‘One of my biggest challenges in life is just dealing with people. With some people it depends on how they’re day is going as to how they approach you as a person.

‘The way I was brought up though means that I just don’t really care about it. You don’t need everyone you meet. There are so many people in the world that if someone puts you down there are other people that can bring you up.’

‘I really feel for womankind. I think a lot of us beautiful women are torn in so many different directions with all the responsibilities we have. The time out thing is so important and a lot of girls don’t get it.

‘It’s really hard for teenage girls too because they can feel really insecure. They’re going through lots of changes and there are so many pressures now on girls – more so than when I was growing up. I wish for them to have happiness and not worry about body image – just pamper themselves and surround themselves with people that are going to make them feel good – it’s the most important thing.

‘I love the style, the glamour, the elegance of the vintage era – not only just in the fashion side of it but in the way people treat each other with kindness. I think we could all learn from those times to slow down and to be kind to each other. Things are too fast now. We need to be a bit gentler on ourselves and be our own best friends because if we are, everything else works out in life.’

‘I used to be a high school teacher in maths and geography. 30 odd years ago I went to England and I was teaching over there for a long time – long enough to get married, have a daughter, get divorced. You know…the usual story. When I came back they’ve changed the rules on me. I’m no longer qualified. They consider me a new starter. I haven’t got a specialist teaching qualification so despite the fact that I’ve got 30 years’ experience including head of department I can’t teach without going back to uni for another year. I can’t afford that so I’m making scarves to keep myself above the streets rather than below them.’

‘If I sell a few scarves a week, I’m happy. The first couple of scarves buys all the wool I need. The next one buys me food for the week and the next one puts some petrol in my home.’

‘Once you get to a certain age, you’re not so consumed about looking around for how people perceive you. You start perceiving yourself in a different kind of way and start trying to expand who you are.

‘Sometimes I feel like I’m behind. I have friends who are in corporate jobs. Fluorescent lights are nice but I’d much rather have my hands in the dirt. I’ve embrace an artistic lifestyle and I have no fear that money will come. It doesn’t really matter.

‘It feels liberating in a way. You’re more in tune with things. You see things and you draw creativity from it and that fulfils you – it’s the best. It’s frightening too. You have to make something from it because you have no other choice. You have to go forward.’

‘Originally I couldn’t stand up without support. I used to come up here to King Street with my walker and sell my pictures. I progressed from a walker to a cane and now I can stand up without the cane.

‘I had two strokes in 2002. My physio at the time said I should do something with my hands because my balance was completely shot. Her theory was if your hand-eye coordination improves, so does your balance. So I started to do picture framing as a way of recuperation and my balance has improved no end.

‘Everything on my right side – my leg, my foot, my arms – I had no control over them whatsoever and that’s why at times I had to strap my arm to my body to control it. I used to come up here to King Street and sell my stuff one-handed.

‘My left hand has become my right hand. I’ve learned to write left-handed, shave left-handed; I’ve learned to do everything left-handed. Every now and then I forget my circumstances and I pick up a pen and go to sign my name right-handed like I used to and it doesn’t quite work.’

‘I spent too much time being angry. I spent a good couple of years being really, really angry at someone that showed no remorse, never apologised, never even looked at me. But karma gets you at the end of the day. It is what it is. He’s living his life and I’m living mine. I try not to think about it.

‘My biggest challenge is removing the stigma that people in chairs just stay at home and do nothing. Also being socially accepted and being able to access all gig venues and general locations independently. Not have to plan whether I can go and see a band or meet up with friends at a café that I can’t get into.

‘Life’s too short. I don’t have time for negativity. Don’t worry about the small things. I just want to live. Stay true to yourself. Just love who you are and love life.’

‘I’ve got to say I’ve been very fortunate with a lot of the kids I’ve had over the years. They’ve said to me, “Miss, you’ve always just been there. In our broken English, in our horrible writing, you’ve just been there. You’re stable. You’re with us. You listen to all our sob stories and all our successes.”

‘Even if it’s minor, I’m there; with them. I think they just need that one person that brings them stability at school – that one person they can go to. Someone who is willing to listen. That makes a difference to somebody’s life.

‘We run a homework centre at school that started for ESL kids only then opened up to everyone. We advocated to get more assistance because there was such a need. The kids just know you’re there. They know you’re going to listen.’

‘If you’re not there, they’ll hunt you down and drag you there! We are hunted!’

‘The big change for me was that I lost my dad. It was over two years ago. He was a doctor and he’d been in the same community for over 30 years. He did quite well for himself and he had a lot of stuff and all the things that come with that.

‘But when it was all said and done, the thing that made the biggest impact on me was they had a big memorial for him and they had the biggest hall in our small suburb in Newcastle. I turned up and there were just crowds of people in the streets out the front who couldn’t fit inside.

‘I realised that that’s the only thing you’ve got is the impact you’ve had on other people’s lives. It’s not about all the money that you earned and all those successes and that was just a huge change for me. From that day, I went down this path.

‘Looking at what I’m seeing today shows to me that there is definitely the interest out there for people to be able to come together for many different reasons to express themselves. I just like to bring a little bit of happiness to people’s lives in some way, help the community and be part of it. I hope that then creates a domino effect of people helping each other. Something I’ve always lived by is to be the change in the world you want to see.’

COMMUNE founder, Sam Ali.

These two were grooving away at the South King Block Party today. This little guy wanted me to take his photo and then asked to look at the shots I’d taken on the back of the camera. When I showed him a few, he said, ‘No, show me the ones with my moves.’

Smooth!