Warren Fahey’s long Wikipedia entry lists him as “a folklore collector, cultural historian, author, actor, broadcaster, record and concert producer, visual artist, songwriter and a performer of Australian traditional and related historical music.”
He is also an integral part of the Potts Point community and I’m pleased to call him a friend. He chats to me about what’s keeping him busy.
You’ve got quite a few vocations according to the Internet. Can you describe yourself for the readers?
I don’t know how this all happened. My life has been an accident, a pleasant one. Those are some of the things I do. Somehow or other, I manage and enjoy doing several things at once.
I’ve always got a book on the go. I am currently writing a book on how Australian children have been entertained or have entertained each other for the last 200 plus years. It will be out next year and will be my 31st book.
Wow, you really do a lot.
I’m not a workaholic but I work in the field of cultural history, which is fairly unique. Nobody does what I do. Where possible, I like to present my material in talks and performances. This week I gave a talk in Carlingford and on Saturday I spoke at the Ku-ring-gai Historical Society and I will be speaking at the City of Sydney Historical Association this month. I also speak on luxury cruise ships and for the past five years, I have been an actor (with Max Cullen) in a play called Dead Men Talking.
A few years ago, I realised I had a lot of material on the 2011 postcode precincts and decided to write a book about it: The Good Old Bad Old Days. It has been very successful. Because it’s a local history book, I didn’t bother putting it out for general distribution, like my previous books. I sell a lot through the Potts Point Bookshop.
So what made you want to live in Potts Point?
Well, I was born near the area, in Paddington. Between 1973 and 1993 I had a rather famous record shop called Folkways there, as well as my Larrikin Records label. It was at a time when record shops and music shops were private.
The shop was probably one of the best-known record shops in Australia. David Bowie even photographed our neon sign for the David Bowie Black Book. I started it from nothing and I eventually bought the building.
In 1993 I sold that building for you, we go quite a way back, don’t we?
We do. Then you sold us our current unit. My partner, Mark Cavanagh, and I were living in Woollahra and were looking for a funkier place to live. We identified that we wanted to be in Potts Point. We didn’t know where we would live but we both admired the old Manar Building.
Somehow or other, in your inimitable way, you got wind of the fact that we were interested in the building I guess by that stage you were a friend as well as an agent.
You called me and told me about a unit on the top floor of Manar.
Manar is a special building but what did you like about it?
I love its historic bones. I love that it was part of the Alexander Macleay Estate, going back as far as the early 19th Century. It was one of the first subdivisions of his estate when Macleay was starting to carve up his acres. History aside, I loved the harbour views from the top floor.
The apartment itself was a dump with potential. We bought it straight away in 2001.
It’s certainly not a dump anymore.
No. We did it up, so we saluted its ‘Deco-ish’ heritage. It’s a beautiful renovation and it won Belle Apartment of the Year. Most of the design is by my partner. We’ve lived here happily since.
What did you like about Potts Point and what’s changed in the time you’ve lived here?
When we moved here there was a touch of sleaze, which we liked. There was no Woolworths. It was pretty desolate in terms of services. We had a dog and we liked the fact that we were in walking distance to several parks. You can walk to the city in 15 minutes – it’s quite a unique sort of place, and it’s still funky!
I also love the buildings, the concentration of Art Deco and other architecture in the area. I like that eccentric mix where you know that there have been footprints coming through here since European Settlers and obviously Indigenous Australian footprints before that.
It’s come a long way since it was known as Woolloomooloo Heights.
I have always believed that you should give back to your community. I was chairman of the Potts Point Business Group and am the co-administrator of Potts Pointers, a Facebook group with more than 6000 members.