A local’s guide to Brunswick with comedian Claire Hooper

Living Well | Claire Hooper | Posted on 04 February 2020

Claire Hooper is a bonafide Brunswegian. Here’s why she loves calling 3056 home.

Brunswick is a beauty of a suburb rather than a suburb of beauty. But what it lacks in elegance it more than makes up for in creative, cultural diversity. As one of the most aspirational suburbs for artsy types, it can make boring Melburnians feel a lot more interesting. 

In this way, it’s very Melbourne: A quirky blend of history, artistry and construction sites, all on charmlessly straight streets.

Comedian Claire Hooper in her hometown of Brunswick

Writer, comedian and TV host Claire Hooper.

Originally the land of the Wurundjeri people, Brunswick is just six kilometres from the CBD. With neighbours Brunswick East and Brunswick West, it covers more than 10 square kilometres. A suburb that lounges across that much land is going to have more than one personality.

The centre, or Brunswick for the tourists, is Sydney Road. It’s maddest on a weekend around brunch time, when the rush is on to brand your backside with the ridges of a cafe milk crate, and the young hipsters are lining up outside Dejour Jeans to buy pants to pair with their Crocs and kimonos – or whatever contrary clothing combo is fashionable at this very moment.

Down in the south-east – the bit we can only dream of – are the properly renovated houses, new mothers in head-to-toe Gorman, and cafes with real chairs instead of milk crates.

In the west, old textile factories and brickworks now house designer apartments, photography studios and salsa dance classes.

Writer, comedian and TV host Claire Hooper
Writer, comedian and TV host Claire Hooper

We in the north are in the least desirable bit. But it’s also the most truly Brunswick. Here are the concrete yards of the older generations of Mediterranean Australians, who still shop at the Gervasi supermarket deli, while living next door to the recent arts graduates who can afford this pocket only by rooming with 20 of their closest friends. Here also are the new migrants, young families from Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Somalia, whose kids wave to mine on the way to school. And yes, it does make me feel more interesting.

Then there’s us – two writers with their op-shop-dressed kids and ugly, rundown house on a busy road. We’re so far north that if we waved to our neighbours across the road we’d be waving into Coburg. So we don’t, because who’d wave to someone who lives in Coburg? Why live there when you can live where rundown workers’ cottages and ’70s villas sit next to 10-storey apartments like crooked teeth? Or where you can take a short-cut down Albert Street and lose your wing mirrors clipping parked cars but save 20 minutes by avoiding Sydney Road at brunch hour? So worth it.

She truly is a beauty.

Claire Hooper’s show Biscuits will run as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival from 25 March. Comedyfestival.com.au.