Two churches unite in loving the city to life

By Kaylah-Joelle Baker

Finding inspiration from the lonely streets of Melbourne’s city lockdown, Scots’ Church on Collins St and The Salvation Army Project 614 on Bourke St have collaborated for a “Loving the City to Life” initiative. 

Hoping to spread the love and reignite Melbourne again after what has been a tough period for the city, both churches have launched The Festival of Buskers to help liven the mood and entertain Melburnians. 

The event, which launched on November 10, will run right up until Christmas and continue to allow for listeners to support city buskers with a free cup of coffee in their hand. 

Running weekly between the hours of 12pm and 2pm, the festival takes place outside the Salvation Army on Wednesdays and the Scot’s Church on Thursdays. 

“The city is only really slowly coming back to life and we wanted to add a bit of fun and encouragement to the city,” Scots’ Church’s Reverend Phil Campbell said. 

Melbourne has a long history of buskers providing entertainment in the city, and after being unable to perform during lockdown, the Festival of Buskers is gaining the interest of many performers. 

Deviating from the usual classical music tunes heard within their building, Scots’ Church kicked off its first week with the sounds of Australian and Irish folk group, Austral.

And with many musicians hoping to be involved, Rev Campbell is already looking at “adding an extra day”. 

But adamant to not “compete with” surrounding small cafes who have been “pressing on through COVID and really struggling”, Rev Campbell has also organised a “pay it both ways” system – a policy that will involve donating $2 from every free coffee to the surrounding local cafes. 

“We’re really enthusiastic about [the initiative] because we really do want to help the small businesses around us,” he said. 

“They were just so pleased after our launch. It’s not going to make or break them but it’s really a symbol of the fact that we want to love our neighbours.”

In addition to the festival, Scots’ Church is also looking at more ways to give back to the community. Opening up some of its grass area and putting in seating, the church will host a free sausage sizzle in December and setup a free community herb garden around the church. 

“We just want to be as helpful as we can to the city as it struggles along,” Rev Campbell said. 

It is due to this same vision of helping Melbourne to become the “fun and enjoyable” city it once was, that ultimately led to Salvation Army’s Major Brendan Nottle getting involved. 

“Churches should be playing a role in helping to reactivate the city. The Salvation Army exists for the city, and we want to do everything we can to help all people that are feeling vulnerable and doing it tough,” he said.

“We want to make a contribution to the city and to help it be the best it can possibly be.”

Heavily supportive of the Scots’ Church generosity through the festival, Major Nottle said he was looking forward to resuming some of The Salvation Army programs it was running before the pandemic. 

In particular, the “street team program” which operates overnight on Friday and Saturdays and serves to “help young people get home or reconnected with their friends” that they may have lost throughout the night.

“I think it’s an important part that The Salvation Army plays in the life of the city. Just helping to make sure that when people come to the city that they have a good time but most importantly, a safe time,” he said. 

Taking the focus away from themselves, the Scots’ Church and The Salvation Army are two churches recognising the importance of their city. And according to Major Nottle, The Festival of Buskers was a step closer to ensuring they were “doing their small part in renormalising the city again”. 

While the festival is only set to run up until Christmas, both Rev Campbell and Major Nottle are already hoping to expand the “Loving the City to Life” initiative and theme through more programs and events to come.

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