The morning dogs are barking. By the Return and Earn machine in the carpark you can already hear the clink and clatter of glass and plastic bottles rescued by people making a few extra dollars to get them through the week. Vehicles are pulling in steadily; soon it will be full-on busy as the Marrickville Organic Food And Farmers Market gets underway at Addi Road in Marrickville.
Addi Road’s community centre is a vibrant hub seven days a week, with the Sunday markets just one of the jewels of activity it allows for. Some forty-plus civil society groups, social justice organisations and plethora of artists in their low-cost studio spaces (rents subsidised by keeping them at well below market rates) are among those who call the place home.
Addison Road Community Organisation does its best to keep the nine-acre site alive and functioning for everyone.
Apart from the Sunday markets you can find Radio Skid Row 88.9FM here, both the Hellenic (Greek) Theatre and the Flightpath Theatre, the Australian Martial Arts Academy, Addi Road’s own community-friendly Stirrup Gallery running a year-long program of exhibitions, and two other large venues, Gumbramorra Hall and the Drill Hall (otherwise known at Hut 8 or ‘the Cathedral’) where we host everything from film nights and panel talks to events like the Addi Road Writers’ Festival and last year’s inaugural and very successful day for teenage bands and artists – made for and entirely curated by young people – Addi Rock.
There’s 170 trees to attend to on the site. Many buildings, not to mention the grounds themselves, require a lot of work. Beautiful heritage-listed structures knocked together as temporary buildings to house soldiers preparing to leave during World War One do not make for easy preservation. The place has expanded ad hoc across the last century, finally returning to community ownership in the mid 1970s when Addi Road’s official origins as a centre were wedded to the birth of multiculturalism as an active vision during the Whitlam era.
Search the by-ways of the community centre and you will find the offices of Ethnic and Community Services; our friends in genuinely useful recycling at The Bower; the home base for The Burdekin Association (“Our Youth. Their Future.”); children’s art classes being held by Drawn to Seeing and The Assemblage Sisters; ethically sourced arts and goods for sale at The Fair Trade Emporium; Halfmoon Yoga and Autism Australia; the Addison Road Early Learning Centre for pre-schoolers; the Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal Women’s Legal Centre; and the Marrickville Legal Centre offering free advice to locals on everything from tenancy issues to your rights in any dispute.
One of Addi Road’s latest innovations over the last year has been Wednesday Night Lights. Addi Road has partnered up with Street Side Medics to provide free medical treatment for the homeless and anyone who needs advice every Wednesday night between 6pm to 8pm. Marrickville Legal Centre have joined us at a trestle table, advising people and answering questions, again for free. Hot meals, also free, are served. In the meanwhile we keep our low budget grocery store, Addi Road Food Pantry Marrickville, open till 7pm on that night. The usual week day hours for the Food Pantry are midday to 4pm – we are finding more and more people are lining up to shop here on a tight budget, as well as enjoy the bonus of free bread and a selection of free fruit and vegetables if you spend more than $5.
So that’s Addi Road in a snapshot, today and many other days… a venue for a community market; a space for arts and theatre; a home to organisations that deal with everything from autism to bush music to multicultural conversations and more.
With Addison Road Community Organisation running our own programs and events directly, not least our food justice program via our Food Pantry and evenings like Wednesday Night Lights. Somehow, in between all that, Addi Road keeps this time-worn and knocked around community centre afloat and functioning without any regular government funding. It ain’t easy but the place is thriving.
People come and go just for the pleasure of strolling through the rambling grounds, walking their dogs, letting their children play on the grass or shoot hoops at the basketball rings. They.ll pick up a great coffee or juice smoothie from the AMA Cafe out back of the martial arts building (look for the fluttering pennants that say they’re open) or sit down for a fine meal at Koshari Korner, our Egyptian street food cafe right beside Gumbramorra Hall and the carpark.
Around the city, urban planners are meanwhile searching for venues, trying to evolve new government policies for resilience, hunting out ways to stimulate community focal points that bring together social justice, multiculturalism, the arts and a basic need for useful, open green spaces.
We’re glad to say we’re here and still happening – and that the community is driving Addi Road forward into another active year. Not a place imposed, refitted or imagined from above; but a world growing out of its own history and ground. Grassroots, street level… essential and real to community life in Sydney’s Inner West and well beyond it.
We got some lovely responses to this story on Facebook.
Here are just a few comments from our tenants and community members…
The organisation that held my hand during the Afghan evacuations of 2021. It went above and beyond for me that year by, not only helping me rescue 24 people from the Taliban but also providing emergency food boxes to the refugees placed in temporary accomodation in Bella vista and 3 other suburbs month after month. The Add road bus was at my service that year. The volunteers were at my service. Anything I needed and asked for was provided for me
I was not an employee of this organisation, and yet it went above and beyond for me and for my people
I will never ever ever forget their kindness. Ever!
Addi Road is such a vibrant cultural centre to be a part of. Working with and beside the many and varied community members is a blessing. Every day we see the world through fresh eyes. Creative ideas and solutions are embraced all around. Our kind of place
Thanks Soren…. The problems with the carpark are about much more than just filling in pot holes and relate to many other issues we are struggling with. Take a look at the large areas of concrete slabs laid down in only the last year to solve this problem – and the now very deep potholes immediately beside them. Addi Road has been built on a swamp. The ground sinks. To actually fix the car park properly we need to dig it up entirely and relay the carpark at a cost of some $450,000.
This is only one small part of the huge and sometimes chronic infrastructure problems at Addi Road affecting drainage, plumbing, the rain and flood damage of buildings, the old and frail heritage structures (some in need of entirely new roofing and flooring), the electrical and comms issues, and the close to zero investment in any substantive repairs from the 1970s through to early 2000s… decades of neglect that Addi Road is now attempting to correct and has unhappily inherited.
It is a fabulous place, with so many great organisations and individuals we love. But it is very run down and, as noted, a nine acre property with 170 trees.
Our friends at GHD engineering have been doing fantastic pro-bono work for us looking at all these problems (and more). The brutal and difficult truth is we need a massive infrastructure grant of some kind – costed at around $23 million – to bring the grounds and buildings at Addi Road back up to scratch, a community centre stabilised and strong for not only present use, but for generations well into the future. Spending thousands of dollars over and again across the years on band-aid solutions is not really what we want to do.
Right now, thanks to GHD and others we’re trying to sort things in ways that ensure the site and everybody and everything housed here can continue for decades to come – rather than scramble to fill yet another pothole while the buildings leak and fall apart and the place hangs together as best it can no matter the problems it faces.
You let something run down long enough you destroy it eventually, no matter how active or vital it is. We are hoping governments at local, state and federal level can recognise the true value of Addi Road and how it adds to a better inner west and Sydney city and to the greater community in every way.