Pay it forward: Newtown embraces the restaurant with no prices Reply

by Rebecca Cleaver

Lentil as Anything is now part of the Newtown café scene for all the right reasons. Photograph by Rebecca Cleaver

Lentil as Anything is now part of the Newtown café scene for all the right reasons. Photograph by Rebecca Cleaver

He calls it “the crazy vegetarian restaurant with no prices on its menus”, but Matt Pettit was always confident Sydneysiders would embrace the Lentil as Anything philosophy.

The restaurant’s “pay as you feel” system means customers pay whatever they want for their meal, whether it’s $2 or $200. In some cases, Matt says, it’s nothing. And that’s okay.

“Lentil is about generosity and giving and sharing. We don’t really focus on the money. It’s just naturally assumed that people will come in and pay what they can afford.

“Some people really can’t pay much and we’re just as happy for them to come in and grab a meal as someone who has hundred dollar notes sticking out their pocket.”

Matt is the NSW Manager of Lentil, and the man responsible for bringing the project here from Melbourne. He first approached Lentil’s founder, Shanaka Fernando, about opening a Sydney branch last year.

“Shanaka was worried that Sydney people may not take to Lentil in the way Melbourne people had. But I had no doubt it would work, especially in Newtown. It just has a vibrancy nowhere else in Sydney has.”

The gamble paid off: when Lentil first opened its doors on King St in May, an eager queue of over 100 people lined the footpath. And the hunger for what Lentil has to offer has only grown over time.

On any given night, the generous seating area is overflowing with an eclectic mix of customers. There’s students decked out in old band t-shirts, sun-kissed backpackers, local buskers and musicians, and older bohemian-types.

It’s the usual suspects as far as free food is concerned. But if Lentil’s donation box is anything to go by, most people are paying a fair price for their meal.

“The generosity of Sydney people is just fantastic. Money isn’t something we focus on; that’s why the donation box is there, to create anonymity. More…

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Social entrepreneurs get chance to start their dreams.   Reply

by Matt Burgess

Troy Tungai from Barrick Heights teaches his group of Young Doctors about health necessities as part of the Malpa Project. This project was originally supported by Dreamstarter. Source: The Malpa Project

Troy Tungai from Barrick Heights teaches his group of Young Doctors about health necessities as part of the Malpa Project. This project was originally supported by Dreamstarter. Source: The Malpa Project

Online financiers ING Direct have set up a $100,000 fund for emerging Australian social entrepreneurs to access through the online crowd-funding platform Dreamstarter. Equating to just under 10 per cent of ING Direct’s total community investment, the online platform was launched in August this year following the success of the 2013 pilot program.

Dreamstarter offers Australian entrepreneurs the ability to raise funds for diverse social change start-ups. Successful projects that capture the imagination of the Dreamstarter panel will be allowed to use the platform for their crowd funding endeavours.

The Dreamstarter panel is a mixture of representatives from ING Direct, the School for Social Entrepreneurs based in Melbourne and social crowd funding platform StartSomeGood. They assess the potential social impact that can be gained from each program, its marketability and if they are, indeed, crowd funding ready.

ING has pledged to match up to 50 per cent of every Dreamstarter crowd funding campaign’s ‘tipping point’, which is typically up to a $7500 investment. The tipping point is the minimum amount of money a project needs to get off the ground and have a social impact.

Don Palmer, director and founder of the Young Doctors program, was one of the initial four to be selected as a Dreamstarter candidate. The Young Doctors program aims to implement the World Health Organisation’s strategy of educating school children to improve their community’s health. Children are a catalyst for change. This approach was credited with stopping an outbreak of cholera in Aceh, Indonesia after the 2004 tsunami. More…

Sydney council leading the way in waste management innovation Reply

by Daniel Graham

Royston St bins. Source: Supplied by Lord Mayors office

Royston St bins.
Source: Supplied by Lord Mayors office

An innovative underground bin system is being trialled in Darlinghurst by the City of Sydney Council. Five 1,100 litre bins have been installed under a traffic island in the middle of Royston Street, replacing an overcrowded wheelie bin bay built in the 1980s.

The Council says the move to install the new system was made to alleviate problems with overflowing waste and pest problems, the results of illegal dumping made possible by public access to the old bin bay.

“This state-of-the-art waste system is a practical way to reduce clutter and beautify inner city streets,” said Lord Mayor Clover Moore.

“Underground waste systems have been used in other cities around the world and are proven to be an effective means of managing waste in high density areas with limited bin space.”

Two of the bins are devoted to recycling, with another three to general household waste, adjustable according to need. Residents deposit waste into chutes that they access with a PIN. The bins are raised to street level by a hydraulic lift for collection.

