Toward the end of Enmore Road, just before you enter the belly of Marrickville proper, a shop sign baring The Sydney Morning Herald masthead glows brightly. On this particular Thursday night, a small group clutching paper-bagged bottles of beer mingles under the sign outside the entrance to what seems to be a standard corner newsagent. On closer inspection, gone are the stacks of newspapers, the shelves of glossy fashion journals, the rainbow of pens and Post-Its and advertisements for the next Lotto draw. Instead, this cosy shop has a few rows of school chairs and stools set up in front of a stage strung with fairy lights and lanterns and washed in a soft, blue light. From the stage the soulful Sydney duo POLY are announcing its next track – a song it is thrilled to tell the audience was recently played as part of Triple J’s Unearthed.
This is The Newsagency – once a peddler of print publications – now a small but spirited music venue. Founder Alison Flett both manages and lives at the venue, and says the idea to repurpose and rethink the space was born out of necessity. “I am a singer-songwriter and about two years ago I wanted to release my first EP. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed at the thought of approaching venues who would want me to pull a decent crowd just to cover their costs.” Not willing to play to a crowd of disinterested pub patrons, Flett took on the forgotten newsagent, fashioned a stage out of the remaining shelves in the front room and launched her new EP in the space. “Heaps of people ended up coming,” she smiles. “Pretty soon all these other musicians wanted to play and suddenly I was also a venue operator.” As for what it’s like living at a live-music venue (her bedroom is at the rear of the one- level space) and welcoming both gig-goers and musicians into her home, letting them use her bathroom and potentially having them rummage through her cupboards (bands usually keep their equipment in her kitchen), Flett says, “It’s really only three nights a week that it’s filled with musicians and music lovers. I wouldn't do it if I didn't love live music!”
The Newsagency hosts anything from acoustic, soul, jazz and folk to experimental music and DJs and has more recently started to show some comedy, theatre and cabaret acts. Tickets to the 40-seat, intimate space are available to buy either in advance, or at the door. To keep things simple within a small space, The Newsagency operates under a BYO licence – punters are invited to pick up takeaway drinks from The Vic hotel across the street. “There’s a great community spirit among the surrounding businesses,” Flett adds.
As far as live music venues go in Sydney, Flett sees The Newsagency as a space for emerging artists. “It’s a great place for artists to have their first gig or to even act as a testing ground for new material and to see if they could fill a bigger room.” And certainly, what’s most special here is the opportunity to hear something new, something that might just be worthwhile, even outrageously good. “There’s something to take away from every kind of performance, good or bad,” says Flett. “Even if the music isn’t exactly to my taste, I love that there’s a room full of people hanging off every lyric and note.”
375 Enmore Road, Marrickville