Opening proceedings last night in the band room of the Lansdowne Hotel, comedian Matt Okine recalled, “I remember moving down to Sydney eleven years ago and thinking this was the greatest city in the world … it was a place where anything could happen at any time.”
Wry smiles broke out on the faces of those assembled from across the night-time economy. We didn’t need Okine to remind us that Sydney isn’t like that anymore.
This was the launch of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), a newly formed alliance of representatives from the hospitality, entertainment and arts sectors. With the state election only five weeks away, the association is pushing for government action to kick-start Sydney’s night, after years of neglect.
The five policy solutions proposed by the alliance were a better balance of regulation for venues, a ‘one stop noise shop’ for noise complaints, the elimination of red tape that restricts entertainment venues, investment in the creative industries and a recognition that the night matters. Speakers ranged from Michael Rodrigues, chair of the NTIA and managing director of TimeOut Sydney, Justine Baker, CEO of the Solotel Group, which among other venues owns the Kings Cross Hotel and the Marlborough Hotel, Kerri Glasscock, CEO of the Sydney Fringe Festival and Kamran Ahmed, psychiatrist and CEO of Rave Reviewz.
With such a diverse panel, the topics of concern were broad, from the tyranny of noise complaints, the mental health benefits of music, the economic returns of a night-time economy and the lack of funding for small to medium arts companies. What united all the panellists, however, was the civic benefits of a healthy night life that sustained creativity, for, as Jake Smyth, owner of the Lansdowne, put it in his remarks, “The night is a time for the poets.”
Rodrigues commented that the solutions are out there, and highlighted how other cities such as Melbourne and Singapore were investing in creativity, not only for the benefit of those who live in the city, but to encourage visitors to return again and again. In Sydney, in contrast, anything to do with the arts or cultural activity in the evening is perceived as being high risk, according to Glasscock.
While the lockouts are often singled out as an example of government efforts to curtail Sydney’s nightlife, the NTIA represents a response by the entirety of the economy which relies upon people going out after 6pm, and is hoping for a governmental response that grapples with the sector in its diversity. With recent announcements of the cancellation of Mountain Sounds Festival due to restrictions imposed at the eleventh hour, a subsequent 50 000+ person petition and a picnic protest close to the venue with almost 1000 people attending, there is growing public pressure on the government to act.
Rodrigues and the NTIA remain hopeful that the state government will respond, calling on premier Gladys Berejiklian “to appoint a minister that says, ‘Yes this is serious.’”
As Smyth noted, “I’m here every day because our culture demands it. Culture demands a community, and this one I’m in front of is a powerful one.”
To find out more about the NTIA go to ntia.org.au.