give a little, get a lot

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For me the highlights among Sydney’s neighbourhood festivals are Surry Hills and Newtown. A few Saturdays ago Surry Hills Festival engulfed Prince Alfred Park, and last Sunday perfect weather graced Newtown Festival as it jam-packed Camperdown Memorial Rest Park.

Newtown was the front runner in the vibe stakes… in the past Surry Hills was a contender but this year, at least while I was there, it purred rather than rocked. We arrived and left both festivals early in the day to avoid the crowds, impacting not at all at Surry Hills which hadn’t remotely filled up by the time I left just after lunch. On the other hand Newtown was heaving by the time we left and there were hoards still heading that way at 2pm as we walked home.

From a front entry a street behind Newtown’s King St, courtesy of a mere few gold coins each, we were uplifted and swept along by a melange of music and people. Wandering and browsing, stopping for a snack, listening to bands on the green, the going was reasonably good up until midday when we escaped to a corner near the Writers’ Tent for a bite of lunch, before going in to see Warren Brown, Sydney’s Daily Telegraph cartoonist, and author of Frances Birtles.

When we emerged, we were swamped. The festival had morphed into a moving mass of bodies. We made our way back through and bought a hemp satchel for the G.O. so we no longer need to share mine purchased there a couple of years back.

While the G.O. had a smoke break in a far corner, I attempted to re-enter the melee but quickly emerged defeated by the crowd. We decided to call it a day, and left via a back street only to meet head on, the afternoon shift.

Two notes re Newtown Festival, which encompass also the philosophies of Surry Hills Festival:

“The Newtown Festival is organized by Newtown Neighbourhood Centre, and for more than 30 years the centre has given the festival to its community as a free event [entry via donation*]. The festival is a showcase of all things Newtown with huge crowds gathering each year for a day of community celebration. The Festival is an important event in the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre’s calendar with ALL monies raised by the Festival returned to the Centre to provide community support services to the local community. Newtown Neighbourhood Centre supports people through community action and provision of services to address their need, focusing on the disadvantaged and vulnerable members in the community. The centre provides services to the aged, people with disabilities, people with mental illness, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and people on low incomes. ”

“Newtown Festival 2012 is going Bottled Water Free – making a stand against the commercialisation of water and massive plastic bottle waste. There will be no sale of bottled water by stalls or suppliers – just refill stations serving FREE [truly free*] tap water.”

Given the content of the festival was predominantly people, opportunities to take photos were circumscribed, but to give a feel of the day…

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[* Notes are mine.]

all the fun of the festival

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Sydney neighbourhood festivals and street fairs although occurring at usual times of the year and well advertised daytime events, are similar to The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern*,  in that they are “an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements” and temporary: if you miss them, you have to wait until next year, as happened to us with this year’s Haberfield Primavera street fair.

No matter, Surry Hills Festival in the backyard of Sydney’s CBD is my #1, and on Saturday after my walk on the wild side, I ventured to my old neighbourhood and wandered down Cleveland Street, to immerse myself.

Surry Hills Festival  is a celebration of music, arts and the vibrant community of the City of Sydney’s most iconic suburb.  The annual Surry Hills Festival is a primary fundraiser for the Surry Hills Neighbourhood Centre, providing funding for the centre’s community services. Prince Alfred Park will be transformed into an oasis of arts and culture and you can expect: Music, arts and everything in-between; a fantastic array of market stalls – handmade, vintage, ethical, eco – treasures abound; the annual Surry Hills Dog Show – a festival favourite… and much more.”

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*”This is not magic. This is the way the world is, only very few people take the time to stop and note it. Look around you,” he says, waving a hand at the surrounding tables. “Not a one of them even has an inkling of the things that are possible in this world, and what’s worse is that none of them would listen if you attempted to enlighten them. They want to believe that magic is nothing but clever deception, because to think it real would keep them up at night, afraid of their own existence.”