Venues encouraged to reveal ‘absurd’ conditions
Monday last week, March 26, saw the first public hearing into music and the arts economy, with evidence given by sector representatives including Justine Baker of Solotel, Michael Rodrigues of Time Out Australia and Greg Khoury of Century Venues.
The day got off to a frosty start with the Upper House Parliamentary committee unable to get a straight answer from Create NSW, the NSW government’s arts policy and funding body, as to whether any of the 25 recommendations of the Night Time Economy Taskforce given in 2016 had been implemented. Create NSW has taken the matter on notice but must provide an answer to the committee by April 16, 2018.
Committee jaws continued to drop following evidence by Dave Faulkner, Hoodoo Gurus front man. Faulkner announced that the creative soul of Sydney was dying, and that the ecology that had given him his opportunities was under threat of extinction. The closure of Circular Quay music venue the Basement last Saturday after 45 years of operation supported his story.
Faulkner said: “The city is dying as a cultural place. It is becoming empty of culture. When people come to Sydney they do not just go to see the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. They also go to have a night out and to see music acts. That is what I do when I go to London or to New York. To have a city like London without Soho or New York without Times Square is ridiculous, but Sydney has been doing everything it can to destroy all those places of entertainment and turn them into apartment buildings.”
If Faulkner’s evidence had committee members’ jaws dropping, they properly hit the floor when Justine Baker gave evidence of a DA restriction of “no mirrorball” on a Surry Hills venue.
Extensive evidence followed from the Live Music Office on the red-tape issues that see would-be venue owners bounced between multiple departments, incurring crippling business costs in the meantime.
MD of Time Out Australia, Michael Rodrigues, said: “It was both eye opening and heart wrenching to witness first hand the raft of regulatory issues stymieing our creative venues – the arteries to Sydney’s creative heart.
“In addition to objections to mirror balls we’ve also heard of an Irish venue that is only allowed to play Irish music (no rock); and a club in Terrigal that can play music provided it isn’t rock music. To use the committee’s own words: ‘It’s mirrorball-gate.’
“It seems that the committee is open to learning more about the absurd conditions affecting venues, and I’d encourage any affected venue owners to register their details and a description of the situation at righttodance.sydney. We’ll then see what we can do to get this before Parliament.”
The inquiry, which is on the cusp of being the largest in the history of NSW Parliament, will have its next public session in Newcastle at the end of May.