The high-tech system cost the Council around $80,000, and replaces 22 standard wheelie bins. There are currently no plans to roll the system out to other areas of the city. More…

Community comes out for a Better Block Reply

by Daniel Graham

Better Block, Clovelly Source:  Park to Pacific Facebook page

Better Block, Clovelly
Source: Park to Pacific Facebook page

A pop-up urban renewal project took over a suburban shopping strip in Clovelly one recent Sunday afternoon, turning the main road into a pedestrian-friendly community hub.

The Clovelly Road Better Block demonstration day was organised by the Park To Pacific Association, a residents’ group advocating for more green spaces along the road to better cater for pedestrians. Clovelly Road runs for almost three kilometres from Centennial Park to Clovelly Beach, and is an important access road for over 130 Clovelly and Randwick businesses.

Temporary green spaces were set up along a stretch of the road’s main retail zone, with hundreds of potted plants and additional outdoor seating installed. There were live folk music acts, craft activities for kids, and local businesses were encouraged to set up stalls on the footpath. A group of primary school children held a homemade lemonade stall, raising money for the Sydney Children’s Hospital.

The aim of the Better Block event was to explore how a community might reimagine its central public space as being something more than just a main road with some shops. Initiated by community members and inspired by a similar movement in North America, Better Blocks are events that, as the organisers say, use “short term action for long term change”.

Better Block events are a form of “tactical urbanism”, a neighbourhood-building concept developed by American urban planner Mike Lydon. Mr Lydon is an advocate for the development of compact, walkable neighbourhoods as an antidote to problems caused by urban sprawl. He is currently in Sydney to deliver a keynote address at the Walk 21 International Conference. Together with Melbourne’s CoDesign Studio, Mr Lydon recently published the fourth volume of the Tactical Urbanism handbook, which has a particular focus on Australia and New Zealand. More…

Australian painter remembers those silenced by oppression Reply

by Daniel Graham

Wang Xu’s work pays homage to so-called ‘rightists’ who dared to speak out for democracy and freedom of speech.

Wang Xu’s work pays homage to so-called ‘rightists’ who dared to speak out for democracy and freedom of speech.

When he was last in China, Wang Xu showed a group of students the iconic image of “Tank Man”, staring down tanks on the day of the Tiananmen Square massacre. They did not recognise it.

“This may be performance art,” one said, trying to puzzle it out.

Mr Wang, a Chinese-Australian artist, unveiled his new exhibition at Verge Gallery in Sydney at the weekend. As pro-democracy demonstrations grip Hong Kong, his works commemorate the victims of Communist Party persecution in his homeland.

The Silenced: From 1957 Until Today is a series of paintings that honours over half a billion Chinese persecuted under Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong’s Anti-Rightist Movement, a purge of intellectuals that is considered to mark the end of free speech China.

Mr Wang, who was born in China in 1949, came to Australia as a refugee after the 1989 Tiananmen protests. He was a finalist for the 2013 Archibald Prize. The exhibition was organised by the Sydney Democracy Network in association with the Sydney Fringe Festival.

At the opening of his most recent exhibition, Mr Wang said he uses his art to remind people that China’s economic development is not in line the growth of its citizens’ political freedoms.

“China has a unique socioeconomic model, where a one-party state can achieve its superpower dream, and the ruling party can claim this as the will of the people,” he said through an interpreter. “An autocracy can improve the economy on the back of slave labour.” More…

A seed planted in The Vegetable Plot Reply

by Christy Doran

Performers in The Vegetable Plot promoting the benefits of going green.

Performers in The Vegetable Plot promoting the benefits of going green.

“You get a bunch of vegetables together and it’s some kind of green conspiracy,” says Luke Escombe, creator of The Vegetable Plot, a musical inspired by vegetables at The Annex at the Sydney Fringe Festival.

Motivated by the idea of making vegetables a “fun and exciting” experience, Luke, 36, the lead-singer and guitarist, plays the character of a vegetable Aspara Gus. He was joined in the production by members of Sydney girl-band, All Our Exes Live in Texas, with each one of the four vocalists playing other vegetable inspired characters such as Sue Kini, Collie Flower, Ru Barb and Rockit lettuce.

Backing the vocalists and providing the “roots, grooves and blues” in the performance were bassist Rutabaga, guitarist Purple Haze, drummer Mr Beet, keyboardist Tom Ato, saxophonist Blowbergine and dancer Tina Turnip.  Collectively, the Vegetable Plot put on a colourful performance and kept the audience, made up largely of toddlers and their parents, entertained with witty vegetable puns and dance moves like ‘throw ya root down’. More…

Defeating stereotypes: AFL player comes out Reply

by Elliot Constable

Tales from the locker room break stereotype.

Tales from the locker room break stereotype.

“I used to play local footy around the southern beaches and never told my teammates I was gay,” Jason Fennessy said. “I just kept it to myself because I knew they would feel uncomfortable or make an issue about it. Mind you this was back in the early 90s and you would hope things have changed.”

