Draft Cultural Plan Sector Briefing

(2pm, Tuesday 13 May 2014, Lord Mayor's Reception Room)

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to this briefing and discussion on the City's Draft Cultural Plan.

In mid-2012, I put forward a Lord Mayor Minute to Council proposing the City begin work on an overarching cultural policy, and a strategy that would support and foster cultural life in Sydney.

I said at the time that, with Federal and State involvement increasingly uncertain, public investment in - and commitment to - creativity was under threat.

I argued that a comprehensive cultural policy would enable the City to affirm the centrality of the arts and creativity to all our lives, that beyond their undoubted economic importance, culture and creativity also shaped our City's identity and confidence.

We had already taken some steps to support creativity. One of the first was to ask Sydney Festival to increase access for low-income earners to paid Festival events. The Film Festival, the Biennale and some commercial producers soon followed suit.

We also provided our own under-used properties on Oxford Street, and later William Street, as affordable spaces for creative workers, keeping young creatives in the City and breathing new life into these precincts.

A comprehensive cultural policy would also bring together the City's own activities which - directly and indirectly - impinge on the cultural life of Sydney.

These range from our work on public art to our regulatory and compliance controls, from our organising events and celebrations like Chinese New Year, to work in our village centres.

We have defined "culture" to include not only the arts but museums and galleries, our history and heritage, design and architecture, libraries, community events, the media…

To be recognised as a cultural city, Sydney needs not only its world-class cultural institutions and artists. It must also be a place where the full spectrum of our cultural attributes are visible and expressed throughout the city - including our Aboriginal culture - and where our creative communities can afford to live and work.

Although we spend $34 million a year on cultural programs, our primary role is not that of an arts funding body. Rather, it is to ensure that cultural planning is intrinsic to urban planning.

So like our Live Music & Performance Action Plan, Creative City is more than a statement of principles, it is a blueprint for action, set with clear priorities.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who gave so generously of their time and insights and ideas to help in the preparation of this plan. More than 2000 individuals - from the major companies and start-ups, from practitioners to policy wonks - contributed, so that the resulting plan should resonate with everyone in this room.

It will be on exhibition for one month for any further input and we will then begin to put it into action.

In a moment, Rachel will explain the six priority areas in more detail and I'm pleased that they will include a focus on our villages and local communities, reinforcing the distinct identities of each, and affording opportunities for local communities to celebrate their creativity.

We are also creating new avenues for people to participate broadly in Sydney's cultural and creative life, whether as audiences or practitioners.

These include a trial of using City-owned child-care facilities to help people with young families - those who disappear from audiences while raising their children - to attend matinee and early evening performances.

We can also use our regulatory powers to promote the inclusion of music practice rooms in new residential developments and develop our Spring festival of Art & About into a year-long celebration of creativity in the public domain.

We're also looking to encourage a Theatre Passport scheme which would make it easier and more affordable for high-school students to attend live performances and to look at innovative ways we might improve transport to cultural venues.

We want people to recognise that not a day goes by when we don't experience creativity and culture - whether it's in the buildings we see, the food we eat, the libraries we use, the public spaces we occupy.

We want to emphasise the signal importance of that creativity and culture to Sydney, to celebrate the many outstanding practitioners and institutions we have, and to make it easier for the future stars to have their voices heard and their work appreciated.

And now, I'll ask Rachel to give you a more detailed outline of our proposals.