(6.30pm 27 February 2012, 1A Burton Street)
Hello, everyone. Welcome to our Oxford Street Creative and Cultural Spaces launch. I would like firstly to acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the traditional custodians of our land, and to pay my respects to their Elders. I also acknowledge the 200 nationalities which make up this wonderful city.
In June last year, Council supported my proposal to provide studio space for artists and creative enterprises in our properties in the lower part of Oxford Street.
By November, 52 artists and creative enterprises had responded to our call for Expressions of Interest.
They were an exceptional group, and it was quite tough to select the finalists.
And tonight we are officially launching the chosen 16 onto Oxford Street.
Oxford Street is one of Sydney's great streets - an institution - but like any institution it has its cyclical highs and lows. Now we're injecting creativity, back in the form of these 16 small to medium enterprises which are taking up our short-term leases at affordable rental rates.
They include object and web design, architecture, trans-media, film, visual arts, contemporary performance and music, social enterprise ventures, start-up business, literature, animation and more.
They will form the nucleus of what we foresee as a lively and diverse cultural quarter, with space for emerging talents as well as the more established practitioners.
Promoting and supporting the cultural life of our city is a high priority. In the last financial year, Council contributed over $23 million to culture, in addition to our own events such as Art & About and our support for Sydney Festival, Sydney Writers' Festival, Yabun, the Biennale of Sydney - to list just some!
And our artists and creative people need spaces where they can live and work and that they can afford. We are helping to provide these spaces through our Accommodation Grants programs and initiatives such as the one we are launching tonight.
Last Monday, Council unanimously agreed to develop additional creative spaces, including live work spaces in some of our other Oxford Street properties and to establish a creative hub in City owned properties in William Street.
I'd like to also tell you a bit about other ways we're working to improve Oxford Street.
We are doing an audit of all vacant or blank walls, doorways, land and buildings to find ways to improve or activate them - with public art, pop-up events or temporary projects.
We're progressing the Foley Street upgrade, including partial closure of the street and to provide more attractive shop frontages to the buildings opening into it.
Our footpath gardening policy has just come off public exhibition and is likely to see Oxford Street become a priority for the roll-out of increased greenery (to give greater protection to pedestrians from traffic).
Then there's the very basic matter of cleansing and waste, which is a priority in this area with literally thousands moving through the street on Friday and Saturday nights - and you'll be pleased to hear that the footpaths are about to be cleaned and resealed.
And we've carried out an audit of currently vacant properties that are not owned by the City in order to identify the current mix of businesses, any gaps in this mix and ways Council might diversify the mix in its own properties.
In the next 12 months, we will also develop collaborative models whereby the City can encourage property owners to activate their vacant properties. That's actually a City-wide project but it will begin here in Oxford Street.
A creative spaces website that will help connect artists and creatives in Sydney with affordable spaces will be launched very soon.
Our creative communities are important - they/you are the people and enterprises which help define the city's ethos, which are a source of constant renewal and which enrich the lives of us all.
That's why we are putting so much care into these projects,
And I would now like to invite one of our new tenants, Charles Firth, to speak.
Charles will be known to you as one of The Chaser team. He is also the inaugural chair of the Sydney Writers' Room, a non-profit organisation committed to providing affordable space for writers.
In 2012 the Sydney Writers' Room Oxford Street Labs will be producing a satirical news bulletin for ABC2 from the space which they've fitted out with a fully functioning green screen and editing facilities.
FOLLOWING CHARLES FIRTH:
Thank you, Charles.
I'd now like to invite you all to view our Cultural and Creative Spaces at numbers 58, 70, 72 and 66 Oxford Street, which will be open until 8pm. You can take the stairs to Oxford Street. All our tenancies are flagged with City of Sydney banners and our staff will be on hand to show you through.
The festivities will continue here as well - Andy Jumbo will be completing his installation and the music will continue with DJ Vivienne Kingswood so come back to join us for a drink after you've checked out the spaces.