Block Party Celebrates St Leonards' New and Temporary TWT Creative Precinct

The spirit of Chippendale's FraserStudios continues in St Leonards, where artists have taken over a sleepy suburb.
Elise Newton
Published on March 19, 2015

If you're looking for a raging block party, St Leonards is probably the last place you'd look. But for James Winter from Brand X, who run the area's TWT Creative Precinct, a night of hardcore cabaret and female-led artistry on Friday, March 20, is just about the best way to wrestle a sleepy suburb into the hands The Artist.

Most of us wouldn't have put St Leonards at the top of our list for pushing the artistic envelope. But James Winter tells us St Leonards has a history of creativity that seems to have fallen by the wayside. "The history of St Leonards is that it was a place of publications, graphic art and also broadcasting in the '60s, '70s, '80s." As Winter tells it, the TWT Creative Precinct is bringing all of this back.

The TWT Creative Precinct has been running in St Leonards for six months now. Through a partnership with property developer Auswin TWT, they've taken empty commercial spaces and put them into the hands of emerging artists to use for free as part of short-term residencies or for cheap hire.

"At this stage we've got eight studios that range from live music recording and rehearsal studios, to dance studios, to bike workshops to print press to visual arts studios," says Winter.


Brand X has been running similar projects across Sydney for a decade, including the popular FraserStudios initiative that emerged from the Kent Brewery development, now Central Park and a lively Chippendale Creative Precinct. For Winter these projects are about more than just giving artists space to emerge; it's about putting the future of Sydney's suburbs in the hands of the public. After two years of the TWT Creative Precinct, development continues, but with (hopefully) a new sense of community ownership and engagement.

"We're transforming a very sleepy, a very deserted area very, very slowing into something that the community has access to," he says. "So I love the idea of we're making private property now public property again ... we're returning the power back to people to be able to take control of their neighbourhoods."

This Friday night the TWT Creative Precinct will be celebrating six months of success with a night full of cabaret, body painting, a new laneway cinema and artists strutting their stuff.

"The block party this time is going to be a little different," promises Winter, "This block party is getting a little bit wilder."


"I wanted to program experiences ... that maybe the people of St Leonards don't have access to," he says. "We're initiating a dive bar, where we've got lots of cabaret performance, which probably is going to be really hardcore cabaret kind of stuff, stuff that maybe is a little bit alternative, a little bit queer. I really wanted to provide that for St Leonards as a little cheeky tip of the hat to an alternative underground culture that we hope will be using our studios in the future."

"We've locked all of the dirty stuff into the dive bar," he laughs.

He promises that this Friday it will female artists taking the lead. "We've got a significant amount of female performance in the dive bar, plus also quite a lot of the exhibitions are created by female visual artists ... The beautiful thing is that we were able to commission Jodee Knowles to do the second of our mural projects in Atchison lane. That was really important for me to commission a female street artist, being that it's quite male dominated. She's done a beautiful work that she is just completing at the moment that will be revealed on the Friday."

So get over to St Leonards, where you can have a drink, take in some cabaret and shout "power to the people" at every possible opportunity. It's all happening on Friday, March 20, from 6pm.

Images: TWT Creative Precinct

Published on March 19, 2015 by Elise Newton
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