Marie Louise Memories (#)

Marie Louise Salon 135 Enmore Road

Marie Louise Salon 135 Enmore Road

On the weekend I came across a new, innovative and exciting method of remembering and celebrating a local ‘urban icon’ in Enmore.  The key medium involved was actually………….. instagram!

I know- some people aren’t as much of a fan of it as I am, but well… haters gonna hate, potatoes gonna potate.


Open one last time

Like many others I have often walked past the Marie Louise Beauty Salon at 135 Enmore Road and have been captivated by its kitschy pink & purple exterior and time capsule-like retro window displays.  When the 1960’s style beauty salon ceased trading some time ago the shop was closed up ‘as is’, furniture, till, cosmetics, magazines, blowdryers, counter, mirrors- all remained inside the shop in situ aged only by a thickening coat of dust.  The premises became as Vanessa Berry of Mirror Sydney describes it a “Memorial Store”– an important local icon and a landmark for the popular retro, vintage and rockabilly subcultures that call Enmore home.

Kitsch Birds

Kitsch Birds

Salon Ephemera

Salon Ephemera

I’m sure for the 1950’s themed Doughbox Diner crew the decision to occupy the space at 137 Enmore Road was made all the easier by the location right next door to Marie Louise Salon!  If you sit outside their diner sipping a thick malt milkshake on a balmy spring night you could easily trick yourself into thinking you have gone back in time to another chapter in Enmore Roads history- a chapter oozing with hair pomade, pastel florals and the giggles of ladies coming out of the salon with a fresh ‘do’.

Interiors of Marie Louise Salon

Interiors of Marie Louise Salon

Imagine the hairdos and gossip sessions exchanged in these chairs over the years

Imagine the hairdos and gossip sessions exchanged in these chairs over the years

So when the ‘For Sale’ signs went up in June and the property was successfully sold many community members were left pondering what the next chapter would hold for the Marie Louise Salon.  Enter Naomi Doyle (known on her blog & instagram as Patches McGee).  Her brother-in-law purchased the property but before it is to be gutted for renovations starting this week Naomi decided to hold an open house clearance sale and display over Sat 9th and Sunday 10th of November.  Pin up doyennes, local historians, bloggers, walk-bys, photographers, old timers, instagrammers and self professed voyeurs all came along to snaffle up a piece of local history and to share pictures and stories via the hashtag that Naomi made: #MarieLouiseMemories.

Naomi Doyle aka Patches McGee the lady behind the hashtag

Naomi Doyle aka Patches McGee the lady behind the hashtag

Generally what happens when a Heritage Item or an Item of local significance is up for demolition/refurbishing Council requires the owner or developer to prepare an Archival Report.  Often a professional Heritage Consultant is engaged to prepare this report.  The archival methodology involves taking extensive photos and writing accompanying written descriptions of the property and its contents which are then collated into the report and filed to Council.  The only issues with this process is that

a) These reports are then filed away or put in the stacks of the local library never to be seen again by the vast majority of the population

b) The community doesn’t get to participate or actively engage with the memorialising process

Whilst the Salon isn’t Heritage listed to my knowledge and therefore wouldn’t have required an archival report, the Enmore community certainly believed the shopfront warranted ‘archiving’ of sorts.  They rose to the challenge of creating a memorial report of their own choosing – highly visual, filters galore and with that preference for focusing on the minutiae of spaces that instagram tends to encourage.

Collective memorialising- via the hashtag #marielouisememories

Collective memorialising- via the hashtag #marielouisememories

As you browse through the images under the nominated hashtag people share their stories and memories of the place, why they felt a personal connection, how they will miss it and what purchases they made at the sale and for what reason.  The images are live and responsive – just as the Marie Louise objects and kitschy keepsakes will live on via a new lease on life in somebody’s home, balcony or dressing table.

Thanks to Naomi for organising what turned out to be a fascinating exercise in local history and new mediums of memorialisation. Below a few other pictures of some inner west pleasures encountered that day.

