Sham Fest for inner west inclusivity

April 10, 2024
Clyde Mooney

Hero of Sydney’s inner west, the Petersham Bowling Club, hosted a two-day live music event dubbed Sham Fest across the weekend, in aid of its pending renovation upgrade.

Established in 1897, the suburban club faced closure in 2006 due to a redevelopment proposal. Locals banded together to stop the project, and a new board took over the struggling business, comprised entirely of nearby residents.

The board’s first initiative was to remove the poker machines, and install a performance area. ClubTIC previously discussed the realities of this bold move with the operators.

Petersham Bowling Club (PBC) has modelled itself as very sympathetic to community activism, and has reaped the benefit of active community engagement.

However, the building has not undergone any significant remodelling since 1972, with only one staircase in and out, and it remains inaccessible to wheelchair users.

The club lodged plans for an upgrade to amend its accessibility. The DA and construction certificate have been approved, and it is time for action.

“In 2021, we developed an accessibility plan and built the accessible bathrooms inside the building, but we now need to tackle the rest, which means building a ramp to help those who currently can’t come inside the building,” explains Club President, George Catsi.

While the venue enjoys nostalgic benefit in its kitsch, unpretentious styling and interiors, it is becoming increasingly out-of-step with the typical community-minded venue and amenities it aims to be, and the accessibility upgrade will be the most important and largest change to the building in more than 50 years.

To get the fundraising efforts started, PBC hosted a free music festival across the weekend (6-7 April), titled Sham Fest, promising – beyond a diverse lineup of local bands – activities including line dancing, sea shanty singing, Finska and games, and certainly some lawn bowls.

The Morrisons

Saturday played The Sticker Club, Mvshroom People and Astrovan before the Welcome to Country at 6pm, followed by ADKOB, Good Pash and Crocodylus.

On the Sunday CJ Mifsud led Line Dancing, then the stages saw Ultra Violet, Marrickville Shanty Club and Peanut Gallery, before Mayor Darcy Byrne spoke to the crowd, and the night wrapped up with The Morrisons and The Crooked Fiddle Band.

The club posts that Inclusivity is “at the heart of Sham Fest” – seen in the Auslan interpretation performed for main acts, in collaboration with the local deaf community.

“This event marks the beginning of our mission to ensure everyone in our community can fully enjoy our club for years to come.”

The not-for-profit club is embarking to raise funds through grants, fundraising, sponsorships, events and functions, and community support, via a GoFundMe campaign, where supporters can show their appreciation.  

Sham Fest was supported by Inner West Council, Philter Brewing, Gig Buddies, and Yeah Rad.

“It’s not a dream,” says Catsi. “It’s a necessity and we need to make it happen.”


Petersham Bowls, Sham Fest

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