REMIX Global Cultural Summit

(9am, Thursday 8 May 2014, Carriageworks)

Thank you and good morning everyone.

I'd also like to acknowledge the many distinguished guests here today, and to welcome our overseas visitors to Sydney.

REMIX does a fantastic job of bringing together creative leaders from media, technology, business and the cultural and creative industries, and the City was delighted to join with the NSW Government, the Australia Council and the University of NSW in bringing REMIX to Sydney.

I'd also like to thank the REMIX global partners including Google, Bloomberg, the British Council and The Guardian - all innovators and supporters of the cultural and creative industries around the globe.

It's now widely accepted that culture and creativity are the well-springs of successful global cities. Indeed, in the 21st century's globalised economy, with its young and mobile workforce, cities need to focus even greater attention on developing all aspects of their creativity to provide the hospitable and stimulating environments that foster the knowledge economy.

It was with this in mind that the City began to develop Sydney's first-ever Cultural Policy with a strategy to support and foster cultural life in Sydney.

I believed that a comprehensive cultural policy would enable the City to affirm the centrality of the arts and creativity to all our lives, and that beyond their undoubted economic importance, culture and creativity shape our distinctive ethos and identity.

By 2012, when I proposed forming the Cultural Policy, we had already taken some steps to support creativity.

One of the first was to ask the annual Sydney Festival to increase access for low-income earners to paid Festival events, so that it would be accessible to a wider range of people. Sydney Film Festival and some commercial producers soon followed suit.

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

By late last year, our Oxford Street buildings were supporting 18 creative-industry tenants, with four exhibition or retail spaces at ground level. The spaces are working so well - bringing in an average of about 7,000 visitors each quarter and upwards of half a million dollars spent on local goods and services since the program's inception - that we extended the tenancies through to the end of this year.

Altogether, more than 160 creatives are working from those spaces at any given time; more than 700 artists have exhibited there in the first year, and tenants have collaborated or linked with more than 300 others in the local area.

We have also recently provided six, one-bedroom apartments for artists to live and work as the latest addition to our William Street Creative Hub - a dynamic mix of commercial creative tenancies like Hub Sydney with affordable space for emerging creative like Romance was Born.

This initiative, along with our work to promote small bars, signalled the direction we wanted to take, building on the unique character of each of our urban villages, and bringing variety of scale and experience into the city's heart.

Sydney is blessed with a number of world-class performing arts companies but we need to ensure the "seed beds" of the future are nurtured and protected, that we keep affordable living and working spaces for young and emerging artists, and that we help grow their audiences.

The success of the small bar movement came from a combination of genuine community need and City leadership, taking on the vested interests which decreed that Sydneysiders were happy with their beer barns dominated by poker machines and huge beaming sports screens.

And despite the scoffing of the head of the AHA, who claimed that Australians did not want to sit in dimly-lit bars, drinking chardonnay and reading a book, we have seen an explosion of distinctive, intimate venues, enlivening village main streets and City laneways.

They have been supported not only through regulatory changes but through City-organised seminars for business start-ups.

In developing our Cultural Policy, we looked for a comprehensive policy to bring together all of the City's own activities which - directly or 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 of events like Sydney New Year's Eve to our support for major festivals - the Writers Festival, Film Festival and the Biennale - to the creation of community gardens.

We defined "culture" to include not only the arts, but museums and galleries, our history and heritage, design and architecture, libraries, community events, the media. The policy reflects on all these areas.

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

It has been formulated after extensive, in-depth consultation with more than 2,000 individuals, including representatives of the major companies as well as from start-ups; from practitioners to arts policy-makers.

Importantly, it creates new avenues for people to participate broadly in Sydney's cultural and creative life - as audiences as well as practitioners.

Although we spend some $34 million on cultural programs each year, it is not the City's primary role to be an arts funding body. Rather, our main contribution is to ensure that cultural planning is intrinsic to urban planning, so that as places evolve or are developed, their creative and cultural attributes are considered, as much as are transport or the environment.

One of the hallmarks of the policy is the number of practical, cost-effective ways it finds for the City to promote culture and creativity, and to increase participation. For example, we will trail the use of City-owned child-care facilities to help people with young families - those who traditionally disappear from audiences while raising their children - so they can attend matinee and early evening performances.

Our regulatory powers can be used to promote the inclusion of music practice rooms in new residential developments and we plan to develop our annual festival of Art & About into a year-long celebration of creativity in the city's 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 are also working to remedy one of the most glaring gaps in Sydney's cultural life and that is formal recognition of the cultural heritage and contemporary experience of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

Working with our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Panel, we've developed an Eora Journey which will weave through the City to Redfern, and we've allocated $10 million for public art associated with it.

We are now working with indigenous artist Tony Albert who is creating a monument to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women who served Australia in wartime - and who are serving today in our armed forces.

This is our contribution to the Anzac centenary next year, and also long-overdue recognition of these men and women.

So this is the sort of cultural planning we are committed to. In this case, it has resulted in an artwork but it's the cultural thinking behind it that helps us achieve on of our important policy principles - that "creativity helps our community express our shared values and negotiate our diverse beliefs".

We are seeing private interests driven by the same impetus - for example, in the BEAMS Festival started in Chippendale in 2012.

The brainchild of the Chippendale Creative Precinct partners, it has, with the support of the City through our business and cultural grants programs, breathed new life into an area of our city.

The successful redevelopment of the former brewery site there has spurred a revitalisation of the entire precinct with cafes, galleries and a rich network of small creative businesses.

The developer, Dr Stanley Quek of Frasers' Property, worked with the City on making the Central Park development an asset for Chippendale, including extensive, high-quality open space.

Dr Quek himself personally offered a $100,000 donation for the Chippendale New World Art Prize. This was a wonderful opportunity for the City's artists, and a wonderful way to put Chippendale in the public eye as Sydney's dynamic new arts precinct.

He also contributes to sponsorship of the Beams Festival.

These are the sorts of partnerships that will help brand Sydney as the dynamic, creative city of culture, one which cherishes the best of its past while gladly welcoming what these decades have to offer.

I hope our visitors will discover some of that dynamism for themselves.