“I thought you’d be a writer by now!”

Ever get the feeling you’ve been handed the title of your memoirs on a platter?  I groaned internally. Story of my life.  
I hadn’t seen Bunny in roughly eight years. We were sitting upstairs at Shakey’s, waiting for the pub grub buzzer to herald the arrival of our chicken schnitzel, swimming in sauce. Shakey’s has to be one of the only pubs in Sydney where you can buy dinner and still get change back from a a $20 note.

Everything about the situation was familiar.  The kitschy pastoral paintings and ruby red velveteen couches were reminiscent of our suburban upbringing. The drama room we shared in high school had been decked out in a similar fashion as well as the incense-imbued drapery of her living room in Valley Heights.  It was there we had bonded over angst dancing to the Cure/the Smiths and there where at 15 she turned my head upside down in the bathroom and chopped all my gold locks off with the sewing scissors and dyed the pixie cut darker.

I remember emerging light headed from the shower after rinsing away the dark dye to face the change I felt I was standing at the brink of.  I had felt like the anti-sampson, all the stronger for my lost locks.

“What does that even mean?” I cocked my head at her incredulously.  I contemplated the possibility that I had yet to live up to the expectations of my old friend.    
I know of only one or two people who identify solidly with the title ‘writer’, and like ‘poet’ I feel like it belongs more to a bygone era.  It certainly sounded awkward (and awkwardly idealistic) at Shakey’s, in the midst of the 6 o’clock post work swill, on an idle wednesday night in the city.
I had toyed semi-seriously with the idea of pursuing professional writing as a career. I had certainly written prolifically in my adolescence, and not too badly either- according to teachers and others whose opinions matter to teenage flightiness not one whit.  I had thought ‘I can always come back to it.’   

I was pleased, secretly.  Her statement was a vote of confidence of sorts, and a much needed wake up shake up call.

Eight years is a long time, particularly in best friend time.  But as it does it had gone by in a flash.  We were 25 now and had found our separate ways to the city. Old enough to have old friends and to be old friends.  

In the aftermath of trials and the lead up to the HSC she had disappeared.  Something about doing Year 12 part time at TAFE up the mountains.  Trouble on the home front.  I’d disappeared down and into myself, my relationship and a multitude of other preoccupations.  God knows I can’t remember any of them now.

I haven’t stopped writing. But I haven’t been a writer.  I certainly haven’t done enough to earn that title.  I’ve been a lot of things and I’ve stopped being a lot of things.  I’m still figuring it all out and still becoming okay with that.
Kahlil Gibran said we choose all our joys and sorrows before we experience them.  I wonder if he would also say we choose the characters and identities we play in our own life before we become them?    
I haven’t played the writer because she is the one who eludes me.

How can you reconcile creating something and being it at the same time?  It is difficult and lonely.  Rilke says you have to go inside yourself and be prepared to not meet anyone for days.  

Yet in a way, here was a character straight out of a potential collegiate novel of rebellion and coming of age sitting right before me, asking me why she wasn’t written yet.  Brideshead Revisited stuff.  Capital, capital.  My response?

“I’m still writing.”


*Shakey’s is a Surry Hills pub and a Sydney institution.  It nourishes everyone from hipster to hobo to old, old friends with it’s $10 menu 

Covering Ground

'I found a line and I followed it a little'- Sam Holt

I found a line and I followed it a little  
Sam Holt

Spring has well and truly sprung here in Sydney.  Things are starting to thaw out slowly in my head and limbs after a long winter!  It started with a slow trickle- I realised I didn’t have to don a heavy coat in the mornings anymore to walk Chilli and the sun has started to burst in the windows with more gusto.  This trickle will soon louden to a rush that I’m sure will carry me in a current quicker then I would have liked to Summer, Christmas and the conclusion of another year.  Last week was a special one not only because it was the first week of Spring.  I got to catch up with some dear friends and family, see some sights in and out of Sydney and spend quality time with Grace who is going over to China with her grandfather at the end of this week.


Lonsdale Street Traders


Lonsdale Street Art Posters

My mate Sam and I made a pilgrimage down to our Nation’s capital to catch the J.M.W Turner exhibition before it closes up this week on Sunday 15th.  We did it all in one day, which was a bit of an undertaking especially considering I can’t drive a stick so certainly couldn’t help out driving Sam’s trusty hilux ute.  Several Maccas hashbrown stops & photo taking stops and we made it.  It was well worth it- Turner’s paintings are luminous, broiling, heaving things painted in pursuit of the sublime, which in aesthetic theory is understood as some elusive element of greatness in art, music and literature.  Turner’s works have the power to draw you in- squinting to make out the finer details of figures and movements- and then expel you back out again, like the ocean, to reconsider his whole composition, how the multitude of oil paint strokes make the ships in the harbour shimmer, or the Venetian turrets gleam.


