Randwick Eco-Living Fair, 15 September


The Fairground

The Fair in full swing

Yesterday I attended the Randwick Eco-Living Fair, a one day event organised by Randwick City Council held at the new Community Centre and surrounding Environmental Park on Munda Street, Randwick.

After a slightly blustery, rainy morning threatened to scare people off the sun appeared and everyone came out in force.  The event was a great way to showcase the council’s new facilities on the large site which include halls, exhibition spaces, playgrounds, large garden area and covered workshop spaces.  These new facilities are located on former Defence Force lands which had been in use since WWI as Randwick Army Barracks.  Parcels began to be redeveloped in the 1990’s with a large area protected as parklands as it functions as a haven for birdlife and some protected species of flora and fauna.    

Randwick Council obviously knows that it is all very well to have whiz-bang new facilities but if no-one actually knows where they are and what they can be used for then there is no point right?  Because I reside at the Clovelly end of Coogee I don’t get down that way often and I was very pleasantly surprised at the renewal and redevelopment that the area has experienced.  New housing in terrace/townhouse style surrounds the centre on Bundock Street and surrounds.

The style and medium density format of the newer development fits well with the existing older housing in the suburb.  There is also some really loving landscape elements (which the picture below doesn’t actually show well) but the inclusion of Australian natives, established trees and shrubs and ground covers made all the difference to my impression of the streetscape.

Modern take on terraced housing in Randwick

Modern take on terraced housing leading down to Randwick Community Centre

Signage to the Centre

Signage to the Centre

Walking In

Walking In

As I chatted to one of the organisers Ben Eadie from October Sun he explained that organising an event like this was like installing a mini semi-permanent city- you need infrastructure, waste, food, power, ATMs, shade, accessibility, first aid and seating as well as entertainment and traffic management.  Hovering above all these needs is of course the need to make the event as sustainable and low impact as possible.  

Clear and accessible waste management is key to reducing the clean-up and bump out at the end of the day.  He also said that the rise of the food trucks helped along by City of Sydney has been a huge factor in reducing the events management headache. These vans operate self sufficiently by producing their own power, water, lighting and gas as well as BYOing their own serving utensils, cups and plates.  They also look fantastic and contribute to the atmosphere of the event- my personal favourite is the ‘Nighthawk Diner’ pictured below housed in a vintage airstream caravan so shiny you can check your teeth for cheeseburger after your meal!

the Nighthawk Diner

the Nighthawk Diner

Although there was plenty to do for adults I felt like a real focus of the event was kids and kids environmental education, particularly introducing them to insects and bug life through a show by INSECTUS the insect man and to lizards and reptiles as well as a brilliant show about water and its importance.  Little giggles and squeals of delight from the audience abounded as a giant book opened to reveal a hand painted backdrop for the show.  And all for free- I can imagine my glee if I was a parent in Sydney finding such a high calibre of educational entertainment for FREE! And outside in a beautiful setting.     

Insektus the Insect man

Insektus the Insect man

There was also a great range of stores selling local produce and home and garden products to up your green factor.  Amongst all this there were roaming representatives from Council’s various environmental initiatives interviewing people from the community to get their feedback on various environmental projects including the controversial environmental levy.

I’m hoping as the success and popularity of events such as these becomes clear more councils will adopt some of the strategies and techniques displayed by Randwick.  Sometimes promoting sustainability is as simple as getting people outside into the sunshine to eat fresh local foods and lie on the grass while the kids zip around having the time of their lives! 

Til next time,
Em x

Stilts Performers

Stilts Performers

Landscape features

Symmetrical  landscape features

Veggie Garden

The Veggie Garden & a workshop in progress

Local pooches

Local pooches

the big top

the big top


Never has waste management looked so good

Finding a bit of shade

A diamond python finds a bit of shade


Spectators soak up the sun


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


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!



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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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.


Screen Shot 2013-08-13 at 8.42.37 AM

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 : http://www.thetakie.com/


Thanks to Syke for the use of her insta images!

Till next time my culture vultures,

Emma xx

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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Cartel Culture Club 02- Laura Ives Solo Show


A couple of weeks ago we ventured by ferry across to Manly for Laura’s first solo art show.  I mentioned Laura in the last post, she is my mate that lives in the Fonzie Flat and takes the task of being artistically awesome fairly seriously, all the time, sometimes to the point where I have to forcibly remove paint brushes from her hand and carefully broach the topic of sleep, or better still coffee.

The result of this little adventure?  Instant Manly crush. It’s no secret that Manly is on the up and up, Broadsheet is onto it and have given a good lowdown on what’s what and who’s who in this trendy little seaside corner of Sydney (good if you are from the ‘other side’ like me).  Personally I love Manly for its Muscle Beach style long public promenade where fit types get to strut their stuff.  And for its pine trees.  And for the feeling of instant relaxation that hits you as soon as you step off the ferry.  The beer-ologist in me is yearning to go back and check out the 4 Pines Brewery, in every way that a brewery can be checked out.

hjh Belgrave

But the show! Laura’s show is part of a series events called Cartel Culture Club hosted at cafe/bar Belgrave Cartel and organised by Cha-Ching Art.  Bryan Dalli (grinning below) is one of the faces behind Cha-Ching Art and was the key facilitator in making it all happen.


Cha-Ching Art are an arts collective who also make heaps of other art events and exhibitions happen, keep an eye on their facebook page for news.  What I like about Cha-Ching is they are not permanently placed at any one gallery, so each event or exhibition has a unique and exciting feel- which keeps both artists and audiences on their toes!

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In terms of the work itself, ‘Cartel’ was definitely appropriate because Laura’s subject matter all of a sudden got attitude! In the past she has painted more whimsically and mythologically but in this show gangsters rule the roost.  There were still some Adonis types haunting the back room in with their sculptural poses but I think everyone really loved the swagger that shows in this new direction.

If Laura’s paintings were the star of the show, the Cartel as a venue wins best supporting artist.  I was told the owner’s family is Sicilian, so they wanted the place to feel like a WWII Italian bunker.  With its textured walls, marble tables and lead-pressed ceilings  it does feel Roman and with the string lights & al fresco drinking corridor it even reminded me of some of the bars I visited whilst in Barcelona last year.  But the food is definitely Italian- meatballs in sauce, crunchy polenta chips, calamari, bruschetta (plus really good strong coffee) – perfect drinking and sharing food brought out speedily with a smile.





The good news is the show is on until August 14, the bad (but good for Laura!) news is that a lot of the work has already sold out.  Check out this little reel Bryan made of the night:


And for more Ives related visual feasting go to:


All photos in this post are by Sarah Christensen, Culture Club partner in crime and courtesy of Cha-Ching Art.

Till next time !


<a href=”http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/70/1566811/restaurant/Sydney/Belgrave-Cartel-Manly”><img alt=”Belgrave Cartel on Urbanspoon” src=”http://www.urbanspoon.com/b/link/1566811/minilink.gif&#8221; style=”border:none;padding:0px;width:130px;height:36px” /></a>

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: http://bluemountainsculturalcentre.com.au/

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!