Compass Masthead
LonsdaleFeature

The Lonsdale Street Project

Jessica Schumann

Lonsdale Street is a popular place and is a little like the iconic Ramsay Street in Neighbours. It’s where all the action happens, all the drama and certainly holds a lot of public opinion. From new eateries to building renovations, markets to bespoke artisans and their wares, Lonsdale Street has become a haven for many Canberrans alike.

It’s even become the inspiration for a new online video series aptly named The Lonsdale Street Project (The LSP) focusing on food, fashion and the culture of its namesake (Lonsdale Street) and beyond. The man behind the project is Newcast’s Damien Maher who shares just what Canberrans can expect from the new street series as well as plans for a two-day street festival.

“The idea is to share a range of stories from the street and is a lifestyle project rather than a commercial venture,” says Damien. “It will also feature a regular panel discussion that will see the likes of prominent Canberra media figures to weigh in on hot topics and controversial trends.”

It’s about sharing the opinions of like-minded organisations and individuals while remaining editorially independent of commercial drivers so as not to be perceived as branded content. Much like Braddon and its unique individuality.

Damien says the interest to create the video series came about simply from witnessing the “explosion of creativity, food and fashion” that is now making Canberra “a cool place to live”.

“We [Newcast] first moved into Lonsdale Street in 2011. It was dirt cheap rent, perfect for a start-up business but pretty dire surroundings; the only place to get a decent coffee was the original Lonsdale Street Roasters and the whole area was still pretty dodgy,” reminisces Damien, whose experience as a producer in the television industry has allowed him to work internationally with networks like MTV and BBC. Yet despite the high-profile jobs and international living, Canberra has always remained home.

“In 2010 I moved back after 12 years away, living in New York, London, Hong Kong and Stockholm,” he says.

But the Canberra I had left and the Canberra I had returned to were completely different. After years of living in big cities, I was so proud that the place I was born and raised in was realising its potential that I wanted to help out as best I could. Now we [Canberra] not only makes special coffee or builds new internationally acclaimed apartment blocks, but we can make also video content too.

“So it made perfect sense to do what we love for the place we love, thus the Lonsdale Street Project was born.”

But just like his random vox pops on the street, the question had to be asked, “what is it that Lonsdale Streets mean to you?”

“I think Lonsdale Street represents that Canberra is finally growing up,” shares Damien. “This has always been a government city and the rest of the country resents us for that, which is odd to me as Australians are so proud of the country so why do they dislike their own capital?

“This doesn’t seem to happen in other countries. Until very recently, Canberrans openly resented their own city! But people have come to the realise how good we have it here; housing is more affordable than other cities, parking is cheaper, you get a whole day extra in your life by not having to sit in traffic for two hours a day. As a result younger people who traditionally head interstate once they finish studying are staying. They’re opening businesses that are new and exciting. So there’s a boom in the private sector which is shifting away from the traditional government city mentality.

mr-morris

“The ACT government has done a great job in promoting the capital by running events, which has helped to get Canberra on its own two feet. Now Canberra is growing up and Braddon is leading the charge; there’s awesome restaurants, bars, fashion boutiques, barbers and cafes popping up out of nowhere giving the city a confidence it has never experienced before and I think this confidence is the change Canberra needed.”

But it’s not just another vox pop series – it’s set to interact with Braddon businesses to engage Canberrans in different ways.

“In one stream, we’ll issue a challenge to businesses to show us their skills,” says Damien.

“We’ve already taken [Lou and Belinda from] Moxom and Whitney to a charity shop to buy the worst vase possible and set get them to dress it. For another shoot, we have planned is to take a Subway devotee to try the new Quinoa burger at the new Paloeo Cafe. Eventually we’ll ask the audience for their challenges too.”

So what is it that the Lonsdale Street Project hopes to achieve?

Says Damien, it’s about showing both locals and visitors alike that we have great content right here in the heart of our city.

“We so often look outside of the city rather than see what is within,” he says. “What makes great cities great, is an entrepreneurial spirit – something Canberra is shy to show.”

But if we’re to see this change than it is the local businesses who need to work together, and with the local government, to create projects that showcase what we have here in Canberra.

“Unfortunately, there’s not always money to do it,” Damien says. “The LSP runs only on love but there hope is to inspire Canberrans to be proud of their city and ignite some of the traditional businesses (and a few fellow creative agencies) to change their model and give something back too.

IMG_0193

“I have huge respect for ZOO with what they’ve attempted with Fashfest and so we need creatives, media and agencies to continue to go out on a limb and drive this change.”

Over the next 12 months, Canberrans can expect engaging video content about food, fashion and lifestyle in the spirit of Lonsdale Street with a collective of businesses also working together to host a block party later this year.

“We are going to capture the whole party journey from start to end, culminating in on the best parties Canberra has ever seen,” says Damien.

“This is something the city has been crying out for so watch this space, it’s going to be awesome!”

With an intelligent city right at our fingertips, it’s about time we screamed and shouted it from the rooftops – loudly, proudly and unashamedly.

Feature image of Lonsdale Street Roasters by Rebecca Doyle Photography.

user

Jessica Schumann

A 'rambling ranga' at heart, Jessica Schumann is a bubbly, creative social thinker who thrives on words, social media and an innate knack for sharing stories. When she finds the time to write, Jessica seeks out the beauty in change and the essence of human condition. Varied and diverse in nature, her writing delves into the enviable world of people, travel, food and culture. When you can't find her in a nook writing, just follow your nose and you’ll soon find Jessica indulging in her other passion – cooking – or curled up on the couch with a good book in hand. You can find her over at ramblingranga.com.au. More about the Author

MM Leaderboard