‘My partner Gary passed away in 1990 and left me $10,000 – but he said that I should use the money for my art. I was a butcher at the time and had been studying art as a hobby at night. I’d always wanted to go to National Art School so he left me the money and said I should apply and go. I got accepted and spent three years doing my Bachelor’s degree there and it was terrific.
‘It was the catalyst for me to be in the position in the art world I’m in today. I started the Lennox Street Art Studios 20 years ago with another artist called Steven Perrin. We now have 36 artists here. Gary would be so very proud of the studios – he’d be very, very happy.
‘For a city like Sydney, having accessible art studios like this is very important – there should be more of them. A city is not just big business – it’s about communities and being creative. Imagine a boring city with nothing but big business – how boring would that be? You need places like Newtown where there are creative people around and there’s variety in style.’
‘When I started out, I was just a really enthusiastic person that saw they needed help wrangling zombies. Seven years later I’m the head zombie of it all. I’m a bit of a horror buff so I love the gore but I also love the fact that it does raise money for a good cause – The Brain Foundation.
‘The Brain Foundation studies brain and neurological disorders and illnesses and so it covers things like brain cancer and stuff like that but they also look in to things like dementia and that sort of thing so it’s quite broad. I’ve had friends who’ve been affected and I’ve seen how much it can impact a family.
‘Every year the number of zombies doubles so we need as many zombie wranglers as possible. When it started out around 7 years ago we had about 100 zombies and it basically just multiplied every year and so now we’re one of the biggest walks in Australia for it. It’s really cool. Being a zombie wrangler is not a difficult job but we need all the help we can get.
‘Zombie Walks take place all over the world. Some of the earlier ones started in San Francisco but not all of them are fundraisers. I think that we’re the main one in Australia that does fundraising but the rest of them are more for horror buffs and for people who want to just get bloody and messy and scare the general public.’
‘I feel scared. Who’s going to protect me at the end of the night? I don’t know if they’re watching me, or not. My family gets scared when they see things like this. They don’t want me to work anymore. They said what if they come next time and you’re there and they know I will defend myself and things will be worse.
‘Last night about half an hour after I finished work I received a call from security. They told me you have a break in or something through your windows. I was at the city with my friend having a cup of coffee and relaxing after work so I had to come straight back and found the police here. I saw my whole front door is smashed and I was surprised and shocked and really, really upset about it.
‘Also on the Friday my window cleaner told me to come and see what they’d scratched on the window. They’d written “F*** Arabs”.
‘I don’t know why this guy or guys think I’m the leader for Arab people or I’m the leader for Muslims – they’re calling me to abuse me about what’s happening overseas or something like that which is not my fault. I’m not doing nothing wrong here.
‘This is not the first time. For the last 7-8 months, every month, 2-3 calls were received threatening and swearing – talking in a racist way. I’ve been here 14 years. I’ve never had problems like this before.
‘I don’t want to know who did it. God will forgive them one day. I will forgive them if they stop doing this but I’m a bit surprised about the media. Usually if a Muslim guy does something, they put it on the TV next half an hour but if something happens to a Muslim guy, they’ll think about it a hundred times before they put it on.
‘I need the police this time to take it more seriously. It’s happened before, (they take a) statement, things happen but they never come back to me. I never heard from them again.
‘The whole community (here in Newtown) – the people, they’re really nice. They’ve been supporting me all day today – calling me, saying sorry – I love Newtown, it’s a beautiful place.’
‘When I was a kid I loved to draw. I loved creating stuff and imagining things but slowly over time it disappeared and I stopped drawing. When I hit my 30s, I decided to start getting up 15 minutes earlier before work each day. The first time I did it was really strange because I was just sitting there with this blank piece of paper and didn’t know what to do. It just grew bigger and bigger and now it’s about 1½-2 hours a day.
‘I used to see these two older men outside this café in Glebe. I drew them and imagined a story that perhaps they’d fallen on hard times but really they secretly controlled all the money in the world. I became friends with one of them and discovered he was a fine arts student back in the 70s or 80s. He’d actually been an artist all that time so it was a cool moment where the story I’d imagined came in to clash with a reality.
‘I always thought that I was normal as a kid – the way I thought – until I started talking to people and then I realised that maybe I’m not so normal – maybe I’ve got a slightly different perspective. I’ve always connected dots A & G rather than A & B. There is something inside me that just tries to connect things that are seemingly unconnected and so I love creating stories about the people I draw.
‘This whole process of rediscovering art has changed me a lot. It’s shown me possibilities and it’s helped me to connect with a whole bunch of people that I wouldn’t have before. It expands the world and it makes me much more empathetic for people. I’m now more patient and humble in how I try and understand them.’
Oscar Finch will be holding his first Honesty Box Gallery Exhibition at the HON Live launch event on Saturday 5th September. He will be also roaming the crowds incognito drawing people and creating stories about them.
‘Creativity means coming up with something from almost nothing. If you want something original then some of that is going to happen with you being an ordinary person working with unusual concepts. But some of that is also going to come from your own individuality – you will look at an ordinary thing but bring your own perspective to that – the way you formulate the story for example because of your background. I think we all need to embrace our inner weirdness. We need to keep it weird.’
Graeme Simsion, author of The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect.
‘We were just bankrupt in the end – there was so much debt. There were just no more windows of opportunity anywhere. We exhausted everything. We were always trying to find a way. It got to the point where we just couldn’t pay the bills.