Till next time Urbanists !

xx Em

Lemon and Sugar

Lemon and Sugar

Crepe Stall on Australia Street- I wish this was a permanent fixture

Crepe Stall on Australia Street- I wish this was a permanent fixture

These guys were set up on Saturday

These guys were set up on Saturday

Lights using coffee machine group handles

Lights using coffee machine group handles

Group Handle lighting at Cafe Newtown

Group Handle lighting at Cafe Newtown

Keeping with the pink theme- watermelon juice at Cafe Newtown

Keeping with the pink theme- watermelon juice


Bike Friendly Clovelly + Better Block (the Video!)


Still's from Elin's video

Still’s from Elin’s video


Stills from Elin's video

Stills from Elin’s video


Things are starting to gain pace on the Better Block Clovelly planning front.  The event date is set for the 27th of October with a lot of planning, logistics and meetings to happen before then.  Our next gathering is this Sunday 3pm at the Creativity Unlimited Studios Clovelly Road.  In the meantime I’d like to share a beautiful video of our first meeting made by Elin Bandmann.

Elin runs the cool bike friendly blog PUT THE FUN BETWEEN YOUR LEGS and has become super involved in bike friendly initiatives all throughout Sydney. I love the tongue-in-cheek title of her blog- literally putting the fun back into cycling daily for all her readers.  

Look out for familiar faces in the video below, including mine and Grace’s!

Elin (just because she hasn’t been amazing enough already) has also designed this excellent logo below to promote cycling for fun and transport throughout the Eastern Suburbs and Clovelly.  The idea is that the logo can be made into stickers, displayed on bumpers, poles and in cafe and shop windows to generate awareness around cycling and even incorporate a discount for patrons who used their bike to get to the cafe/shop/event/business.  It is an excellent initiative and as it is being rolled out at the same time as Better Block I’m hoping that Bike Friendly Clovelly will be able to piggyback off some of the exposure and publicity we generate in the lead up to the event.

Elin Bandmann's logo for Bike Friendly Clovelly

Elin Bandmann’s logo for Bike Friendly Clovelly


Til next time!



Modern Day Review Blues

Wisdom of the ages

Wisdom of the ages

To review or not to review?  That is the question.  I’m not going to answer definitively just yet.  But I would like to relate a short anecdote about a recent experience I had concerning that very question.

I worked in hospitality on and off for many years and I know full well what it takes to keep the whole moveable feast afloat.  I also know that no matter how good you are as a staff member or how good your food/wine/coffee/lemon infused sparkling water is- it is impossible to keep everyone happy.  These days everyone in Australia is apparently a foodie and with websites like Urbanspoon, TripAdvisor and a gazillion food blogs reviewing cafes and restaurants by the dozen it is all to easy for an eatery to get torched by some hard to please Matt Moran wannabe who believes that raising the cuisine bar infinitely legitimises their own status as a ‘foodie’.  Little thought is given to the real repercussions of that a cutting review published on Urbanspoon or the like may have for the business in question, its owners and the many staff and produce suppliers that it employs.  Added to this is the question of authenticity.  For a while I worked in a well known cafe precinct in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs and it was a well known fact that rival eateries would post scathing reviews on each others sites, whilst getting friends and family to publish good ones!

I’m not saying poor quality food and bad service shouldn’t be taken to task by a participatory public, just that the opinions posted to these forums should be taken with a grain of (french organic) salt.

My partner and I had a spectacular experience at a regional restaurant in Armidale earlier this year and afterwards out of curiosity I had a peek at restaurant’s reviews on Tripadvisor.  Although the reviews were for the most part very positive, there were a few that had quite negative things to say.  To me it just didn’t add up.

I was motivated to write about our experience there and was pleasantly surprised a few days later when the owner posted the review to the Facebook page:

My Review

My Review

Needless to say I was so glad I ended up putting my two cents in and sending some positivity out into the universe, particularly directed towards a hard working regional restaurant supporting fresh, local ingredients and NSW producers.

The pictures in this post are from our night at Neram Harvest plus some of the prettiness of Armidale.  Do check out Neram Harvest’s website for details of the delicious delicious things they are doing in New England including their innovative ‘feed me’ menu where the staff decide what you eat and when you eat it.  It is the foodie version of ‘letting go’- an experience that some of the more uptight Sydney connoisseurs could probably benefit from!  So… remember that grain of salt when reading online reviews and do put your own one in if you’ve had a great experience.

