates. Consultation. Recognition. Could be expected to benefit from emergence of Redfern as an eat street/centre.


The Pitts of the world!

One of the great debates that keeps urban planners and designers in fine loafers and Sonoma bread is whether to mall or not to mall. Whether closing off streets to traffic and encouraging pedestrian access boosts retail and other economic activity, increases social connectivity in that area, generally providing an explosion of urbanity.

The evidence is often limited. There are examples that show malls work, and then there are the ongoing debates about places in Sydney like Parramatta and Hurstville.  Shut the road. Open it to buses. Open the road. Shut it again, maybe just for some hours of the day. Let a bit of traffic through. Whinge, come back again in 12 months and do another study. And on it goes.

The mall boosters, and broader proponents of pedestrianisation and limiting car and bus traffic, often look abroad to places that are medieval in design, where squares and plazas have shaped urban living for 1000 years. There are principles that we can adopt, and examples we can emulate. But implementation without context is just imitation.

My view is pseudo tipping pointy – if a town is gonna boom, then a well planned and located pedestrian zone will flourish and may be “the icing on the cake”. Leaving aside the equity issues of which retailers and property owners benefit, this is a good thing. If we protect the other economic elements of the centre – the ability to access it or service businesses in it, THIS IS A GREAT THING!

But I also think that the relationship between calming and activity can be overstated. Some of Sydney’s more popular eating and shopping strips are far from calm. They work best when traffic slows, such as at lunch, evenings and weekends (clearways and bus lanes lead to faster traffic at other times). I walk these streets, often, and often with a pram. All of the dodgy footpaths and stop starts and broken pavers and missing kerbs are nothing, because there is somewhere to go at the end. I always vote for urban domain and activity as the best way to boost walking, over meandering paths along creeks and through parks. There is a reason that Marrickville residents walk more that just about anywhere else in Sydney – it’s interesting. Shops, street art, activity, clutter. Other people walking. Dogs. Kids. Planes. Trains. And food.

All of this is a long intro into a small rant. I walked through Pitt St Mall in Sydney at lunch on Tuesday. This is Sydney’s alleged golden mile – about 200m long, anyway – of high level retail and walkers treated as GODS. It’s recently had a very expensive makeover, and I will admit the new Centrepoint connection and the underground grungier retail works pretty good.

But it’s as lifeless as Andrew Lincoln’s acting (thanks James for that one.) There were about 100 seats placed around trees – of course, these are now the haunt of the remaining smokers who work in the area. I’m not kicking an addict when they’re down, but the air quality is dire. The worst thing is there is nowhere to eat. A global city. Temperate climate. Lunchtime. Pedestrian heart. Famine, where there should be feast. It’s unbelievable. Not sure how, whether there is any causal link to leases or property ownership.

But you can head into one of the retail complexes and find a food court with tens of food outlets, then either sit there away from the sun and air, or head back out and recreate a scene from a live gig in the 80s, cheer, cough, splutter.

The solutions are simple, I think. Chuck some cheap tables in the Mall. People will learn to walk around them. Encourage local cafes and restaurants and small laneway bars to find a way to do outdoor table service in our biggest and best laneway. I’m no fan of Brisbane, even though some of my best friends are from there, but their Queen St Mall heaves with bars and cafes on a warm Friday afternoon.

While I’m at it, I would extend the Mall south to Park St and north to at least Martin Place and possibly Hunter St. That would help spread the pedestrian activity over a larger area, making the Mall more about walking and talking and eating, rather than just shopping at a few, select retail outlets. The City, however, seeks to create a new world-class boulevard along George St. At least the re-introduction of light rail into George St and the rejigging of bus routes and traffic means something can change in Pitt St without crippling the rest of the CBD.

Then I’d attack Hyde Park. The prolific greenspace that abuts the City’s eastern edge is great to look at but suffers from the same listlessness. At select times of the year, we discover it’s a great place to sit and eat or have a drink. Festivals rule in our town. But for 300 lunchtimes a year, there are two very small cafes at either end and a great big void in the middle. Get another cafe in there. Or food vans parked along Park St. A business opportunity for picnic hamper providers – sheesh, our local cafe Petty Cash can set you up to have a nice picnic in Enmore Park.

The ultimate might be to connect Hyde Park to the city, by closing Elizabeth St to traffic including buses at lunchtimes, encouraging existing food outlets to claim the roadspace for tables and chairs, give people on the eastern side of George St somewhere to sit. And eat. And think. And blog.

What do you think? What works where you are? Where do you walk and why? What’s your ideal lunchtime food scenario?

The last word goes to one of the most underrated bands, with an underrated song from a killer second album. As Chrissie says, “you’re the Pitts of the world!”

Thanks for reading.