Creative Spaces and the Built Environment

(9am, University of Sydney)

Thank you, Tim [Horton, MC] and good morning.

Welcome everyone.

Today's conversation is an important one for our City - it is all about ensuring that we encourage and support a thriving knowledge and cultural economy for Sydney by enabling spaces for creative initiatives. I am delighted to see so many people here.

Last year the City adopted our Creative City Policy - a blueprint for fostering a rich cultural life for our city. The policy followed four years of consultation, with thousands of Sydneysiders contributing ideas.

Contributions came from artists, residents, major cultural institutions and business leaders - all of whom told us that culture and creativity are essential to our City's future.

More than 85 per cent of creative industries are small businesses, and this sector contributes something like $45 billion to our national economy. We also know that around 40 per cent of those initiatives are based in and around Sydney.

In order to support and encourage our artists and creative thinkers to live and work in the city, we have developed our Accommodation Grants program and adapted our properties on Oxford and William Streets to host creative start-ups. We've given old shops, offices, warehouses and even a car park a new life by adapting them to house designers, film makers, musicians, screen writers, architects and artists.

However, this sector is growing fast, and we need to make sure our city can support it.

Today I hope you can talk about how we can encourage an on-going growth of creative spaces in our city with the best possible regulatory framework.

We've already started the process by providing a grant to the Sydney Fringe Festival for a pop-up theatres trial. The Fringe plans to use around five shopfronts in Newtown and Erskineville as temporary theatres during this year's Fringe Festival. The grant will help the Fringe meet the costs of negotiating the approvals process. We hope that this will feed into the development of a temporary theatres license, similar to the licence that's used at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

During our consultations for Creative City we were often told that lengthy, costly and seemingly "irrational" regulatory processes were a deterrent to many cultural initiatives. Small and medium creative spaces talked of the difficulties they had in complying with the Building Code of Australia, without employing expensive consultants. Even the nation's most iconic arts venues, such as the Sydney Opera House, are devoting significant resources to identifying and implementing bespoke solutions.

Applicants and consent authorities are often faced with a lack of clear criteria against which to assess the impact of new initiatives such as performance spaces, micro-manufacturing workshops, studios, galleries and pop-up retail spaces. This leads to increased costs and prolonged assessment periods - benefitting no one.

As our cities shift from manufacturing and industry to being drivers of our knowledge and cultural economy, we need our regulatory frameworks to adapt, without sacrificing safety, access or amenity.

I know everyone here is keen to contribute to this conversation and we are delighted to be supporting this forum in partnership with the Live Music Office and the University of Sydney. I'm sure it will be a fruitful day.