'You may as well be opening a Sydney Opera House': Red tape in the way of live music



May 16, 2017 06:49:27

A drastic proposal to save Sydney’s live music and arts scene from becoming “extinct” by scrapping the need for costly development applications, has been presented to the Inner West Council.

It would allow every type of property zoning, excluding residential, to be converted into a small-scale arts venue without any development application needing to be submitted.

The plan, developed by Leichhardt’s former mayor Darcy Byrne in conjunction with Sydney Fringe Festival, would mean retail shopfronts, former factories and warehouses, cafes and office blocks could all become live performance venues.

“The arts scene is being strangled in red tape,” Mr Byrne told the ABC.

“Without a dramatic increase in the spaces available for rehearsal and performance our once-famous music and arts scene will become extinct.”

The emerald city has recently seen the closure of many landmark inner west pubs that offered live music, including the former Sandringham Hotel, which became the Newtown Social Club and closed its doors just weeks ago to make way for a golf putt putt bar.

“I think it would be much more sensible to come up with a simple set of rules that would mean we can greatly expand the number of opportunities that young performers and artists have to display their work in the inner west,” Mr Byrne said.

City fringe needs more space

Sydney Fringe Festival director Kerri Glasscock said the plan evolved after she used some disused spaces on Parramatta Road in the inner west as live performance venues during last year’s festival.

“[There are] an archaic set of regulations that [have] come from decades and decades ago where there was one type of business model for cultural venues like entertainment centres and large-scale theatres but that’s not the case any more,” she said.

“At the moment the costs associated for anything with a temporary approval can be around $6,000 per site, even if you use it for only two or three weeks, so then what was affordable becomes prohibitively expensive.

“We’re talking about a much smaller audience with usually less than 100 people … unfortunately in the eyes of the police and council, you may as well be opening a Sydney Opera House.”

Empty premises discovering their artistic side

One landlord, Bob Lopez, worked with Ms Glasscock and Mr Byrne to turn his vacant Annandale warehouse-style shopfront on Pyrmont Bridge Road into an exhibition and performance space for last year’s Fringe Festival.

It was previously a bathwares showroom but the tenant had gone into receivership.

“At the time Darcy and Kerri approached me the place was a big mess but Kerri and Darcy walked through all the bath tubs and seemed to be excited about the position and location, even though it looked pretty bad.”

He said the place was transformed into a thriving arts hub for the month-long festival and he is willing to do it again this year, possibly even turning it into a permanent live music venue if the proposal before council gets through.

“The changes that we would like to see are fundamental to keep the live music scene or theatre scene alive in Sydney. The Fringe Festival proved the success of this sort of thing, they ran it beautifully and it was a success in every sense.”

Mr Byrne who is candidate for Mayor of the Inner West Council, says he will be taking the policy to the September statewide elections.

He said the council’s current administrator has expressed “in principle support” for the idea but it would be decided on by the new council, once elected.











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