Let’s all go down the Cross

By | Category: Travel destinations

More than the bridge, the harbour and the opera house, Sydney has suburbs like Kings Cross that have changed significantly and are now tourist draws in their own right

One of the few advantages of aging is to see how the world has changed. Places you knew when young can alter out of all recognition; others barely alter.

It isn’t Kings Cross in London that I want to consider but the Kings Cross that is an inner Sydney suburb. This Australian destination has altered immeasurably since I first went there fifty years ago.

When I first knew it, it was a haunt of prostitutes and US servicemen who were on R&R leave from participating in the Vietnam war. The many pubs were old-fashioned, tiled Victorian style edifices which opened early in the morning and stayed open most of the time. Drunks could be seen outside even before workers entered their offices for the day. This was the red-light district of Sydney as well as a base for organised crime. It is claimed that the police commissioner and the head of government in the state of NSW were paid off by the criminals who ran the brothels, sex-shops and strip clubs since very few were prosecuted successfully. Parents warned undergraduates driving out to the University of NSW not to loiter nearby.

It might have had one of the best known Sydney sites – since copied all over the world – the El Alamein fountain, but visitors were largely of the curious.

Skip forward less than a decade and the change had begun which included drug-related crime. Now it had a burgeoning night-life which combined the old red-light areas with a burgeoning gay community and night-clubs. (it is the only place in the world where I have been propositioned!) The warehouses and old-style buildings were being re-developed although some conservationists managed to maintain the iron-railed terraced houses which today sell for a small fortune and are regularly listed as architectural gems of Sydney’s past.

Fast forward to today and much of the crime has disappeared from the streets. Tourists flock to the area and the tourist board in Sydney describes the area as “a pulsating centre of performance art, immersive theatre, avant-cabaret, music, cult films…” Now it is the venue for  Vivid Sydney 2017.

Vivid Sydney is an arts event that runs from the third week of May until the middle of June. Again, in the words of the tourist board which owns and manage the event ,  “ It’s a wonderful mix of genres, theatre, performance, story-telling and light art, and it celebrates exactly what makes Kings Cross so special – diversity, creativity, equality and community.”

Tens of thousands of people will head to the Cross to enjoy the activities. The youngsters will look on it as one of the great places for entertainment. The oldies will remember what it had been and how, in such a short period, it has changed in reputation and appeal.

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