WE’RE RESILIENT FOLKS, Sydneysiders. We may be live in one of the most peaceful parts of the world, but after our share of trials and tribulations, we always come together to celebrate what we hold dear.
So, no doubt about it, Sydney, and the way we look at Martin Place, has changed. But also make no mistake, what we love about it will continue. Take it from a Sydneysider – 5 things we love about Martin Place:
- It’s the start – and end – of every Sydneysider’s journey.
Hardcopy maps may be dying, but they’re still a snapshot of a city at a particular point in time. But one thing has remained common in four decades of publications – they all point the same way. Arrows and kilometre markers on every page state the direction to and distance from the GPO.
And what is the ‘GPO’? The General Post Office on the corner of Martin Place and George Street is the oldest in the country, and is Sydney’s ‘Kilometre Zero’ in every map – Google Maps respects this tradition when you ask it directions. Every Sydneysider’s grand adventure – and every visitor’s adventure to Sydney – starts and ends in Martin Place.
- It also marks journeys, made in Sydney’s name, from which many never returned.
Every year, on April 25, Aussies make the pilgrimage to the Gelibolu Peninsula in Turkey to commemorate the dawn landings on those shores, our first major military campaign as a fledgling nation during World War I in 1915. Yet, for most of us who wish to commemorate it but can’t make it to the other side of the world, our dawn pilgrimage ends in front of the GPO – the site of one of Sydney’s oldest memorial cenotaphs. ANZAC Day and Remembrance (Armistice) Day services have been held here since 1927 – the first year ANZAC Day was declared a public holiday in Sydney.
- But it’s where we’ll be home for Christmas.
The Harbour Bridge, the Opera House … and the tree. While New Year’s Eve celebrations are a spectacle, ask any Sydneysider and most of us are completely baffled about what on earth the strange symbols on the Bridge each year are supposed to mean. It’s meant to be something symbolic of Sydney … but sometimes, you just have to keep it simple.
And that’s where the Place shines, just before. The city’s official Christmas tree lights up here in a far more homely ceremony. You could go right up and touch it. (OK, you could go up to the Opera House and touch it, but this tree is right in the middle of everyone’s daily life.) It’s simple and lo-fi, but it resonates with us more.
- Where we can wave to our friends and family on TV, every day.
In September 2004, Channel 7 moved Sunrise, its breakfast TV variety program, to a brand new studio in Martin Place. The hype of seeing live TV directly behind glass meant that families and the community as a whole waving for the cameras became a novelty very fast – and soon enough, it became a tradition for TV personalities, celebrity guests and the team to migrate to the plaza at the end of the program. This week, it was the first to break into the crisis which unfolded – directly across. It’s cemented the Place as a symbol for something we love in Australian society – the fact that anyone, no matter how famous, is approachable.
- And where we keep the celebrations alive.
Being casually overlooked in favour of the harbour side isn’t just a New Year’s Eve occurrence for the Place. It bustles with activity every day – after all, it’s more central. So it may be understandable that workers flock to the harbour and the parks to get away from work. But that doesn’t stop the Place from getting its fair share of the spotlight – it sets up for the Sydney Festival, night markets, and the Vivid Festival … just to name a few. And you get the sense that the city is not ‘trying’ to be anything in doing so – there is nothing touristy about the Place, and there is no façade to the displays. Just pure colour.
And recent events attest to it. Right now, it may be a makeshift shrine, a place of mourning. But have no doubt – in the darkest moments come the brightest displays of solidarity – displays that the Place has always hosted, and will continue to have.