Big Hart

Case study

Northcott Narratives Sydney, 2003-2007

“We will never go back to the way things were before. We have seen what we can do.”

The scene is Northcott, a troubled public housing building in Surry Hills. Northcott is a vertical suburb, with many high-needs tenants facing complex social issues. In 2003, the community is traumatised by several murders and suicides. It is a dangerous place to live and frequently featured on the evening news. Big hART is invited in to help.

Big hART provided numerous channels for creative output, from music workshops to ABC TV documentaries. Together with Northcott residents, we created StickybrickS, a unique piece of community theatre held in the Northcott building’s car park for the 2006 Sydney Festival, a run of sell-out performances.

The project partnered with New South Wales Police, the New South Wales Department of Housing and many other organisations. After four years of work with the Northcott community and partners, life in Northcott Estate had improved dramatically. As a result, Northcott was awarded Safe Community Status by the World Health Organisation – a world first for any public housing estate.

What the community and partners said:

“People are coping better, they can be part of their community, they don’t have to be on their own.”

“What the project taught me was that it doesn’t mean that you are less of a citizen because you live in public housing.”

“Big hART has brought people together and still brings them together even though they have finished their work.”

“In the future we will have less reservations and more courage when it comes to this kind of work.”
– Director General, NSW Department of Housing

Reviews of Stickybricks – 2006 Sydney Festival

” …this is not oral history or tenant life narrative. It’s rather a façade-cracking and joyous slice of life, a self portrait in hope, possibility and pop songs.”
– Sydney Morning Herald 14 – 15 January 2006

“It’s hard to resist a community show that so joyfully welcomes the public in to gawp … best are the memories that seem to leak out of the brickwork and windows of this extraordinary place…”
– The Australian 16 January 2006

“If Linehan (Sydney Festival Artistic Director – Fergus Linehan) was looking for resonance StickybrickS has so much it’s almost bouncing off the walls.”
– The Australian 12 January 2006

You can download an independent evaluation of the project here:

Northcott Narratives – by David Palmer