Til next time,

Emma x


Breads and dip


Pumpkin Crème brûlée


Textures inside the gallery


The entrance looking in

*not* a foodie


The community garden


The old Teacher’s College

Clovelly Road Better Block Inception Meeting

Better Block poster

Yesterday the community inception meeting for Sydney’s first ‘Better Block’ happening on the 27th of October 2013 was held at Creativity Unlimited Studios Clovelly Road.  Better Block is a neighbourhood demonstration movement which was started in the US by a guy named Jason Roberts.  The movement basically advocates grassroots urban design interventions in streets, blocks and neighbourhoods which are installed temporarily over a day or weekend in order to demonstrate how easily the community can engage in the activity of place making– particularly when it is planned from the ground up.

The particular interventions undertaken have varied from site to site as the Better Block movement has gained momentum in the United States.  They might comprise of dropping off a load of trees and pot plants to introduce foliage to the streetscape, opening up vacant or neglected buildings to host a temporary art show, painting demonstration pedestrian crossings, placing street furniture and cafe seating in places where the city codes prevent such activities from happening…the possibilities are only limited by the skills and willingness of communities to get behind the initiative and participate.  As Jason Roberts explains in his TED talk below, often the planning regulations preventing such things from happening on streets were simply the outdated legacy of laws which had been in place for over fifty years i.e for so long that people were loath to question why things were that way, as they were just the way they’ve always been.  Right? Sound familiar?


So, despite over forty Better Block events having occurred already in the US, Clovelly Road Better Block will be the second in Australia and the first in Sydney.  Those pesky Victorians beat us to the punch as per usual with a Better Block back in June 2013 in Geelong :D.  The man behind Clovelly Road Better Block is Phil Stubbs who is an active Eastern Suburbs sustainability voice who also lectures in Urban Planning at UNSW.  His partner Lisa runs kids and adults art classes out of Creativity Unlimited Studios and the space will also double as Better Block HQ in the lead up to the event.

Outside BB HQ

So why Clovelly Road? And why this particular stretch of Clovelly Road? This year, new strategic planning terms handed down by NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure designate the area as a ‘Neighbourhood Centre’- meaning a focal point for the surrounding area, a convergence point for business and social activities and a symbol of neighbourhood pride and identity.  This is all very well (on paper) however as Phil points out, this particular strip of Clovelly Road has seen approximately 12 businesses fail in the last couple of years.  Increased traffic and congestion on key linking roads such as Arden Street make walking and other alternative modes of transport less then attractive.  Clovelly at times seems sandwiched between bigger fish to fry like Coogee Beach and Randwick Junction.

IMG_7784 IMG_7783

Fundamentally though, I think the area was chosen as perfect for a Better Block event because of its innate potential to be a great street.  Clovelly Road East features stunning vistas down to the ocean, wide sunny streets and broad footpaths coupled with a vibrant variety of small local business who have managed to hold on despite the difficulty of competing with nearby mega mall Bondi Junction.  These elements make for excellent building blocks, but the true potential of the area is yet to be fully explored and it is being held back by an inactive concrete dominated streetscape that does not respond well to social movement and flow.  And at night time well… compared to nearby Bondi or Randwick, there is nothing doing.  To me ‘neighbourhood centre’ implies activity throughout the day and into the night, that lingering element that you get in the European squares and public spaces that Jason Roberts eludes to early in his talk.


Yesterdays meeting was about garnering interest, brain storming and gathering ideas for the event.  The turnout was great.  Over sixty people showed up, some just dropping by for a scone and a cuppa but most stayed for the long haul and all posted ideas and contributions which are going to make this event so interesting and exciting for everyone involved. There were representatives from local business, politics, other sustainability groups, Rotary- even celeb gardener Costa Georgiadis popped by for a chat! Phil’s method is entirely open source, if you have an idea Better Block can help make it happen.  Things will happen in groups, with a group for Cycling, Food, Art, Furniture and kids activities.  Phil explained that even traffic engineers had responded to the event with positivity- saying that as a one day thing, a lot more becomes doable and permissible.