‘We took over the Annandale Hotel in 2000 and quickly realised it was foolish not to have live music on. That was the heart and soul of the place and so live music became part of our lives. But it was never not a drama there – from the minute we bought it we were in court for various reasons. If it wasn’t for the absolute passion that we had for the place and the people there’s no way in the world we could have lasted that long.
‘One day in 2013 we realised that there’s just no way out of this anymore. We told a bunch of friends to come down and we got one of our favourite local bands in the back bar one Sunday night. We drank the bar dry and walked in the bank the next day and handed in the keys.
‘You see people bad mouthing pubs or live music festivals that go under – people don’t go in to these ventures to try and rip people off. They go in to it because they’re passionate or they think it’s worthwhile. You look at things differently once you’ve been through it.
‘When we went bankrupt, it was relieving. There was a big fear of losing the pub but the stress that was on our shoulders was just so intense. It comes with its challenges too. I’ve got another couple of years of bankruptcy.
‘But the freedom of having no money is quite liberating because you can have a go at anything and what have you got to lose? It’s a really different way of looking at things – it’s a very freeing type of mentality.
‘I love Newtown – I’ve been in the area now for 15 years. We’re organising the King Street Crawl which is a celebration of this area. The goal of it is to shine a light on the space and celebrate its diversity as well.’
‘Most of the women I see have this desire to be the perfect mother which is one of the drivers for them getting depressed and anxious. I’m a Professor of Psychiatry specialising in women’s mental health – in particular perinatal mental health. We now have screening for post-natal depression but now we need to help the child and help her parent the child so the inter-generational transmission isn’t happening.
‘The primary carer, which is quite often the mother, is the prototype for every future relationship that this child is going to have. This is where you learn trust and where you learn how to interact. If someone is depressed or so withdrawn because they’ve got psychotic illness, then it makes it really hard.
‘Unfortunately these days we’re trying to be so many things and the result for some people sadly is that they’re not doing any of them well. Guilt keeps coming up again and again – that’s a recurring theme.
‘The reality is kids will suckle the good stuff – anything you’re able to give them. Basically you’ve only got to get it right 30% of the time, try to get it right another 30% and the rest of the time, well the kids will cope!
‘Be bigger, stronger wiser and kind no matter how little you know about parenting – you know more than your child. If you don’t know it, you can find out – ask someone about it.’
‘I spent 3½ years photo-documenting enslaved prostitutes in Cambodia – Vietnamese women who were trafficked across the border.
‘These women were being raped repeatedly. One of the women’s wrists was covered in suicide marks and she was one of the women who knew what she was going in to. The state of mind, the cultural beliefs that are engrained in to these women or young girls, I can’t grasp it. It was a big hurdle for me to get over and I realised I can’t; it’s not a hurdle for me to jump.
‘I was back in Sydney and got an email from the NGO I’d been working with over there saying the raid had been performed and the women had been rescued as a result of my work. Up until that point, I had very little faith in what was happening from the NGO point of view. I got the impression that they were only investigating the shacks (brothels) while I was over there. Unfortunately it took a 9 year old child’s presence in that brothel to perform the rescue. Human trafficking is illegal and the police knew there were women in there that had been trafficked. I asked them what it took to perform a raid and the Cambodian police said to me they had a thousand other brothels like this one, why should they choose this one?
‘This whole experience has definitely challenged me. I had to see two psychiatrists while I was away. It centred me a lot as a person but it’s made me sad. I’ll never forget those women – especially the first girl I photographed – she was crying and curled up in a foetal position.
‘I feel proud now about what I’ve done – knowing that the 9 year old girl is now being educated and the NGO will give her a job when she finishes school as they will with the other women that were rescued in the raid. It’s a breaking of the chain. When the girl grows up, her children will then know they can get an education and get a job.
‘One of my favourite quotes is, “Every waterfall starts with a drop of water”. If I can help someone or inspire someone to do what I did or help in some way, I know I’ve succeeded.’
‘It was very late in life when I finally worked out what I wanted to do. I started at the age of 47. I think sometimes things are meant to happen at ages that you don’t expect things to happen.
‘I don’t wish it had happened earlier. I think my life has panned out just nicely. There were other things I wanted to do. I was convinced I wanted to be a beauty therapist and an actress. I did both of those things and then realised they’re not for me. My passion just naturally changed and I think there is a strong message in that for everyone looking at what they want to do with their life. It’s not too late to change your passion. It was very hard to let go of the acting because I studied for 3 years, did my degree and then wondered how I could possibly stop but I finally gave myself permission to finally let go. This is my new passion and I love what I do.
‘From about 14 I was drawn to vintage clothing. I went through a number of years working in retail, studying acting and always in creative fields. One day I was unhappy with where my life was going. I walked in to an antique shop. I was looking at a shop counter and the guy asked where my shop was. I said that I didn’t have a shop but just loved the counter. He asked me if I did have a shop what would I have and it just came out. I said to him that it would be a vintage clothing shop. I had an epiphany at the moment, walked out and rang my husband and my mum straight away and said to them I know this sounds crazy as I have no stock but I just want to have my own vintage clothing shop. I didn’t buy the counter. Someone else bought the counter and I kick myself to this day that I didn’t but it was the catalyst. It really was like a bolt of lightning. I literally walked on air out of that antique centre because I knew what it was that I finally wanted to do with my life.’