Last time I was in Sydney I made a point of tracing the Sydney Writers’ Walk – a series of plaques set into the paving around Circular Quay.
It’s different from the Wellington writers’ walk. The Wellington walk celebrates local New Zealand writers. In Sydney the flavour is more international – though most have connections to Australia.
To me these plaques and memories of writers are incongruous; here, amidst the bustle of the ferries as they bustle in and out of the wharves, the rush of city-clad commuters, rattle of trains and to-and-fro of tourists and passers-by. The harbour bridge relentlessly frames the view from every angle, vast, fading into the haze of North Sydney, a monument to 1930s engineering and the ambitions of a nation that saw itself as more than just a subservient child of Empire. On the other side stands Opera House with its sea-shell roofline.
Tens of thousands of commuters stroll back and across these names daily, perhaps unaware of the legacies these writers left and – in some cases – are still giving us. There are plaques to Germaine Greer, Barry Humphries, Robert Hughes, Thea Astley and Jack London, among others. It was another moment to walk, to ponder, to think about the way that writers change our lives. And to think about how these writers were, themselves, inspired.
For me, as a historian and New Zealander as well as a writer, this walk is inspiring on so many levels. Not least because Circular Quay and the old district of Sydney around it is the place where New Zealand’s history also began. Have you ever walked Circular Quay? Or wanted to see this part of Sydney, if you haven’t been there? Is there a city-scape that inspires you, in its own way? Do share – I’d love to hear from you!
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2012