Sunday, January 24, 2010

suburb No 20: Newtown

After the muted tones of Lidcombe last week I needed a burst of colour and movement. As much as
I enjoyed unearthing Lidcombe's delights it was hard going - I wanted somewhere more extrovert,
a suburb that wore its heart on its sleeve and was happy to let it all hang out.

Then I was talking to a potential book publisher (!) early in the week and she mentioned Newtown
and I was all, Newtown, that's it. Aside from being flamboyant and unreserved, Newtown would 
also give me an opportunity to test my theory that even when you think you know somewhere, 
unless you go there on a mission to scour every corner of its being (or as many as you can in three 
or so short visits), you may not know it very well at all. I lived in Newtown in 1990 for four years 
and I’ve been back many times since – but did I really know it? 

Yes and no it turns out. At a glance it seems more or less the same. But when you look closer 
you notice the evolution. More gloss, less edge. More prams, less goths. Previously slightly dodgy 
pubs re-named and renovated, now patronised by those that 15 years ago wouldn’t have dreamed 
of setting foot in the place. 

But King Street still streams with life and The Hub’s future is still up in the air. And my regular 
haunts are still there, looking a little older like me but pretty much the same. Carlisle Castle, 
Kuleto’s, The Sando. The houses I shared with friends in Fitzroy and O’Connell Street. Gould’s 

Some of the best and worst times of my life happened while I was living in Newtown. So as well as 

the hit of colour and movement I was craving, I also found myself on a bittersweet walk down 
memory lane. 

But just as I’d start to reminisce I’d run into another larger than life character that would yank 
me back to the present. It seemed to me that while the suburb may have lost some of its colour, 
it still attracts the colourful and off-beat (as well as the much maligned ‘yuppie’ and their ‘designer 

I left feeling like I’d just scratched the surface, wondering about all the other stories playing 

out in Newtown’s hundreds of tiny terraces…

Part 1: King Street and beyond - the buildings of Newtown

After the Cadigal people 'left' the area, Newtown was formed in 1862, a suburb of 200 houses. 

King Street is still Australia's longest continuous shopping strip with an eclectic mix of mid-Victorian, 
Federation and 20th century architecture - some of it lovingly cared for and some left to age 

the well preserved

no sign of botox here

guilty as charged

how about it Queenie?

is there light at the end of the tunnel for The Hub?

Trocadero, once a dance hall, soon to be offices

there are stacks of bookshops in Newtown (the latest is right across from my old house, in an old factory)

nice tiles :: 1

nice tiles :: 2

'a house of models?!'

Part 2: The red/pink/purple heads of Newtown


Lucille Ball is alive and well, living in Newtown (her doppleganger, 90 year old Meghan)

it's all about the fringe


scarab beetle

she wears the boots

even the buildings are pink :: 1

even the buildings are pink :: 2

Hare Krishna in green and pink

Part 3: Express yourself

all the world's a stage

Part 4: Art on the streets

off to the shops for some milk

is it just a dream?

the light

and sympathy

hot in the city

purple heart

unchain my heart

Part 5: Playing dress up in Newtown

girls just wanna have fun

Part 6: Night falls

as sure as night follows day

women in uniform

living art

the blue

of the inner-west

a castle fit for a king

watch where you walk on the way home

Is there beauty in Newtown? Yes, if you're prepared to raise your gaze from street level 
to the many lovely old facades. Or look closely at the crowds, to find the bright sparks that live a 
more colourful life than many.

See you next week.

Monday, January 18, 2010

suburb No 19: Lidcombe

... and a whole load of churches, three of which I poked my nose into on Sunday - more of that later.

History of Lidcombe in brief: Dharug people 'moved on' by European settlers - largest cemetery in the

Southern Hemisphere established - industry boomed towards end of the 19th century, a mix of abattoir, 
engineering and funereal - then manufacturing - Irish replaced by Europeans, who were joined by the 
Asian and Middle Eastern. Today, a big Ukrainian and Korean presence.

I found the suburb a strange mix of many churches, massive industry, an even larger cemetery and 

almost-impossible-to-navigate roads. Oh, and one delightfully retro swimming pool...

Part 1: Religious Lidcombe

Like many people I find religious buildings of any persuasion to be visual feasts. But not being religious 

myself I'm also intrigued by both the power of faith and all the ceremony involved.

