Surry Hills Festival

“Have you ever seen the cover of the Shine album by Frida?”, I said to my friend Andrew this afternoon. As soon as I’d finished asking the question, I instantly recognised the obscurity of the popular cultural reference I’d just asked him to consider. Of course, he replied no, but still laughed when I observed one of the women using a hula-hoop in the dance space at today’s Surry Hills Festival looked just like Frida on the front cover of her 1984 English language solo Cd.

“The one in fluoro pink and green with the funny red hair”, I re-assuringly told him, referring to the cover of one of my favourite Frida CD’s, though regrettably an international chart failure as the follow up to “Something’s Going On”. Even at the time of its release, I remember looking at the cover and thinking she looked a little dated in her choice of fashion, though I never said it out loud amongst other ABBA fans. Well, not so much dated, more just, well… you know… just trying… “too hard”.

Surry Hills Festival

Actually, I thought the girl using the hula-hoop was kind of cool, really standing out in the otherwise large crowd of people who all looked remarkably similar in their slim-hipped jeans, big sun-glasses, and emu-haircuts (yes, I know they’re emos, not emus, but it makes me laugh to call them emus). Those participating in the festival today hardly represented the great level of diversity that I know and love about those who live in Surry Hills.

Nah, it’s a young person’s festival, we realised mid-afternoon as we walked around the park and, aged in our early forties, recognised we were amongst the oldest people there. It’s really the “Surry Hills Festival” in name only. Even thinking back to when the festival was on Crown Street (oh, I am a long-term local), it was ever thus, despite representation from local groups including the Surry Hills Neighbourhood Centre. That said, we had a lot of fun wandering around for a couple of hours, enjoying the sights, and enjoying the sunshine on an otherwise perfect Sydney spring day.

Afterwards we headed over to the Chinatown for an early evening meal, an excellent $15 special at one of my favourite outdoor eating areas, Hingara. Over dinner we continued to watch the world go by, picking out the tourists, the visitors, and the locals. “I think they’re from New Zealand and mum wants to buy an opal”, Andrew observed as we watched a mum, a son, and a step-dad walk into the souvenir shop across the road. We smiled with recognition at the two young gay guys who sat down at the table next to us on their “first date” (or so it seemed), as one asked the other if he would like to “share a fried rice”. We also smiled in recognition was we noticed the two lead actors from Holding The Man walking around looking for something to eat. For just a brief second we both noticed how “in character” they appeared off-stage also. There’s nothing like a few people watching with a good mate on a Saturday afternoon, eh?

5 responses to “Surry Hills Festival”

  1. Naomi Avatar

    Hey James – it’s not just a young person’s festival – it’s a kid’s festival as well. :)
    Seriously though, the organisers work really hard to make the festival as accessible and interesting to as many people as they can, I should know, being one of them, and if you have any suggestions for improvement we’d love to hear them.

    I hope you can make it to the festival this year, on Saturday 12th April at the good old Prince Alfred Park.

  2. James Avatar

    Hi Naomi, thank you for your comment. The one thing I’d say is that it would be good to have a lot more things to do aside from listen to music. I think the predominance of the live stages, which are great by the way, kinda excludes a lot of people. So I think keep the music, but maybe try and attract more community groups to further reflect the wonderful cultural diversity of the suburb (aside from the food stalls). For example, in addition to the doof-doof, it would be great to see some Indian or Turkish or Lebanese musical acts etc. In essence, I suppose I’m saying, have a look at what makes Surry a great place to live and try to include a little more of that. And yes, I will be there on April 12. Cheers, James

  3. Rozie Avatar

    Did you go to 2008’s? Here’s my review if you are interested.

  4. James Avatar

    Hi Rozie, yes I went this year and I thought it was much better than last year. Lots more stalls, and less emphasis on the music aspect of it all, which I think is great. It seemed much more like a “surry hills festival” than a “music festival”. James

  5. Penelope Avatar

    Hi! I am a designer, thinking of having a stall at the 2009 Surry Hills Festival markets. I was hoping you could tell me whether there were many hand-made/artists type of markets there, and if they were popular? I hand make all of my product, and therefore it isn’t cheap, and I am worried that there will be so many cheap stalls that I will not be able to compete, so I was hoping to get some feedback before I apply. What are your thoughts?



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