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

Colour

Never has waste management looked so good

Finding a bit of shade

A diamond python finds a bit of shade

Spectators

Spectators soak up the sun

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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

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Breads and dip

dds

Pumpkin Crème brûlée

ass

Textures inside the gallery

sa

The entrance looking in

*not* a foodie

dsad

The community garden

sx

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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Emma

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Nurse Teach Reach and Bowl!

NTR

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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Compact Living- a Fonzie Flat for Life?

The Fonz himself

eeeyyyy

We all know Arthur Fonzarelli did many things well.  His hair, girls, tight t-shirts, his motorcycle, zippo lighters, that pesky vending machine- but is the legendary Fonz set to become the poster boy for compact living and flexible housing options as well?

The term Fonzie Flat is now cemented into the Aussie vernacular, even being named word of the Month in January 2013 by Oxford University Press Australia.  Although the name calls to mind a greasy den of deferred Italian adulthood the Fonzie Flat is being championed by planners, property developers and housing affordability researchers as a viable accommodation option for a variety of expanding housing needs.  These include stay-at-home twenty somethings (guilty!), ageing parentals and grand parentals, out of towner rellies, Air bnb trawlers, paying international students, home businesses, start up companies, boutique showrooms and of course my mate Laura (artist and full time Law & Order viewer).  All of these uses potentially function as a neat little appendage to a larger dwelling, with only the occasional SOS light switch morse code sent out to the mainland house during a chronic milk or toilet paper crisis.

But what if the Fonzie Flat model could be amputated from the mothership of the Australian dream mega-pad and strike and on its own?   As many a resident of an  Inner West workers cottage will tell you, compact living isn’t exclusive to apartment dwellers and can come in many forms.  We just need to start ensuring these forms are available, permissible and economically viable in Australia.

Image from the Dwelle website

Image from the Dwelle website

UK company Dwelle, based in Manchester are busy designing and constructing micro building prototypes which fit the Fonzie Flat model nicely, with one main difference.  They are carbon friendly, fully transportable and can be knocked up in a matter of days. AND they look good.  They feature solar panels, rainwater harvesting, low energy lighting and fully integrated electronics and appliances.  With the more luxe model featuring floorspace of 64m squared they are not much bigger then your average inner city one bedder but of course as many of my architect friends tell me, space is both physical and psychological.

In other words the A-frame roof, abundance of natural light and clever storage layout mean that you may not necessarily feel like you are being strangled by your own claustrophobia in a Darlinghurst bedsit.  You can also add more space by playing with optional extras and additions (like Lego!) and customise the cladding to respond to the surrounding environment.  Compact living is about letting go of the stuff that demands to be housed, stored and gathers dust until eventually it gets turfed and goes into landfill and living smarter.  This little project tells that story nicely: http://www.storyofstuff.org/

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Image from the Dwelle website

Image from the Dwelle website

Which brings me to another great point, and one which I thought of whilst gawping (as I often do) at http://cabinporn.com/. The outdoor rooms and landscaping opportunities become key to the success of these little homes.  Less house = more block.  Yes they are small, tiny even, but that fact serves as extra encouragement to get outside, get walking, gardening or exploring, or just sit back and take it all in which- one of the original motives for the broad Aussie porch or verandah.  So much of the future lies in our past doesn’t it?  The cabin typology is back, but with an eco bent and in Australia we just happen to have the perfect set of climactic criteria to support it.

Scott Meivogel Cabin

Image from Cabin Porn, submitted by Scott Meivogel

At this stage Dwelle-ings aren’t available in Australia however a wide variety of granny flats, sheds and backyard studio buildings are being offered by many companies as all the different needs I mentioned before continue to grow.  The challenge is in realising that small flying solo is also ok, and that even a Fonzi-sized flat or house can potentially do its part in reducing energy consumption.  Also I feel like Arthur Fonzarelli would be pleased that I’m mentioning his pad, as well as the words ‘cabin porn’ in the same post.

Until next time- I’ll be taking some measurements of my Dad’s beloved shed!

Emma

Dad's Shed

Dad’s Shed