So when I discovered that Lidcombe's cup runneth over with churches - three of which looked like 

they'd been transported from exotic lands far away - I was tickled pink. So much so I decided to 
do something I never do - put on a nice frock and go to church.

How was it? Well, it's a foreign experience for me at the best of times. But I really felt like a fish out 

of water in these churches, two from Eastern Europe and one from the Middle East.

I was welcomed by one, tolerated by another and more or less rejected by the third. I'm not taking 

it personally - it is their special domain after all and yes, I was wielding a camera - but I found the 
different reactions interesting nonetheless. 

inside out  (St Andrew's Ukrainian Catholic Church)

far from Ukraine but right at home  (St Andrew's Ukrainian Catholic Church)

different religions  (St Andrew's Ukrainian Catholic Church and Nepalese symbol)

inside out  (St Ephraim Syrian Orthodox Cathedral)

see the light  (St Ephraim Syrian Orthodox Cathedral)

through a veil (St Ephraim Syrian Orthodox Cathedral)

when you're 90 years old the only way is up (St Ephraim Syrian Orthodox Cathedral)

it's the St Basilica of the tropics  (Russian Old Rite Christian Orthodox Church)

the good book  (Russian Old Rite Christian Orthodox Church)

onion domes  (Russian Old Rite Christian Orthodox Church)

that's how it felt  (Russian Old Rite Christian Orthodox Church)

By the way, I can't show you any pics inside the Russian church because I wasn't allowed - apparently
no photos are ever allowed inside, even if you're as Russian orthodox as can be. A pity because
it's pretty amazing - there are no pews as per your normal church, so you get a clear view of all
the honey-gold wood panelling and rich, colourful iconography.

many lives  (former Masonic Hall turned Islamic youth centre turned Korean church)

for the salvos (Salvation Army)

he's even got a hand in the construction business

Amen indeed

Part 2: Sporty Lidcombe

Starting with the local swimming pool complex where I met kids from backgrounds as mixed as the 

pool's multi-coloured tiles. I loved the pool's 1959-ness, which by the way, while called the Auburn 
Swimming Centre (or Ruth Everuss Aquatic Centre) is actually in Lidcombe. Skip this section if retro 
turns your stomach...




men in pink



bad time to get vertigo

motherly love (stained glass from St Andrew's Ukrainian Catholic Church)

calm before the storm


Aside from the fabulous fun pool, the sporty side of Lidcombe comes out in the oval and the various 
parks, perfect places for a Saturday morning game of soccer, Korean style...

No 19

red and black

Liddy Oval

No 10

the soccer player and the altar boy

different religions

Part 3: Industrial Lidcombe

A patterned wall and an old warehouse caught my eye...

nice wall

nice warehouse


the front door

save the warehouse

say a prayer for the old and characterful

Not really industrial but similarly old and fading...

signs of a former life (the old hospital and an old sign)

Part 4: Diverse Lidcome

In the short time I spent in the suburb I met people from all over the world - Nepalese, Korean, Chinese, 

Turkish, Russian, Ukrainian, Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian...

mixed backgrounds

the boy from Zimbabwe and the kid from Korea

from Russia with love - "me and my auntie"

alphabet (Nepalese and Korean)

a couple from China

aloha from Lidcombe from the Turkish man in the Hawaiian shirt

Korean petal

Part 5: Departing from Lidcome

You can leave Lidcombe via seven railway lines - or feet first to the Rookwood Cemetary, properly 

known as Rookwood Necropolis (City of the Dead). As much as I like a good cemetery, I didn't 
dally, the tragedy of Haiti swirling in my mind and the tens of thousands who won't rest in peace 
in a proper grave.

adds a little life to the place

spend more time here and you might spend less here

nicest house in the (cemetery's) street

I did find beauty in the 'burb of Lidcombe - the churches and the zany pool were highlights. But 
you can't help thinking as you walk around an almost deserted town centre that it has suffered 
greatly from the draw of larger shopping centres and seems almost too quiet. It's busy around 
the train station and then nothing, it just sort of peters out. As always, that's just my opinion
- I'm always happy to hear other points of view.

I'm doing a fine job of missing my Friday deadline these past few weeks but I hope to post again 
this Friday - see you then.