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PRESERVING AND FOSTERING CREATIVE SPACE AND VENUES IN SYDNEY’S INNER WEST

Inner West Council - Sydney, NSW, Australia
Facilitation, Research, Insights, Strategy, Delivery

Sydney’s Inner West prides itself as being a rich creative and cultural community, a melting pot of creative industries businesses, and a place that fosters social cohesion and community development through creative experiences. With the Inner West home to double the number of creative industry workers than the rest of Greater Sydney, it is evident this cultural activity is important not only to the local economy, but to the identity and value of this part of Sydney, attracting residents, businesses and visitors who seek a vibrant and engaged place to be.

However, as Greater Sydney undergoes significant growth and urban renewal, the Inner West is changing rapidly, shaped by forces beyond its control. The affordable, flexible and plentiful industrial spaces that have long housed the Inner West’s creative industries and defined the identity of its suburbs, are fast disappearing as land value goes up and residential demand increases, pricing out creative residents and businesses. The Inner West Council is cognisant of the impact that gentrification is having on the availability and affordability of cultural spaces and creative industries, and is urgently seeking ways in which it can protect cultural assets to retain, foster and grow the creative industries.

Off the back of and mirroring similar work being done by the City of Sydney into cultural infrastructure, Left Bank Co., together with community engagement agency JOC Consulting, partnered to deliver an in-depth creative venues and spaces study and deliver an internal discussion paper for the Inner West Council. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the current state of affairs for the provision of creative space through a detailed program of literature reviews, stakeholder engagement and policy analysis, with the goal of identifying what actions Council could possibly take to protect its valuable assets.

In consultation with the local sector and a variety of departments within Council, we assessed the current gaps, barriers and failures that are resulting in the loss of creative venues and spaces, and analysed the Council’s current approach to managing cultural space. By presenting and testing these findings with a range of internal departments within Council, we aided Council to develop a better understanding of these challenges, and begun identifying suitable policy levers and strategic actions to ensure Council is better positioned to work with the community to protect and grow the provision of creative spaces. 

As of mid 2019, the outcomes from this body of work are still evolving internally, however this study has provided a critical evidence base for input into Council’s strategic planning documents. There has been a clear realisation that Council needs to play a role in protecting, nurturing and growing the provision of cultural infrastructure across the LGA.