Jason was among the audience at a performance of James Cunningham’s play ‘The Sheds’, at the Sydney Fringe Festival, that follows AFL star Darren Anderson (Patrick Chirico) who, in a pre-season media conference, ‘comes out’ to his team mates, the press and his fans.

After the performance, actor Andii Mulders, who played the character Jimmy Davis, Darren Anderson’s best friend, stressed the importance of theatre in addressing issues such as homophobia in sport.

“The close proximity between the audience and actors in theatre creates a more dramatic effect, it becomes more real,” he said. “My character, who in dealing with his own issues, portrays himself as a homophobe and struggles to deal with his best mate’s revelation.”

He said his role gave him a better understanding of the struggles one would have to deal with when coming out in our society. More…

Snowglobes: a recipe for magic Reply

by Krista Sturday

A recipe for magic: the alligator snow globe. Image by Horizontal Integration used under Creative Commons licence

A recipe for magic: the alligator snow globe. Image by Horizontal Integration used under Creative Commons licence

The Sydney Fringe Festival has always encouraged people to get involved in its events as members of the audience. But this year it invited people to create something of their own with its snow globe making crafternoons.

Kerri Glasscock, Director of the Festival, has a special recipe for snow globes, and her youngest daughter Daisy has perfected it ­– a yellow dinosaur, green cactus, pearl glitter, a “slurp of glycerol” in the water to stop the flakes sticking together, and super-fast drying glue so that the excitement does not wear off while waiting for it to dry.

The crafternoon sessions are held in The Campground in the ballroom of the old School of Arts in Newtown.  Previously used as a bar at past Festivals, the ballroom is being used this year as a venue for emerging performance artists as well as an art-making venue between performances. Ms Glasscock says, “It is a place young artists can be nurtured where there are no expectations from the audience.”

Photographer Kim Rudner, who attends the Festival every year, likes snow globes because “they are a little microcosm of a snow-land trapped in a dome that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy and child-like. It’s magic.” Fellow festival fan Sophie Penhallow agrees. “It reminds you of a simpler time and place. It sparks the imagination and wonder you had as a child.” More…

Burlesque still popular despite push for stripper regulation Reply

by Grace McCarthy

Sydney burlesque performer Rosie Rivette presents her alter ego Mrs Rivette, a dysfunctional, widowed and lonely homebody whose life changes in just one evening.

Sydney burlesque performer Rosie Rivette presents her alter ego Mrs Rivette, a dysfunctional, widowed and lonely homebody whose life changes in just one evening.

Mrs Rivette’s nipple tassles are made of the same material as bath scrubs, not sequins. She twirls them, flicks her hips and shrieks. The one woman show ‘Mrs Rivette’s Wild Night In’, at the Sydney Fringe Festival, is not typical burlesque, although it is about female self-empowerment and sexual tease, set to a XX soundtrack.

In a small room in the back streets of Marrickville, aptly named ‘The Newsagency’, as it once was, burlesque performer Rosie Cremer, 23, plays dysfunctional widow Mrs Rivette who is encouraged by the ghost of her dead husband to explore her sexuality by way of fetishes, strip tease and dance.

Avoiding the tease and titillation characteristic of conventional burlesque performances, Mrs Rivette’s emancipation from helpless prude to sexually liberated diva says much about female pride and sexuality, according to Ms Cremer.

The emergence of burlesque in the United States in 1840 challenged the typical representation of women, as performers began taking off their clothes and making a show of it. As social satire, performances made a mockery of the cultural mores of the bourgeois of the time. Modern burlesque does not have to contend with the same cultural conservatism of the nineteenth century but the issue of female empowerment remains.

“We no longer live in a time where strong divisions exist between classes, however we do use it to challenge gender expectations as a form of feminism,” says Rosie Cremer. More…

The independent arts sector at risk Reply

by Rachel Smith

Kerri Glasscock, Emilya Colliver, Rachel Healy

Kerri Glasscock, Emilya Colliver, Rachel Healy

A special forum at the Sydney Fringe Festival, ‘Where are the canapes’, examined the importance of a strong, sustainable independent arts sector given the sector is facing venue closures, budget cuts and minimal pay rates. The forum’s role was to tackle questions such as the role of the independent or fringe arts and how can they be sustained, how venues can be made sustainable, how funding models can be improved, how pay rates for artists can be establishes – and where are the canapés?

The panel discussion, at the Eternity Playhouse in Darlinghurst, was led by Festival director Kerri Glasscock, curator Emilya Colliver, arts administrator Rachel Healy, live theatre organiser Camilla Ah Kin and arts businessman James Winter.

But before any of the big questions could be tackled, the panel had to considered what was in front of them – the dismal turnout at the ‘Where are the Canapes?’ forum. It was symptomatic of the questions under discussion. And Festival director Kerri Glasscock was worried.

“The lack of focus on the independent arts sector is dangerous; it is a place where artists can build their voice and develop their career as an artist,” she said. More…