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Party time! Huge crowds expected to fill Sydney Road

For the first time since 2020, the Sydney Road Street Party is back this Sunday

Scenes from past Sydney Road Street Party events.

Mark Phillips

UP to 50,000 people are expected to converge on Sydney Road this Sunday for the first street party to be held since 2020.

After two years of cancellations because of public health restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event will fill a 1.5km section of Sydney road between Brunswick Road to Victoria Street, spilling into side streets in a riotous mix of food, art, music, fashion and live performance.

With a forecast temperature of 32 and blue skies, organisers are expecting anything between 40,000 and 50,000 people to fill Sydney Road for the six hour fiesta on its traditional date of the first Sunday in March.

The street party will also signify the start of the annual Brunswick Music Festival, which runs until March 13.

One of the largest and longest running festivals in Melbourne, the Sydney Road Street Party this year will run from midday to 6pm on Sunday.

Merri-bek Mayor Angelica Panopoulos, who will officially open the street party at midday at the corner of Glenlyon Road, said she was thrilled the event was back this year.

“It is a true celebration of Brunswick’s vibrant cultural scene, and an occasion where we can all revel in the joy of gathering with our community,” she said.

As the opening event of the equally long-running Brunswick Music Festival, music in all its forms will feature strongly at the street party.

Eight outdoor stages will be scattered along Sydney Road, while most regular music venues on the strip, including the Brunswick Ballroom, The Retreat and Bergy Seltzer will host live music for most of the day.

In total, more than 80 performances are listed on the program.

Quick guide to the Sydney Road Street Party

One of the musical highlights is expected to be the Kulin-bulok (Community) Stage in Albert Street, which has been curated by the Port Fairy Folk Festival, which begins next Friday, March 10.

Six acts will perform on the stage, including Baby Velvet and Georgia State Line, who are both listed for the Port Fairy Festival as well. Black Jesus Experience will close the stage at 5pm.

Also not to be missed is the Engakeng-end (Song) Stage in Glenlyon Road, which has a stellar line-up of artists including June Jones, Palm Springs and Pinch Points, all leading up to raucous punk three-piece Cable Ties who will close things off at 5.15pm.

The Birum Djerring (Coming Together) Stage in Edward Street features an eclectic line-up including South Sudanese songwoman Ajak Kwai, TEK TEK Ensemble and Kira Puru, while children are catered for at the Gaaban (Happy) Stage curated by Riot Baby in Michael Street.

A community stage in Wilson Avenue curated by the Sydney Road Business Association will showcase locally-based schools and students.

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But it’s not just about music. About 150 stallholders are booked for the street on the day, including food traders, artisan traders and community organisations while most shops, bars and cafes along Sydney Road will also be open.

Among the 40 community organisations, the Royal Park Tennis Club will have a pop up tennis court while the Brunswick Tool Library is hosting a Repair Café where people can bring in broken furniture and appliances to be fixed. About 50 Sydney Road traders have also booked stalls.

Street performers, including stilt walkers and hula hoop performers, will provide extra entertainment along the precinct.

 “With six Merri-bek presented stages, two community pop-up stages, and curated line-ups at our local music venues, there’s a show for everyone to enjoy,” Cr Panopoulos said.

“There are also arts experiences, craft and merchandise, community groups, and delicious food options – it is truly one of the best days in the Melbourne events calendar.”

With a sunny and hot day forecast, visitors to the street party should to bring a hat, sunscreen and a bottle to fill up from the water stations that will be available as no single use plastic bottles are allowed to be sold.

The event is family-friendly and no alcohol can be consumed on the street itself.

Motorists are advised to avoid Sydney Road between Victoria Street and Brunswick Road from midnight on Saturday until midnight on Sunday as there will be road closures in place on Sydney Road and its cross streets, with northbound and southbound traffic redirected to Lygon Street. Trains will not be running due to maintenance works on the Upfield line this weekend to be replaced by buses, as will be trams on Sunday.

Camp Cope will play their last ever hometown shows at Estonian House next Saturday.

This will be the street party’s 30th anniversary in Sydney Road – a milestone that would have been celebrated in 2021 if COVID had not got in the way. The event was held in 2020, just a fortnight before Melbourne’s first lockdown, but was cancelled last year as well.

The forerunner of the street party was first held in the Victoria Street parklands as an initiative of the Brunswick Ethnic Communities Council in 1989 before moving to Dawson Street between Sydney Road and the railway line the following year.

It soon outgrew that space, moving to Sydney Road between Union and Albert streets and gradually growing in length. Since 2017, it has been fully managed by Moreland (now Merri-bek) Council.

From Tuesday next week, the Brunswick Music Festival gets underway in earnest. Highlights will include the launch of their new album Taken By Force by up-and-coming punks CIVIC at Estonian House on Friday and two sold out shows, including an all-ages show, by Camp Cope at the same venue on Saturday. These will be Camp Cope’s last ever hometown shows before the group disbands.

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