Prepare to bask in the spring sunshine, beer in hand, as local musicians light up the stages at the much-loved Surry Hills Festival
One of our favourite spring festivals is back in September, celebrating all there is to love about the colourful inner city ’burb. This year’s theme will be ‘Stories, Love & Tales’ and the free family day includes music stages, hands-on activities in laneways, and interactive arts installations that tell the stories of the area.
Creative director Victoria Johnstone tells Time Out, “The entire festival is inspired by its people, its history, its characters, its personalities. In every way the program links back to engaging with the great stories of that area.”
Starting with the music acts, the line-up is a mix of contemporary artists, many of whom have lived and worked in the area. There’s Triple J Unearthed band Noire, Melbourne rockers the Stiffys, and singer-songwriter Leah Flanagan.
One of this year’s key initiatives is the Picnic Blanket Story Project, which will feature flags, banners and blankets decorated with images to represent the history of the area, such as the rivalry between Kate Leigh and Tilly Devine or the day an elephant escaped from Wimbo Park Circus.
Another flagship project is the Surry Sock Puppets performance, which has been developed in partnership with the Northcott Housing Estate. “It’s going to be riotous!” says Johnstone. “For example, Clover Moore is going to be one of the puppets. She’ll sing ‘I’m going to ride my bicycle’, (but we’re yet to tell her). It’ll celebrate the good things she’s done for the community.”
There’ll be a chorus of frogs singing songs to represent Frog Hollow, the Surry Hills slum that used to exist in the late 1890s. “And there’s the day the Queen came to Northcott,” adds Johnstone. “She said to 900-or so people who lived there that ‘there are so many more slums to get rid of in this area’.
“Another great story that we’re showcasing is the story of Raymond Finn, a Wangkangurru man who lives in Northcott,” says Johnstone. “He trains wild horses with kids in the desert. We’re showing a doco about him on the day.”
For festivalgoers looking for the usual fun in the sun, there’ll be a fancy dress dog show and a Surry Song Competition in which contestants perform an original song written about the area. The winner will get to record their song at Soundworks Studios, thanks to support from local school AIM (Australian Institute of Music).
As with every Surry Hills Festival, a self-guided tour will highlight the neighbourhood’s creative business owners, and all funds raised on the day go towards programs run by the Surry Hills Neighbourhood Centre.