The Harbour of Brest


Disaster at Sea




View from St Peter’s Basilica

Sam is a painter himself.  He works with large oil canvases in an abstract expressionist style and recently has started branching into some more landscape style painting.  He was looking at Turner’s skies and clouds, his brush strokes and use of blissful pastel colour combinations.  I was looking at his people, the way three or four crude marks could suddenly form the face of an adoring mother or squalling infant.  The ease with which the emotion is rendered.  Sam is planning a solo art show for later in the year, I’ll keep you posted on that.  His paintings in this post are from an earlier exhibition at Janet Clayton Gallery in Waterloo. You can follow him on insty (@samholtart) or read a bio on him here.

'Immersed in the unfamiliar'- Sam Holt

Immersed in the unfamiliar Sam Holt

'Release' - Sam Holt

Release Sam Holt


From Sam’s sketchbook

The next day Grace and I ventured over to the north side of Sydney to visit our friend Davina who is home from NZ for a short break from skiing.  Davina is a very busy girl training for something really exciting and you can follow her journey here.  We had lunch at the Boathouse, Palm Beach and I was expecting it to be super posh and la-dee-dah.  But it was the most perfect, chillaxed spot to have a mid week lunch.  We want to go back soon and do the walk up to Barrenjoey Lighthouse which you can see from the Boathouse back deck- more info about that here if you are interested.

Lunch at the Boathouse with Davina

Lunch at the Boathouse with Davina

On our drive back Dav took us on the scenic route around all the beautiful Northen Beaches viewpoints- at one point you can see all the way up to the central coast!  After we dropped Dav off I jumped into the sea pool at Dee Why.  Grace said I was crazy but the water was actually warm (ish) and the car heater afterwards was even warmer 😀

Dee Why at Dusk

Dee Why at Dusk

In amongst all of this I also squeezed in (in no particular order):

  1. Late afternoon sun and a strolls in beautiful Centennial Park.
  2. Working at the Apple Spiral Stall for Real Food Projects at Dress Up Attack kids fest in Marrickville.
  3. Delicious dinner at Hartsyard, Enmore Road.
  4. A bit of spring cleaning, clothes chucking & spring cleansing.
  5. Getting really behind in all of my uni work.
  6. Reading
  7. Watching Julia Child make croissants and hollandaise and cracking up laughing doing impressions of her (bless!)
  8. Making said hollandaise and consuming on top of Eggs Benedict for a lazy sunday brunch- scrumptious.

You can see why I called this post covering ground 🙂 This week is shaping up very differently with a multitude of deadlines and tasks and plenty of prep to be done for Gracie before she jets off to China.

Til next time kiddos!

Em x

Po Boys at Hartsyard, Enmore Road- delicious

Po Boys at Hartsyard, Enmore Road- delicious

Organic Blood Orange Cordial from Real Food Projects

Organic Blood Orange Cordial from Real Food Projects

Free Range Eggs

Free Range Eggs

Iced VoVo Pie @ Hartsyard- ridiculous !

Iced VoVo Pie @ Hartsyard- ridiculous !


Nothing says spring like strawberries

Afternoon in Centennial Park

Afternoon in Centennial Park

Centennial Park with Federation Pavilion in  the background

Centennial Park with Federation Pavilion in the background

Pathways in Centennial

Pathways in Centennial

Light in Centennial Park

Light in Centennial Park

Fresh Lemonade at the Dress Up Attack Festival

Fresh Lemonade at the Dress Up Attack Festival

Apple Spirals- whodathunkit

Apple Spirals- whodathunkit

Kids Parade at Dress Up Attack

Kids Parade at Dress Up Attack- too much cuteness


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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The ‘I’ Factor

Thanks to Nat Miller for the use of her images in this post. Find her at :

I know this is a blog about cities- but I want to diverge briefly and write about a whole country.  I did say that this was going to be an overly ambitious urbanism blog from the get go didn’t I?

What is the Italian equivalent of a Francophile? An Italian-ophile?  Is there any such term? I’m not sure.  For now let me tell you a story about how much I love Italy.  First of all I loved Italy long before I had ever even been there.

I loved it through the dusty blue and white picture of Venice that hung in our living room in the 50’s fibro house where I grew up.  I wondered how a city could meld with the water so convincingly- so differently from the harbour city I knew dotted with its coves and impenetrable cliffs.  I loved it through the stories of my Mother and Father, who eloped and were married in St Peter’s Basilica in 1986, the year the Challenger went down, the year the UN designated as the International Year of Peace.

