City of Sydney Cultural & Creative Sector Forum Report by Louise Anderson


Big Fag Press Associate Partner Louise Kate Anderson writes:

I just thought I’d do a quick post on this. Last Wednesday I attended the City of Sydney’s Cultural and Creative Sector Forum representing the Big Fag Press. I thought it was a really interesting couple of hours, and I was inspired to know how invested the council is in listening to the thoughts and ideas of people who work in creative fields, in order to see how best to help them be able to use the city as a canvas for their creative endeavours.

Furthermore, it couldn’t have been a better place for networking – my table had a guy who works for the City of Sydney outdoor event management, a woman from ArtsHub, a woman from the Red Room Company, a guy who works in the youth music industry, one of the founders of the College of Event Management, and a woman from Waverley Council.

At the beginning I wasn’t really sure I would have anything to contribute, but the discussion led to many things I had ideas about. Our table came up with a few collective agreements. One was that Sydney is very much a lively place in terms of art and culture. “Top down” events like Vivid Sydney, the Biennale, Chinese New Year and the NYE fireworks are very successful. We also agreed on the fact that the government does a lot to support smaller initiatives, but that maybe these efforts could be slightly better directed.

In terms of “grassroots” initiatives, there was much talk on making it more accessible to individual young artists or smaller collectives wanting to just get out there and express creativity. I spoke of how, last year with my Ivory Tower posters, there was just no place to go out and put them. The dedicated City of Sydney poles for posters just get covered by advertising, and anywhere else they got ripped down. It would be so great if there was just spaces around for spontaneous public art. Places where you don’t need to be a verified “emerging creative” to use. The Guerilla Photography project on Elizabeth St by Fairfax photographers was something that was brought up – but nobody really knows if doing something like that is okay. Is it considered defacing public property? If Clover Moore hadn’t particularly liked those photographs installed in that place, would they have received fines for doing it?

Another thing I brought up was along the same lines – to me, at least when I’m walking around the streets instagramming things, it’s the oddities, the interesting graffiti, the chic little cafes, and the funny coloured walls that get my attention. I like things that are different, and provide an alternate to a cookie cutter town of gloria jeans, lowes and perfectly arranged front gardens. A point was brought up about spaces being unused at certain times – there are many places that, for example, are in use Monday to Friday 9-5pm, but completely useless at other times. So here is where my idea comes through – why can’t artists be the ones to decorate the city – to make the boring interesting. Why can’t we designate it a business carpark by day and a pop-up art gallery by night? Why does a wall have to be a brick wall – getting a company building wall graffitied by local artists could attract valid attention to your business.

And thus brings up another point. About legal, OH&S, and regulatory council hoops to jump through. I remember when I was doing my Open House project in Foley St in 2010, we had a lot of forms to fill out and information to gather, like making sure people had their RSA’s and everything. I know it’s a lot to do with people’s safety, which definitely should be put above all else. But getting through all that bureaucracy is a major hurdle for an artist or a small collective wanting to set up a guerilla pop-up gallery.

Much of our other discussion was about live music venues and making sure under drinking age teenagers also have access to entertainment, which I think is equally important.

Many of the other tables came up with similar points about reducing the “red tape” for artists and giving more opportunities to “grassroots” programs. Overall I found the forum had a very positive outcome, especially if some of these ideas are taken on by the City of Sydney. They could even have a direct impact on ARI’s like the Big Fag Press, like Runway, like Firstdraft. Very exciting!

Eloise Lindeback