City Talk: What creative life do you want for Sydney?

(6.30pm, Wednesday 10 April 2013, State Theatre)

Thank you, Adam [Spencer, MC]. Hello, everyone. It's great to see you all here. I'd like firstly to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the traditional custodians of our land, and to pay my respects to their Elders. I also acknowledge the people of 200 nations who live in our City.

Welcome to tonight's keynote speaker, Carol Coletta, President of ArtPlace America, and also welcome to our panellists, Nicole Durling, Senior Curator of Hobart's fabulous MONA (Museum of Old and New Art); Katherine Hough, director of Arts Tasmania, Marcus Westbury, founder and director of Renew Australia, Charles Firth, CEO, Manic Studios and co-founder of ABC TV's The Roast, and Louise O'Donnell, Digital Director, Seed Production.

The City helps foster Sydney's creative life in a range of ways: through our support for major events such as Sydney Festival, the Film Festival, the Sydney Writers Festival, the Biennale, Mardi Gras, through our support for community arts, at our Pine Street centre; through our extensive Public Art program, and of course, through our grants programs.

Our planning regime and our own City projects can also shape and support creative life. This comes about through the policies and priorities we set - for example, our decision to support and promote small bars and to re-animate the City's laneways and our recent addition of food trucks.

We can use our consent powers to achieve new cultural facilities as part of development which is how the City achieved the Angel Place Recital Hall. While in East Sydney, our project to restore the Burton Street Tabernacle in creating the Eternity Playhouse which we'll open in coming months.

A culturally vibrant city needs a critical mass of both formal and informal activity. It needs the big, set-piece events and the small-scale and spontaneous ones. It needs formal venues and ad hoc spaces. It has to provide opportunities for participation, and for spectators.

Above all, it needs a broad community of artists, artisans, curators and entrepreneurs, to ensure that community's growth and continuity; it needs to be a place where young and emerging creatives can afford to live and work.

Our properties in Oxford St, William Street and Redfern Street, have been made available to young creatives starting out (supporting as Neil Armfield said famously at a previous City Talk "the seed beds of culture").

To help us foster our cultural and creative life, we asked Rachel Healy to prepare a discussion paper for us.

Her comprehensive report - Creative City - has been recently released and is the basis for a series of discussions we are holding with the creative sector this week, with more scheduled in the next two months.

You can read the discussion paper and join the on-line discussion at:

While the City supports Sydney's creative culture to the tune of $34 million each year, it's about more than handing out grants. Money matters, but ideas matter more, and sometimes opportunities can be created out of little more than a fertile imagination and a determination to achieve.

We want to support and inspire future generations.

And it's about looking at our cultural assets - the non-material assets as well as the physical infrastructure - and looking to how we might best deploy our resources to strengthen and deepen our cultural contribution, and to make sure it is accessible to as many people as possible.

A rich cultural life is not peripheral but vital to the creation of a strong, thriving and prosperous city and Sydney already has so much that is strong, and unique to this place.

So we want to ask you:

  • What is Sydney's culture to you?
  • How could we make it better?
  • How can we inspire an even richer creative culture?
  • How do we make sure creative people can afford to live and work here in Sydney?
  • What inspires and persuades people to get involved, go out to shows or invest in local work?
  • Does what we're doing fit with what people care about?

Over the coming months, we hope that the workshops, surveys, vox pops and online consultation will help tell us about the creative culture people want in Sydney.

We have an inspiring group up here on the stage, and I know there are many talented and experienced people in the audience, and we're looking forward to your playful, passionate and creative ideas, not only tonight but also in the ensuing discussion online.

Thank you.