Italy became a country that was embedded in our family mythology- not just the birthplace of the Catholic Church but of our own little gene pool.  I loved Italy through the mini Pieta that sat on my father’s bookshelf, through the Virgin’s face, through the hand that said ‘look, here is my son’ to the entire world.  Later I learnt that Michelangelo had smoothed the wrinkles from her face and sculpted her young, against contemporary convention and biblical logic. I loved Italy even more when I started to love cooking, when I came to understand flavour and simplicity and ‘temple food’- and the moments of quiet standing at the stove simmering.

I loved Italy when I came to study Art History at University, some 500 odd years of Western tradition dominated by the workshops of Florence, Venice, Rome, Sienna and Bologna.  Our class sat on the cusp of the transition from slide to digital but even well into the 21st Century the institution I attended clung to such traditions. Only in first year were we treated to a lecture using slides.  In the dark,  the mechanical rolling of the changing images was mesmerising.  Granted, I wasn’t always listening intently to the professor, and my mind wandered just as I’m sure trecento pilgram’s minds would have wandered standing under a Giotto ceiling- across the angular faces and elongated hands to my own hands and the lines and marks I might make myself- on my page, on my life, on the people around me….

And then almost two years ago I went to Italy with my parter.  It was the last country of a long journey together. We flew into Rome, jumped into a taxi complete with a handsome young Italian driver, arrived at our accommodation in the dead of night, exchanged whispered “Bongiorno”, glimpsed red bedspreads, stone walls.  Again, the quiet.  When morning came we entered the breakfast room to the sound of a young Australian chef and a 60 year old Napoli woman bantering about bread. Light streaming into windows that looked out on a large interior courtyard.  Crooning pigeons.



What happened over the next few weeks was fairly incredible.  Italy exceeded all my expectations, and that is surprising in itself because my expectations were very high.  But it also opened some floodgates in me.  I drew and wrote more in my short time in Italy then I ever have in my life- bar only the last minute scrape to the finish line trying to complete my HSC Visual Arts Body of Work.


queuing leads to thinking




Side effects of the ‘I’ factor

Since coming home life picked up around me and swept on, leaving little to no time for such pursuits.  I’d dearly like that to change and I’ll write a bit about what I am trying to do to make those changes over the coming weeks.

I have often looked back and wondered what it was about the country, the people, the built and natural environment that so emphatically dissolved my artistic inhibitions as well as all the unwritten boundaries I had invented for myself around drawing and writing.  Like when you can do it/what it should look like/what materials you should use/what music you should listen to and most importantly: What will everyone think of it! I just let go of all that.  A big part of it was not having the luxury of picking and choosing where you could something and when.  I drew in cafes, in courtyards, on trains, in bed, on the floor, on church steps.  I drew from life, from memory and from the back of the camera looking back over the shots of the day.  And let me say this: If you think a photograph is a great way to remember a place in all it’s rich layered detail…definitely try drawing it.    

So reading over what I have just written perhaps I have answered my own questions about the ‘I’ factor (‘I’ could stand for Italy, Inspiration or just be a new way to look at the first person pronoun).  Visiting or revisiting any place that plays an important part in your own mythology becomes a pilgrimage of sorts- one that is bound to inspire you to the core of your being.  Where do you get your ‘I’ factor?

A/N Two things in particular inspired this post.

  1. Looking at my friend Natalie’s pictures of her recent trip to Italy.  Pangs of jealousy coupled by our inability to produce photos like this on our crappy 2mpxl point and shoot have prompted me to include them here.
  2. Re-reading Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet which I discovered online here just the other day, many of which are penned from Italy where Rilke sought solitude and respite in order to write.  And definitely a bit of the ‘I’ factor.

Til next time,

Emma x

Stoop Kids- Takie + Syke at the Tate


The only thing better than one girl street artist is two.
Last week Syke and Takie, two emerging Sydney painters joined forces to form an awesome show that takes you on a tour down the backstreets, back alleys back lanes and back sides of their beloved Inner West landscape.


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Stoop kid from Hey Arnold fame didn’t play well with others, these stoop kids do. Behind the street artist pseudonyms are two smiley and very talented lady artists with a body of work to be reckoned with.

The title of the exhibition (NEW-TOWN BEAT) is a nod to the legendary 80’s graffiti artist Jean Michel Basquiat’s pictographic inscription & title of his film NEW YORK BEAT (below) and to his collaborative, frenetic and short lived practice. Basquiat worked with Warhol amongst others to create expressive, abstracted works that can be read like codices. He was fascinated by primitive visual and symbolic forms of communication and transcribed symbols supposedly used by New York’s homeless community to pass on messages and knowledge (also below one of his sources from a Henry Dreyfus book).




