Category Archives: Culture

How do you make BORING museums interesting?

How do you make museums interesting? How about by introducing late night openings, booze, screening cult films, staging debates and hosting performance art? That’s what The Art Gallery of NSW and the Australian Museum are doing with Art After Hours and the Jurassic Lounge.



Anything that makes adults reappraise the arts is a great thing.  We need more of this kind of innovation.



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Filed under Culture, innovation

Tropfest – the biggest short film festival in the world

A couple of weeks ago, I went to  Tropfest, the biggest short film festival in the world.

Starting 19 years ago in a Surry Hills bar, the free festival now attracts a shit load of people (around 80,000 I’m told) who gather on picnic blankets in Sydney’s Botanical Gardens to watch 17 short films in the open air.  It’s a big deal. It’s broadcast throughout Australia and has a panel of high profile judges, including this year, Olivia Newton-John.  And here’s the clever bit; each film has to premier on the night, it must be less than seven minutes long, and it must feature a ‘signature’ object, this year being a ‘key’.

I won’t talk about the controversy surrounding the winner (Badger Badger Badger anyone?), but instead wanted to share a few of my favorites from the fest.

SILENCER. Directed by Doug Bayne & David Collins


BIRD THERAPY Directed by Damien Freeleagus


MONKEYS Directed by Joel Edgerton


And here’s the winner, ANIMAL BEATBOX. Directed by Damon Gameau.

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Filed under Culture, Video and TV

Five very cool things and five shitty things about Sydney

Having now lived in Sydney for a few weeks, I feel I’m in a position to pass swift judgement on what’s cool about the city, and what irks me.  So here’s my list.

Five cool things

Vintage racers and fixed wheel bikes

In the inner east where I live, everyone rides amazing vintage racers, fixed wheel bikes and old-school Shoppers.  These are clearly cool, though having checked out ‘Tokyo Bike’ next door, the average price is $2,000.

FBI Radio

The local independent alternative radio station is great. They play Aphex Twin in the middle of the day and are allowed to say ‘fuck’ on air.


Hardly anyone I’ve met so far that’s actually from Sydney, which is weird. This means hundreds of amazing Asian restaurants and huge cultural diversity.

The Monorail

Ever since going to Chessington World of Adventures in the eighties, I’ve considered  monorails to be cool and futuristic. So I was delighted to see Sydney had one, and therefore consider Sydney to be similarly futuristic and cool.

Outdoor everything

Everything happens outdoors here as you’d expect. But two of the best outdoor goings on that caught my eye are clubs running day time boat parties across the harbour, and outdoor cinemas.

Five irks

Slow traffic lights

It might just be me, but the traffic lights in the city are really, really slow. I estimate at least five minutes is added to my walk to work each morning. Maybe I’m still working to UK time.

Beer versus wine

Beer, by volume,can be more expensive than wine. I saw a litre bottle of Singha for $16 (10 GBP) in a bottle shop. What’s that about? Perhaps I will start drinking “goon”.


In shops, bars and restaurants, instead of saying ‘hello’, people will greet you by saying ‘how are you’. I don’t like this and it leaves me unclear what to do – answer them? Ignore it? I prefer a curt nod and that’s that.


I could be wrong here, but it seems women only wear black dresses on a night out. Like every woman I’ve seen so far. It’s like seeing a hoard of Italian widows coming towards you. Not a major irk but more of a curiosity.

The animals

More specifically, the bugs. They are everywhere and they are huge. I constantly feel like one is watching me, and the other night I saw a cockroach the size of a rat clambering up a wall.

Images used under Creative Commons on behalf of thomasperry; NeilT; serakate; tuija; tasuki; zoetnet;


Filed under Asia Pacific, Culture

Sydney, a cultural void?

Back home, it seems fashionable to view Sydney as a city that’s a cultural void, with unsophisticated inhabitants, doomed to do little else than relax on the beach or drink. And I’ve got to admit, I did think this myself. A bit. So, moving to Sydney I was sceptical as to what I might find.

But what I’ve discovered is a vibrant, dynamic city, alive with innovative culture and arts, with real investment in the sector that would put most UK cities to shame.

January alone has seen a program of events that could rival anything going on in London. The fantastic Sydney Festival brought together hundreds of events over of a month ranging from concerts to public art installations, visual arts and theatre. My favorite included a series of outdoor concerts in the Hyde Park Barracks, including underground electronic music from Henrik Schwarz and Cobblestone Jazz – both of them big draws for any dance head.


The large East Asian population in the city also means incredible cultural diversity, and extravagant goings on for Chinese New Year, including screenings of Asian art house cinema in public parks, parades, and Sydney Harbor dragon boat races.

Each cultural space – and there are loads – also seem committed to putting on innovative events. The city museum, which has launched a weekly ‘after hours’ night for adults with live music, conceptual art and performance theatre, is a great example of this, with them posing the question: how can we do things differently?

It’s certainly a city that’s upped its game (phew!) and anyone still holding the view that it’s two dimensional and bland will be surprised. Amazed even.

And if all this high culture is a bit much, my real favorite has been this guy – the Bottle Man!

Image used under Creative Commons, courtesy of DaleOlds.



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Filed under Asia Pacific, Culture