At Sydney Town Hall this week, Sydney Theatre Company Artistic Directors Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton pointed to Sydney's world-class venues and performers, and explored what we need to do to promote our cultural strengths and strengthen our cultural vitality.
Our latest CityTalk focused on the links between action on global warming and Sydney's cultural life, particularly the Sydney Theatre Company's 'Greening the Wharf' project, which is creating a unique green cultural precinct at Walsh Bay.
In this era of climate change, the creative impulse must be our greatest ally. As we map out the challenge confronting us, creative minds will suggest solutions, imagine new ways of doing things and offer alternatives. Creativity can help us secure a sustainable future and it is no surprise that our creative communities are among the first in finding new green solutions.
Cate and Andrew told a packed audience that Walsh Bay had the potential to be the world's first green arts precinct. The Sydney Theatre Company has installed the nation's second largest roof-top solar energy system so that Pier 4/5 now gets most of its energy from renewable sources. A rainwater harvesting system is being installed to provide all of the building's non-potable water.
It was a provocative presentation, based on the optimistic premise that Sydney has an exciting, unique and distinctive cultural offering, with many of the basic building blocks in place, but an enduring failure to celebrate and effectively develop our achievements.
Cate and Andrew, strongly supported by the audience, repeatedly stressed that for Walsh Bay to deliver on its potential, it needs improved transport, revitalised nooks and crannies, and more opportunities for people to linger and soak up the atmosphere.
At an earlier CityTalk in 2007, Belvoir Street Theatre Director Neil Armfield spoke about the need to maintain the "seedbeds" of cultureâ€”places where artists and performers are nurtured. Authentic culture must grow organically, but there is much we can do to fertilise and stimulate that growth.
Neil described opportunities provided to young musos and visual artists by the Melbourne small bar scene. It was then I resolved to move a private members bill to introduce small bars into NSW licensing laws and we now have 36 small bars providing new options at in Sydney at night.
I have worked to expand affordable working space for artists, so that Sydney's high costs don't force artists out of the inner city. Council encouraged Frasers to develop the Kensington Street studios on the former CUB site and has established other artists' studios in a former Council depot at Woolloomoolooâ€”with more ideas being developed.
Promoting creativity and innovation, Council has also recently funded the Sydney Film Festival for a further three years; the 10th anniversary of information technology trade event Cebit Australia; the Rosemount Sydney Fashion Festival; and the Sydney season of the musical Mary Poppins.
Since its modest beginnings in 1954, the Sydney Film Festival has grown to be one of the world's most respected film festivals and a major fixture during Sydney's winter months. In recent years the Festival has responded to the City's request that it increase access for people on low incomes and it now hosts a community screening during the Festival each year.
Council's support of the Rosemount Sydney Fashion Festival is largely value-in-kind, including use of Sydney Town Hall. The Festival helps promote Sydney as a major fashion centre and its use of Town Hall helps promote the venue for major events. The 2011 Fashion Festival includes over 50 satellite events across the city and in our villages.
The City's in-kind support for Mary Poppins reflects our wider strategy to attract major premieres to Sydney, which recently secured the premiere season of Dr Zhivago and the Australian premiere of Legally Blonde in 2012. Such shows can draw more than 2,500 extra visitors to Sydney every week, spending money in our restaurants, cafes, shops, hotels and visiting our other attractions.
Around 35,000 interstate and international visitors will attend the Cebit trade event from 27 May to 2 June, providing significant economic benefits. The City will provide sponsorship of $20,000 for the event, which includes a one day Sustainability Industry Conference in Sydney Town Hall.
- Video of City Talk presentations and panel discussions available for download at: www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/podcasts/citytalks/default/default.asp
- Officers' Reports on the Sydney Film Festival and Cebit Australia: www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/Council/MeetingsAndCommittees/2011/Committees/280211/cultural.aspx
- Officers' Reports on the Rosemount Sydney Fashion Festival and Mary Poppins: www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/Council/MeetingsAndCommittees/2011/Committees/070211/cultural.asp