Pegasus 1987- Basquiat


From an urban point of view it is impossible to look at Basquiat’s work and not feel the presence of the city, and not just any city, THE city, arguably the most iconic of modern metropolises- New York. I was given a book on Basquiat by my year 12 art teacher- I think she wanted me become bolder, more abstracted…actually I’m not sure why she gave it to me but she hit the nail on the head and I’ve been obsessed ever since.

In a similar way Syke and Takie pay tribute to Sydney, but not the sparkly harbour city of Brett Whitely and not the machinic, efficient Sydney of Herbert Badham- their works come together like a series of snap shots taken whilst skate boarding or riding down a litany of interconnected lane ways, or from the window of a moving car whilst trying to dodge some infernal Cleveland Street traffic. Sydney terraces and row houses viewed front on can be triumphs of symmetry and continuity, from the back it is a different story.


The terrace form necessitated service lanes that cut through the urban fabric and remain in use today. These chaotic geometries offered by the ‘back view’ of Sydney from these lanes are familiar to those that want to avoid main drags and those that are always on the look out for a new canvas to put up on. Sometimes it’s not even about the canvas it is about the frame (aka the city around the work) as the thing which gives rise to the unique conditions that motivate street artists to work.





Like Belgrave Cartel in the last post, the Tate is not full time gallery but a great space upstairs at the Toxteth Hotel on Glebe Point Road with one big long central wall that offers a tonne of flexibility for hanging and displaying works. Syke and Takie went for a salon style hang with two of Syke’s handcrafted wooden skateboards acting like bookends on the far left and right and letter box and stoop sculptures popping out to greet you amongst the paintings. The space is run by Lo-fi Collective who are a part gallery part studio arts collective started above Lo-Fi Bar at Taylor Square (where the Standard is now).



Lo-fi continue to collect impressive Sydney talent like it is going out of fashion, but make a point of keeping it ‘low brow’ & street art driven. The Tate space doesn’t take commission- which makes having an exhibition about 100% more attractive for about 100% of artists (yes I’ve researched those facts) but the disadvantage is that the exhibitions aren’t up for long- or at least this one isn’t so they can be short lived affairs and you have to be quick. An added advantage of the Tate’s location is the close proximity of craft/local beers on tap downstairs, yummy pub grub and the smorgasbord of Glebe just outside. Lots of dranks, lots of great art and plenty of red stickers!

You can check out Syke and Takie individually at :

Thanks to Syke for the use of her insta images!

Till next time my culture vultures,

Emma xx

Welcome to the New

Hello and welcome to The All and the Every, an overly ambitious urbanism blog with (as the name suggests) a bit of everything.  I previously blogged over at tumblr but have decided to give WordPress a whirl and will move some of my content over.  I’ve also started co-writing a blog project with my girlfriend Grace, who is another story altogether.  More on that as well once we are up and running!

As for me I am a 25 year old Urban Planning student from Sydney graduating at the end of 2013.  I’ve learnt so much since I began a degree in the built environment and I am still learning and absorbing every day.  See, I’m one of those sponge-like people that seems to absorb large quantities of ideas and information, to the point where sometimes I can barely hear myself think I’ve got that many theories, projects, thoughts and quotes buzzing around in my brain.  Trust me, it is a blessing and a curse (much more of a curse actually!).

For the most part my thoughts centre on being excited and positive about the challenges that contemporary urban living presents to us.  For me, it is about finding a balance and living sustainably, creatively and happily in the city, with all the obstacles and challenges it throws us!  And I do think these challenges require us to live, think and consume differently.  I would like to encourage more open and honest brainstorming both in my local community and in the wider blog-o-sphere about what we can do to start making some changes.

My aim for this blog is to document my thoughts on considered urban living and to delve into the myriad of events, activities and ideas that this way of life presents for us city lovers.  Simple living and green living isn’t just for country dwellers, ‘tree-changers’ and River Cottage style mega-sustainability-initiatives.  In fact for most of us that way of life is a far off ideal, and personally I’m far too besotted with the hustle, bustle and gorgeous urban complexity of the city to give up the ghost and don my CWA apron.  I think it is becoming really important to refocus the ‘back to earth’ dialogue on urban communities, especially considering the majority of the world’s population now lives in urban areas with these numbers set to skyrocket.

Besides all this- as a home, a community, a spectacle-  the city deserves plenty of love letters.  These are just mine.  As the Lloyd Rees Quote outside Sydney Town Hall says-

“The City is the greatest work of Art”.


View of Sydney skyline from Queens Park at Dusk

View from Queens Park at Dusk