I’ll be updating about Clovelly Road Better Block event progress in the lead up to the event.  If you want to learn more or become involved, like the Facebook Page and get in contact with Phil.  It is shaping up to be a fantastic event that will change the way we think about the Clovelly Road.

Thank you to Lisa & Phil for having us (all sixty or so of us)!

Til next time


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High School Drama Pays Off- finally!

Following on from my earlier post I give you (drrrrrrrumroll) the much anticipated Nurse Teach Reach video complete with a brief cameo from the All and the Every.  This video was made by Nurse Teach Reach founder Lucy together with myself and the amazing Elle Fredericksen, a young up and coming Sydney film maker/producer.  Special mention to Daniel Anderson and Amanda Ghorra for their help as well!  We filmed it in Camperdown Park, Newtown on a sunny day- one of those days where everything just falls together nicely apart from the odd quizzical stare from passers by. 😀

Check out Elle’s other stuff on Vimeo here, in particular the Mardi Gras 2013 video which involved more Go-Pros then you can poke a stick at, and even more excitable homos then that.  Which is so many I don’t even want to think about it.  Elle only shuddered when asked her how many hours of footage she had to cut down to make into a just over 6 minute clip.  But oh my isn’t she clever.  Thanks Elle- you rock.

The video really speaks for itself, happy watching!  Remember if you would like to donate to Nurse Teach Reach hit up the website here. 


Till next time

Emma x

Nurse Teach Reach and Bowl!


I mean it when I tell people my friends are amazing. I mean, not just the great drinking-buddy-shoulder-to-cry-on-brings-you-a-pizza-when-you-are-too-heartbroken-to-move amazing. I mean the really intent on instigating change and making the world a better place type of amazing. And they are capital G- Getting it done, one project at a time.

One such beautiful soul is Lucy, a Sydney trained ICU nurse who earlier this year decided to start Nurse Teach Reach, an organisation which will coordinate train-the-trainer programs for Nurses in developing countries, starting with Nepal. If you talk to Lucy about the whole experience she will say that it snowballed, with the support and generosity of her friends and family completely flooring her from DAY 1. Before she knew it she was in up to her elbows in the merchandise, prayer flags, enquiries, ideas, video scripts, forms and paperwork that all come with trying to start an NGO. And most importantly throughout all that in kind support Lucy was able to crystallise real roles for people- delegate, coordinate and ask for help when she needed it.

What I’ve learnt from helping out with Nurse Teach Reach is that the energy and skills of people are out there, they just need to be harnessed by the right person, and that person needs to be driven to the point where they don’t stop asking, pushing, trying and cajoling because we do happen to live in an obstructionist world sometimes, and we definitely live in a time poor, stressed out world but that doesn’t change the fact that people want to find a way to give of themselves in the best way they can.

On Saturday the fundraiser was held for Nurse Teach Reach was held at Petersham Bowling Club. With Sydney putting on her most stunning show off weather it was a great day- tipsy games of lawn bowls, a really generous raffle with prizes and a great turn out.  A little bit about Petersham Bowling Club- their tagline is LIVE, LOCAL & POKIE FREE.  Petersham Bowlo is one of the few true community owned and run clubs remaining in Sydney, proudly saved from demolition a few years ago by a very active and involved community.  They support craft beers and local events, workshops and gigs.  The greens and club interiors are all original and the philosophy has obviously been low interference, low maintenance.  As we were sitting next to the green having a chinwag and a beverage a man popped out of a small cellar door with his hands covered in dirt and explained that the club is in the process of sprouting its own hops for beer !  Head over to the PBC website for the full timetable of the events they hold, there is certainly something for everyone.

Check out the Nurse Teach Reach website and Facebook page for the full story on their mission and keep your eyes peeled for the upcoming promo vid by the amazing Elle Fred which may or may not feature me and Luce showing off some pretty B-grade acting skills amongst other things !

Below are some photos from the fundraiser- NTR raised over $3,000 for the upcoming trip to Nepal. In Nepal that amount of money will go a long way.
Thank you to all who came down and gave of their time and money so generously!

