Local knowledge: Cath Keenan on Redfern

Ahead of moving the 2018 Sydney Writers’ Festival hub from Walsh Bay to its temporary home at Carriageworks in Eveleigh, we have been catching up with writers and thinkers from the area in our Local Knowledge series. 

Cath Keenan is co-founder and executive director of the Sydney Story Factory, a not-for-profit creative writing centre for young people in Redfern. She was formerly an arts writer and literary editor at the Sydney Morning Herald. She spoke to us about how she fell in love with Redfern when she was setting up the Sydney Story Factory six years ago. 

If you were to spend a Saturday morning in Redfern, Eveleigh or Chippendale, where’s the first place you would go?

Before joining the crowds flocking to Carriageworks Farmers Markets in Eveleigh, I'd first stop in at Social Laneway Espresso, as I do nearly every morning. Just across from Redfern station, it's a neighbourhood institution, with awesome staff, a community focus and terrific coffee.

What’s your oldest memory of the area?

I moved to Sydney when I was 30 and came to love Redfern when we were setting up the Sydney Story Factory on Redfern Street. One of my fondest memories is picking up kids from Our Lady of Mt Carmel School in Waterloo, and walking with them through Redfern to come to a creative writing class with us. We'd chat about all sorts of things on the way.

Your most recent memory?

Every day in Redfern creates a happy new memory. One of the most poignant recent ones is looking up at night and seeing the windows of the housing towers lit up in different colours for the We Live Here project. Locals were expressing their fear, anger and hope in the face of their looming relocation when the public housing is redeveloped.

Do you have a favourite place to read or write in the area?

For me, it has to be on the cushions that line the benches of the Sydney Story Factory. Ideally, I'd also be reading one of the stories our students have written. 

Do you have a favourite cultural institution?

There are plenty of reasons to visit the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence on George Street in Redfern, from swimming lessons with my kids to their bustling NAIDOC week celebrations.

If you were to go somewhere to eat or drink, where would you go, and what would you order? 

My favourite place to drink is Arcadia Liquors, on Cope Street, the perfect neighbourhood bar. I'd order one of their mean toasties.

To read Fiona Wright's guide to Eveleigh, click here.