Sunday, April 11, 2021

No hustle. No bustle. Emptiness and stillness fill the streets

No hustle. No bustle. Emptiness and stillness fill the streets

You don’t have to flick through those startling images of now deserted world-famous thoroughfares – Trafalgar Square in London, the Champs-Élysées in Paris, Times Square in New York, St Peter’s Square in the Vatican – to appreciate the once-in-a-lifetime insight COVID-19 is giving us into how cities look without the humans who built them. You just have to take a stroll (observing social distancing rules) through our own city centres and neighbourhoods.

Sydney’s State Theatre in March, at what would normally be peak hour.Credit:James Brickwood


The overriding feeling is one of stillness, by turns pleasing and unnerving. My Saturday morning walk with my dog along King Street, Newtown, Australia’s oldest and longest single shopping strip, has been pretty constant over the past few years. Stops to pick up coffee beans and newspapers, followed by various visits to the chemist and fruit store.

Post COVID-19, the strip’s usually swarming footpaths are a ghost town. The Dendy cinema, pub after pub, restaurant after restaurant are all shuttered, far outnumbering the few battered businesses that remain. The odd cafe offers hole-in-the-wall takeaway coffees; a couple of bookstores are holding on for dear life.

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