Hulbert Street is a great community environment. There are some things about the architecture and lay out of the street that makes encourages community and some things we have tried to do in our house design to allow us to engage easily with the street.
Being a culdesac has two main advantages. First the street community is quite small and defined, giving us a sense of being a discrete community with something in common – our street. Second there is no real through traffic and so the street can be used as our public open space. We use the street as a meeting place, basketball court, football oval, ping pong stadium, skateboard park, dance floor, and space to enjoy a cuppa in the afternoon winter sun! We have used it as a venue for events like this Fiesta, film nights, mosaic workshops, Living Smart gardening days, street parties and our annual Christmas celebration.
The close proximity of shops and facilities mean that people tend to walk a fair bit. As well as reducing traffic and car use this means that you are much more likely to meet your neighbours on the way to or from or at the shops we all use.
A lot of people in this street work part time or work from home which means that they are able to integrate work and home life. For us it has meant that because we live and work (and garden and play) in the street we live in we actually spend most of our time in the community we are part of.
You will notice as you walk down Hulbert Street that lots of the houses are located towards the front of the block and have verandas that open out onto the street. These street side verandas have become a social place for sharing a cuppa, meals, games or music. They form a transition between public and private spaces, a bit like the beach is a transition between the sea and the land.
At #21 we have further extended that idea by designing our main living space so that it can be opened out onto the veranda which in turn opens out onto the garden. We have kept the garden walls low so they can be easily seen over and used as seating. Our front garden in turn flows out onto the verge where we have planted fruit trees, and out on to the road.
This winter we even set up a table out on the edge of the street. We have our cuppas there and enjoy chatting to whoever goes past. We notice that we are often joined by householders who don’t have a front verandah!
Our vege gardens are gradually stretching out along the street verges and others are joining in! We plant herbs and salad greens in these beds so everyone can help themselves.
People often ask us – what makes Hulbert Street work so well? There are some things that help make this a great place to live.
Diversity We figured out once that there were 16 different nationalities represented in out street. Not to mention all sorts of interests, ages, disabilities and abilities, vocations, life stages and backgrounds. From an 84 year old Italian grandmother to a young street artist – we have it all!
A mixture of rentals and owner occupied housing It is great that some people have lived in our street for ages and have established friendships, gardens, networks, planted trees, put loving attention into their homes, installed photovoltaics etc
On the other hand it is great having people renting in our street because it means we get to meet new and interesting people and it means that people who aren’t ready to settle down or could not afford to buy here and still be part of our community. Whenever anyone new moves in we are all excited to see who we will have as neighbours.
Creativity Lots of people on Hulbert Street are creative in one way or another. On any day you might find yourself listening to Abe’s band practising, be part of Tania’s latest art installation, checking out Ken’s latest painting, sniffing Phillipe’s culinary treats, singing with Jenny and Robin or drinking from one of Sandra’s beautiful ceramic cups.
Street Parties and Events Gatherings in the street, either organised or organic, give people a chance to get to know each other, have fun and strengthen our sense of belonging together. Over summer we always meet after school for a play, on Wednesdays we have afternoon tea at Sean’s place and on Fridays a group of us always walk down the road for an ice-cream.
Some of our more memorable organised events have been our Christmas party and feasts, the afternoon we mosaiced the tank, our Street Earth Hour celebrations, summer movies at the end of the street , Hulbert Street choir performances and the great Hulbert Street Couch Race. We love our post Fiesta pizza and debrief night best of all!
Hulbert Street Living Smart Course At the beginning of 2008, Tim and Shani ran a Living Smart course for residents of Hulbert Street, and a few good friends. This community based introduction to Sustainability found 30 residents meeting for a couple of hours once a week for nearly 2 months. We learnt more about sustainable living, shared our stories and knowledge and celebrated our successes.
One of the most important elements of a Living Smart course is community so it was appropriate to hold this course in a community that already had a strong sense of community. At the end of the course we dreamt about what we would like for our street and you know, three years on we have achieved most of those dreams – a street garden, a garage sale, sharing of produce, regular parties and even a skateboard ramp.
The Hulbert Street Skills Register Every year Shani organised a contact list and skills register for the street. Each household was invited to participate by filling in a small sheet that listed the house residents, contact details, skills or resources they have that they are willing to share (eg Phillipe has the street fridge trolley) and skills or resources needed (eg Sandra has huge need for bubble wrap for packaging up her ceramics)
As well as the obvious practical benefits this Contact Book and Skills Register helps you get to know your neighbours and gets you thinking about what you can offer to your community. We recommend one for your street!
The Hulbert Street Sustainability Fiesta Since 2007 Tim and Shani have been opening The Painted Fish for a public display of the things they have done to make it more energy efficient. That first open day attracted over 800 people (it helped that Josh Byrne’s garden down the road was open on the same day!) Since then the Fiesta has grown in scope and size way beyond what we could have imagined. In 2009 about 5,000 people visited our street over two days, and there were over 60 stalls. As you can imagine this event has a huge effect on our street – but it is mostly good. Last year as well as The Painted Fish and Tim and Shani’s home at #21 there were 5 open artist studios and 7 gardens open, and an increasing involvement of everyone on the street. There is more information about the Fiesta on this website – check it out and come along!
And just a little bit of magic . . . People are essentially social and have a need to belong. We are often asked why our street is so special and we often say – it just needs to start somewhere. It seems like the more open individuals become and the stronger the community gets, then the easier it becomes for others to get involved. Like a snowball rolling down a hill – watch out it could be heading your way!