Beams Arts Festival Opening

(6.30pm, Saturday 22nd September 2012, Chippendale Green)


Thank you, Nicky, [Ginsberg]. Hello, everyone. What a great night to be in Chippendale! I acknowledge the original custodians of our land, the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, and pay my respects to their Elders, both past and present. I also acknowledge the people of 200 nations who live in our City.

This is "One Bright Night" indeed and I congratulate Nicky and the Chippendale Creative Precinct Committee on a wonderful idea, brilliantly realised. There's a terrific energy here tonight.

For almost all of its European history, Chippendale has been contested ground - firstly between the Gadigal and the Europeans like James Chippendale who used its rich, well-watered soil to grow potatoes and watercress, raise cattle and pigs.

They were followed by Robert Cooper who set up his Brisbane Distillery on "Parramatta Street", followed in 1834 by John Tooth and his Kent Brewery.

It was also home to small flour mills, to a soap and candle factory, a nursery and orchard and piggeries and slaughterhouses across the road in Ultimo whose stench was a permanent part of the atmosphere.

St Benedict's chapel and schoolhouse catered to the mostly Irish population from 1838, then the Blackfriars School followed in the 1880s; in 1857 Sydney University moved into its new building on the old Grose Farm; there was no shortage of pubs, and in 1869, for alternative entertainment, the first Royal Agricultural Society show was held in Prince Alfred Park, which had been created from the old Cleveland Paddocks.

In the 20th century, factories and workshops expanded but still people lived on in their shadow. The White Wings cake factory was in Meagher Street until 1982; kids who grew up here remembered the MacRobertson's and Allen's sweets factories; there were furniture factories, printing workshops, boot-makers, ice-cream makers, a motorcycle works, a warehouse for the Cahill's restaurant chain; and above all, the Kent Brewery where an army of tradesmen inside the walls made almost all the requirements of the plant.

And yet, even as the factories expanded, stubborn residents stayed. Dr Shirley Fitzgerald, in her excellent history commissioned by the City, wrote that "part of the story of the 20th century [in Chippendale] is of the slow and gradual victory for industry, part is of the resilience and energy of residents."

That persistence and resilience is at the core of present-day Chippendale, even as massive renewal takes place on the brewery site.

Happily, its developers value the existing community and want to work with them, and the City, to re-animate this once-forgotten place, making space for the community in the heart of the development.

We have also been pleased to work with the Chippendale Creative Precinct, with advice and financial support to harness the myriad creative energies here - from the galleries, the production houses, the artists, architects and designers, the three universities and of course from the cafes and restaurants.

In the 1870s, such was its reputation for filth and smells that the then-Mayor and aldermen ventured out here to look and smell for themselves. In 2012, the Mayor has come out to celebrate with you the energy and pulse of this great neighbourhood.

I wish you all a fantastic night, and I wish Chippendale a fantastic future.

Thank you.