Till next time,

Emma x

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A Cultural Centre for the Blue Mountains


I grew up in the Blue Mountains, a well known National Park and World Heritage Area approximately two hours west of Sydney. My Mum and Dad still live there and I often visit, so be prepared for quite a few posts about mountain folk, mountain issues and mountain trail fables as my Dad and I make attempts at traversing the wilds together in an effort to work our way through his bible Blue Mountains Best Bushwalks by Veechi Stuart.


But last week it was Mum and I who ventured out together on a journey of the more cultural persuasion. Last year Katoomba enjoyed the Sydney arts and culture spotlight for a brief stint after the official opening of the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre. The centre has been on the drawing board for over 10 years and as the Blue Mountains has a long history of being a creative hub and arts refuge many stakeholders and locals considered the addition long overdue.

Interestingly the project was jointly funded by the Blue Mountains City Council, the NSW Government and the Coles Group which explains why the gallery sits on top of the smallish shopping centre and parking lot to form a mixed use development that also includes a state of the art new library- which I’m told attracts a queue of boisterous high school students around 4pm everyday.

Whilst the location on top of a shopping centre isn’t going to seem ideal for arts purists the involvement of the Coles Group would have been key to the realisation of the project. Gone are the days of full-scale public investment in cultural infrastructure and with over 70% of the Blue Mountains Local Government Area comprising National Park revenue sourcing is an ongoing issue, as it is for many regional local councils.


The architecture by Hassel is clever, simple and successful. The barrel roofs give a spacious and light feel and establish continuity between the library and the centre successfully. Notably the centre incorporates a large amount of public open space, helping it to double as a performance space and music venue for the town. The vistas out over the surrounding township from the ‘viewing platform’ are beautiful but it is the view looking up towards the heritage facade of the Carrington Hotel which really struck me as special. Framed by the large arch windows of the centre a different, less well known view of the iconic Hotel is opened up to the public, with the raw brick wall and famous chimney emphasising the gritty, utilitarian side of the otherwise luxe building.

My friend Nicole who was in my year at high school is working as Front of House and Memberships facilitator for the Centre and as we chatted Nicole informed us that in her experience visitors were engaged and interested in the architecture and not in any way shy in expressing their opinions on what they perceived to be the centre’s design strengths and weaknesses. Thinking back now, Nicole’s observation is completely consistent with my experience of the Blue Mountains community- very hardy, down to earth, full of pride for their environment and heritage and definitely not afraid to be critical of the new.

In terms of the exhibitions themselves, Into the Blue is a transportative, interactive and multimedia exhibition celebrating the addition of the Blue Mountains to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000. Featuring over 45 minutes of stunning footage, surround sound, interactive historic maps and activities as well as in depth interviews with conservationists, indigenous elders, writers and historians the exhibition appeals to all ages and categories of viewers, both tourist and local.

The National Photographic Prize 2013 is a touring exhibition from the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra showcasing excellence in contemporary Australian photographic portraiture. The chosen subjects and their stories are captivating, some of them very familiar (Chris Lilley, David Stratton, Reg Mombassa etc) and others intriguing in their normality (a girl from the artist’s local cafe, Granny’s 90th etc). We concluded our visit with the Goya etchings which are on loan from Albury City Art Museum and are a disquieting introduction to enlightenment morality (and a bit too dark and gory for Mum!).

As a new institution the coming years will be challenging for the Centre as it tries to keep both the local community and the more occasional visitors as a captive and involved audience. Membership with its many perks and the diverse public program will become key, with a local poet already taking up residence in the cafe to conduct workshops. With arts in the regions flourishing as creatives are priced out of the city, venues like this also become important purchasing entities as they build up collections representative of the local artistic talent and culture.

For more information on the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre and for a cute promo video starring Lisa Mitchell visit their website:

Entry is $5 for Adults, $3 for students and free for kids under 18 and the centre is open everyday. Membership is even more reasonable, especially if (like me) you visit the mountains frequently and are a sucker for all things arts and culture.

Big Bonus = Lunch at Leura Garage on the way back down the mountain. Hello rosemary salted fries with Aioli!


Til next time culture vulturers!