City Of Sydney Outlines 10-Year $20 Million Plan For Music & Culture

13 June 2024 | 2:33 pm | Mary Varvaris

"Our creative economy will buckle if we cannot provide artists, musicians, writers and performers with suitable places to work and live."

Sydney Town Hall

Sydney Town Hall (Credit: Katherine Griffiths/City of Sydney)

Last night, the City of Sydney unveiled a $20 million, ten-year plan for the city’s music and cultural life during a packed discussion at the Sydney Town Hall.

The plan is set to “retain, rebuild and reimagine” the city’s arts and culture scene and, if approved, would accompany the already-announced $34 million invested into the city’s cultural life.

A drafted plan called the Cultural Strategy would be implemented from 2025 until 2035 and address key issues impacting creatives in the city.

The Cultural Strategy would provide funding to establish a creative land trust, offer artist fellowships, establish grant programs, upgrade music venues, meet compliance costs, maintain creative spaces, and introduce a new planning aid service to help people navigate events and venue hosting.

In addition to the key elements the strategy aims to implement, the City of Sydney also considered installing new writers’ rooms and artist studios and providing infrastructure for public creative spaces, libraries, and other community venues.

During the discussion, the City of Sydney revealed that the number of people in Greater Sydney’s creative workforce has decreased by 11% from 2011 to 2021, with the cost of rent accounting for 62% of an artist’s income. Sydney is the only Australian capital city losing creatives to other cities.

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The Council will consider the City of Sydney’s plan on Monday, 17 June.

“While Sydney is a powerhouse of culture for the nation, what makes that possible is at risk,” Clover Moore AO, the Lord Mayor of Sydney, said.

“Our creative workforce increasingly can’t afford to live or work here. Our creative community has demonstrated extraordinary resilience in the face of unprecedented financial pressures, but unless we support their work and provide affordable and secure creative space, we risk losing our cultural vibrancy.

“Culture gives Sydney its character and a voice to our ideas and stories. There are no simple solutions, but our new cultural strategy will help direct efforts to retain what we have, rebuild what we’ve lost and reimagine an inspiring, diverse and thriving cultural life.”

The Lord Mayor added, “The City of Sydney already invests about $34 million a year in art and culture, which supports the economy, close to 1,700 creative businesses, and the thousands more that rely on them. It also provides Sydney’s artists with paid work.

“But no matter how much we invest in events or commissions, our creative economy will buckle if we cannot provide artists, musicians, writers and performers with suitable places to work and live.

“That’s why the new cultural strategy provides additional funding that will retain the local creative workforce, generate more production space and broaden participation in the arts.”

The Arts Minister for New South Wales, John Graham, said, “Like other major world cities, Sydney is finding that creative spaces are getting squeezed out. We have been losing that battle.

“We cannot deal with the scale of the crisis without new tools and a new approach. This model of collaboration and partnership is an important step forward.

“We all – government agencies, councils, private landholders - need to come together to preserve and protect our creative communities and activate spaces.”

Graham continued, “We are going to shift from what we’ve been doing, which is building a small number of amazing public spaces, to using a range of levers to deliver space and crucially activating space that already exists.”

The Lord Mayor added, “The scale of the loss of creative spaces is too great for any of us to tackle alone. Governments at all levels need to urgently work together to retain, rebuild and restore creative spaces close to affordable housing.”