Alan Parry may be the marketing manager (“director of Rad-ness”) at The Edwards, one of Newcastle’s trendiest venues, but he hasn’t lost his sense of self.
Parry, who just turned 32, still rises early and delivers newspapers around Newcastle from Tuesday through Saturday.
“It takes me about an hour,” he says. “I get up at 5 and I’ll walk to the newsagent’s near my house. I kind of feel like it’s my Zen time, when I can plot out the day.”
His paper route isn’t the only interesting shift his career has experienced. He received a bachelor’s degree in visual communications from the University of Newcastle, but he’s also deferred a science degree indefinitely. For a few years he worked for a publishing and advertising agency in Sydney, and he worked briefly in early childcare in Newcastle.
At one stage he was considering buying an entire childcare franchise.
“Like anything, I took it on fully; I was doing the early childhood thing part time, and then I just kept doing more and more shifts and really loving the job. It definitely taught you patience,” Parry says. “I understand why kids change people’s lives now.”
Parry was born and raised in Newcastle; he spent lots of his childhood in Belmont South. He and his family travelled around a bit (his dad was in the air force) before his parents split up. His mother is originally from Malaysia and is half Indian and half Chinese. He’s visited his mother’s family in Malaysia and can understand a little bit of Malay.
His childhood was not always easy, and he’s grateful to the assistance he’s had along the way.
“Open Foundation [for university] is a prepper course for those who wouldn’t have finished high school; it gives them a chance to prove themselves. It’s a cool social program, and I definitely wouldn’t have been able to enter the world of tertiary education without it,” he says.
Both his work and life-related experiences have brought him to his role at The Edwards where he’s been employed for nearly two years. He visualises The Edwards as a hub that is much more than a restaurant.
I have this space that you can do anything in, and it’s available to anyone who has a rad idea. We had a ceramics workshop here on Saturday. On that same day we had a massive all-ages hockey dad gig. Then that night we facilitated a private function, a huge 70th birthday party.Alan Parry
“I have this space that you can do anything in, and it’s available to anyone who has a rad idea,” Parry says. “We had a ceramics workshop here on Saturday. On that same day we had a massive all-ages hockey dad gig. Then that night we facilitated a private function, a huge 70th birthday party.”
He’s aware that when The Edwards opened 2014 it felt very “dude-heavy with meat, bikes and fire”.
He loves the meat, bikes and fire, but promoting women and supporting them is also a top priority for him both personally and professionally. Raised by a single mum and Godmother, Parry and his sister didn’t have many economic opportunities, and he’s always inspired when he thinks of his mother’s strong work ethic. He hopes to get as many women as possible involved at The Edwards as it evolves.
“When the markets came here and the workshops, these little things made it appeal to an increasingly cosmopolitan Newcastle.” Parry says.
Parry’s role at the venue extends past the bar’s incandescent interior. He’s working with Green Roof Hotel, King Street Hotel, The Argyle House and The Cambridge to revitalise both of the University of Newcastle’s pubs - Godfrey Tanner Bar (GT Bar) and The Bar On The Hill.
Particularly he’s been involved in the rebrand of The Bar On The Hill. Parry knows that young people want the party atmosphere, and he and his collaborators have the means to bring it to them.
“My role is to bring that community aspect back to The Bar On The Hill,” Parry says. “Similar to The Edwards, if you have an idea that yourself as a student wants to bring to the university, I’m going to try to make that happen in those spaces.”
He quickly whipped together a new logo for The Bar On The Hill. He creates all the graphic design material for both it and The Edwards and keeps their social media hopping too.
“Melons are great for social media,” Parry says, referring to the fresh produce market that happens in The Edwards beer garden on Wednesday afternoons. Cara Cooper and Lauren Branson are cousins who run Your Food Collective and came to Parry with the idea.
“I was like ‘that’s f – – – ing rad because we love fresh produce’, and essentially I have a space,” Parry says. “That’s how a lot of things start. People have ideas or send an enquiry through; there’s a lot of networking involved.”
It’s not just food-related. He decided to curate events, art and live music as much as possible. For example, The Edwards just launched Port Stephens’ artist Chris Wigmans exhibition featuring local band Family Dog. Parry plans to host more emerging artists. The Edwards also hosts trivia, a weekly ukulele class and Awesome Newcastle, a monthly grant giveaway for Novocastrians with creative ideas.
”Chris Joannou and Chris Johnston [the owners] want me involved in their expansion endeavours. I have the chance to make Newy. I have the chance to make the place better as a whole, and that’s definitely the appeal,” Parry says. “Anyone who gives me an opportunity, I’ll be fiercely loyal to, to the point where I’ll still do a paper run.”
So he’s sticking around. The Edwards is an emotional investment. “I am the sum of chances and opportunities afforded to me,” he says. “So now I find myself in the position to give those same types of chances to others.”