It’s a wonderful day in the neighbourhood — let’s go for a stroll …
This is where I live and work. Newtown is a small neighbourhood just southwest of the centre of Sydney. A fairly old part of Sydney, these days Newtown is a cosmopolitan area populated by a huge variety of people — young, old, students, working class, yuppies, hippies, blacks, whites, straights and queers of all varieties. Centred on busy King Street, Newtown is one of Sydney’s two main gay areas, but unlike Darlinghurst (the other one) it’s a very relaxed and somewhat esoteric place.
I am glad I have lived here.
There are at least seven bookstores within a few minutes walk of my front door, plus about 70 restaurants, 40 cafÃ©s, a cinema, a couple of queer pubs, numerous queer-friendly pubs, and all manner of funky shops. There are trees in the streets and parks, and there’s no shortage of sexy lads cruising up and down King Street.
In fact, King Street probably has more doable boys per mile than any other street I’ve known … and that’s saying something. We’re not talking muscle gods or supermodels here (you’ll find them in Darlinghurst if that’s your trip). We’re talking about shaven-headed, goateed, tattooed, aware, down-to-earth, adventurous inner city lads. My kind of boys.
Newtown is also a hot bed of seething revolutionary anarchism, as you can probably tell from the graffiti in many of these pictures, and you gotta love that. The annual Newtown Fair is a festival of everything that is not mainstream, with environmental groups, anarchists, Marxists, human rights groups, queer community organisations and many others offering salvation, inspiration or just a selection of petitions to sign.
But you don’t have to wait for the fair day. Any Saturday morning in King Street you can sign up with the Democratic Socialists, give a few dollars to Greenpeace or get the latest copy of Green Left Weekly.
So what’s wrong with Newtown? Well, King Street, for it’s many delights, is a major traffic thoroughfare which makes it a high-noise, high-pollution area. And there’s no direct bus service from here to Oxford Street, which means I have to take two buses to go out on the town. But these are minor annoyances.
Newtown still has a bit of light industry (not all the factories are as cunningly-named as the one at left) which means noise and pollution, but really it’s pretty gentle nowadays.
Walking Newtown’s back streets, there’s always something new around the corner. Despite the narrow streets and vestigial footpaths, almost every street is lined with trees and plants, and in the spring there’s jasmine, bougainvillea and frangipanni. The houses are mostly small, old terraces originally built as workers’ cottages in the last century, many of which are now renovated yuppie palaces.
But what makes Newtown Newtown isn’t the bookstores, or the houses, or the trees. It’s the people. A diverse and extraordinary bunch of people they are too.
So, next time you’re in the neighbourhood, watch out for me. I’ll probably be in Corelli’s CafÃ© reading the newspaper, or browsing the shelves at Better Read Than Dead, or just working the street. Say hi.
- Signs of Peace, Signs of War (in The Lash)