Streets of Sydney Episode Eight: Inner West

Just as no one can live well without a rich inner life, so no city can survive without a rich inner west. The Inner West of Sydney is one of the most inner of any inner west of any city around the globe, and its inhabitants are proud as punch – or at least as proud as Punchbowl – of the fact.

The Inner West, or “Little Melbourne” as it’s known to those who love its rich traditions of muted colours and narrow streets – is a hive of activity comparable to any hive in the world. But the bees here aren’t insects: they’re artists. Artists like Urshela, who lives to make waves, as anyone who has heard their song “Begging For Change” would testify. “We’re a concoction against conformity,” says Urshela, putting in a nutshell the unique appeal of the Inner West: it is a place where people come together to rebel.

People like Eric Dragon, the firebrand student activist who in his five years at Sydney University has raised hackles and consciousness with his passion for social justice. As the Inner West refuses to let how the outside world sees it affect how it positions itself in the world, so Dragon refuses to let public opinion dissuade him from making the world a better place through his famously impassioned speeches in the quad. “Ninety-nine percent of Africans don’t have access to clean water,” he says angrily, laying out his plan to make use of Australian ice trays to fix the problem.

Greta Killjoy, owner of the FemininiTEA shop, sees it as her mission in life to do more than simply make tea. She wants to reclaim the independence of the Inner West, mark it out as something distinctly and undeniably different from the rest of Sydney, by making it distinctly and undeniably the same as another city. In the markets of Newtown she seeks wisdom and enlightenment, which she then distils via her kettle to a whole new generation. It just may be that the willingness of people like Greta, Eric and Urshela to defy convention and live their best lives will likewise be distilled even to those folk who, like Eric’s African beneficiaries, are not lucky enough to live in the Inner West themselves.

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Streets of Sydney was filmed and produced by More Chillis Productions.