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You may have been to the Surry Hills Festival in the past, but creative producer Victoria Johnstone guarantees you haven’t seen a Surry Hills Festival quite like this before. “We’ve had an entirely different approach this year,” she says, “back to the heart of Surry Hills.”

That heart is exemplified in this year’s theme: Stories, Love and Tales, which encompasses both the evolution of Surry Hills from a hotbed of crime and vice, to a thriving centre of industry and a creative haven, and the individual and collective histories of those who call it home.

This year’s festival is a celebration of the creative and community aspects of Surry Hills. “We have an inaugural Creative Trail,” Johnstone explains, “together with Urban Walkabout [in which] creative spaces around Surry Hills will be participating. Their doors will be open…you can take fashion and photography workshops and there’ll be architects talking about their work. There’s an Art Tea at Object Gallery, free salsa classes, gallery exhibitions, [showings of] old history footage,” and much, much more including live music and entertainment.

In collaboration with a variety of groups, including Art and About, this year’s festival, rather than being your standard set-up of stalls and vendors, is “like a lily pad” – a clever homage to the notorious Frog Hollow area, which was home to n’er do-wells and amphibians in almost equal numbers.

In that spirit, this year’s Surry Hills Festival promises to be a celebration of everything the area is and was, including its less than mainstream past.

“Creatives have always come from that,” Johnstone notes. “It has a self-generating energy. There are a lot of wonderful independent, self-sustaining creative businesses around here that support each other, and we’re trying to showcase that,” she says. “If they don’t survive, then we lose a very important history of the inner city and as things become gentrified, we have to make sure we maintain the diversity.” (SW)

Sep 27, various venues, Surry Hills, free (entry by donation), surryhillsfestival.com 

BY SIRI WILLIAMS