By ANDREW WOODHOUSE
The vivacious Double Bay Street Festival is the largest free street festival in Sydney.
Now celebrating its ninth year, the event was enjoyed by over 80,000 people last Sunday. Children, families and people of all ages, shapes and types and cultures enjoyed a chance to flanneur their way around Double Bay’s open streets, adding to the strength, vibrancy, and diversity of the local community.
Katherine O’Regan is a former Deputy Mayor, Woollahra Council, and Chair of the Sydney East Chamber of Commerce and has been on its board for five years. Her Chamber organised the event. She said “The Street Festival is a wonderful day that brings both business and the community together. It is really great to see everyone come out and enjoy the atmosphere and activities. There is nothing like it in Sydney. It’s such a great success because of the variety of things to do and see which attracts all ages. It offered 400 stalls, children’s activities, great music and places to simply hang out.”
She was not wrong. The joie de vivre was palpable. For children is was a fantasy land: a place to ride a two-hump camel, slide down a four-storey shiny, pink, slippery slope, pet Lola the Llama, play in coloured balls, throw a ball into the moving mouth of a clown, dance on the mega-trampoline, have their face painted or risk everything on the BIG SWING, a giant mechanical pendulum driven by screams of delight that never seemed to end. Parents watched on amazed. Stephen, whose child was eight, said “he just loves it. It’s the thrill. The festival is a success because the rides are interactive”, as the Big Swing operator yelled rhetorically, “Do you want more?” “Yes!” they all squealed. “Yes, what?“ came the question. “Yes PLEASE” came the reply, part of a group lesson in long-lost playground etiquette.
From popcorn to Maseratis
In other stalls in other streets I could buy a Maserati or a white-as-Swedish-snow Volvo, enjoy unlimited free popcorn for signing a pledge to reduce my household water now that Sydney has only 40 % of its water reserves left and is officially in drought.
Or just laze around listening to the delightfully mellifluous voice of Jo Elms, who teaches at St Andrew’s Cathedral School. Her CDs are available at: wwwjoelms.com
I scoffed a scone or two (or three), hand-made by Nancye and Lisa, known as The Scone Queens, so light and fluffy they almost floated off the plate like cumulo nimbus clouds. Their natural home-made jam was uber rich. Yet only a gold coin donation was needed, surely making it the best value around town in decades.
There were over 400 stalls showcasing leading new designers and food suppliers, independent ateliers and artists, both local and from other parts of this wide brown land.
There seemed no end to the cornucopia of delights to see, sniff, try, taste and test. Arafat, Manager, Parisi’s Café observed “It’s great seeing everyone enjoying a great time with friends, family and partners.”
I also admired jewelled Christmas cards, sun hats and watching free puppy health, dental and diet checks. Samantha, from Vet HQ said “I really like the festival for bringing everyone in the neighbourhood together.” I gawped at snap-frozen, Moroccan lamb pet food dinners, the French bijoux stall, superb laser-cut origami gift cards, hemp backpacks, succulent plants, Provençale-painted pottery and terra cotta egg cups which, apparently, also double as shot glasses for the under 25s!
The very clever hand-made baskets and bowls fashioned from palm frons, beautiful botanical prints from the 16th to 19th centuries and delicious, aromatic, semolina and walnut biscuits made according to an ancient Bedouin recipe were on hand, alongside the Yum Thai fresh juice bar with its famous watermelon smoothies using authentic, super-refreshing Thai recipes. Luckily, gym memberships and a new weight loss concept freezing then dispelling fat cells were also on offer nearby!
Even the Godly local churches had their stalls advertising a choral concert at St Mark’s Darling Point, for example, on Sunday 24th October at 2:00 pm performing Schubert’s G-major Mass with soloists. See www.stmarksdp.org
The Save Rushcutters Bay Park and Yarranabbe Park group were led by the perspicacious Charlotte Feldman. Their green grass stall was bedecked with beautiful photos of our cherished but threatened open space parks. 597 people signed petitions in just a few hours calling for them to be state heritage-listed for future generations. ”Our open spaces must be protected,” Ms Feldman said. “Recreation for the young is essential and should be encouraged but not at the cost of parks where people exercise and find peace away from their concrete apartment blocks.”
So yes, I’ll be back next year, along with 80,000 others.