City living creates close-quarters and tight communities, and the utopian version of this lifestyle exists in a small pocket of Adelaide called Murrays Lane.
The Republic of Murray
Murrays Lane is a small dead-end street in Adelaide’s West End with abundant and unique character.
But it’s not the paved street or the mix of worker’s cottages, two-storey townhouses and an overshadowing apartment block that sets its idiosyncratic tone. Instead, it’s the neighbour-run garden that can be found behind the residences, the existence of which gives insight into the homely nature of the street.
Complete with a humming beehive, second-hand pot plant stands, and a small shrine to the chickens it once homed, the garden is predominantly tended by two Murrays Lane residents, and acts equally as communal compost and a symbol of unity amongst the people of Murrays Lane.
“I feel guilty that we live in a place like this in the city,” says Tom Flanagan, who lives on the street with his partner, Koral Chandler, and their three-month-old son, Ernie.
Tom recalls when Ernie was born, and on return from the hospital, he and Koral came back to a street full of expectant neighbours.
“They knew we’d been to the hospital, and as soon as I came out they were like ‘where is he?’” Tom says.
“You know how we don’t necessarily know our neighbours anymore? I think that’s the best thing about it – there’s a couple [of people] that we don’t know names, but we still say hi and ‘where do you get your firewood from?’”
Both Koral and Tom are performers, in music and circus respectively, and they are just two in a broad range of types who populate the laneway.
“We’ve got this incredible street of really dynamic people, people who have come from all kinds of different backgrounds,” Koral says.
“Linny, who’s on our left, she used to run the motel in Oodnadatta… then on the other side of us, they’ve always got random students coming through… and then a bit further on there’s a cranky Italian lady who’s really funny, and then Tamzin and her partner have just had a baby as well, Oscar, so he’s three months older than Ernie, which is awesome because he gets all the hand-me-down clothes.”
It’s an idyllic vision of community, and one that Koral says is more likely to happen in the city than in any other context.
“There’s something quite progressive about the city. If you’re going to live here, you’re going to be someone who’s open to having so many different walks of life around you,” she says.
“We had all of our friends from the circus company called Cirque Alfonse come and drink from 3am until 6am, and there were a few people over there [in another house] who would sing along with our songs, and no one was too pissed off that we were making a racket, because everyone goes ‘we live in the city. It’s going to be noisy’.
“If you want to live in a dynamic place, there’s going to be noise, and that’s part of the brilliance of living in the city.”
And if you were going to live anywhere in the city, you’d be pretty lucky to end up on Murrays Lane.