In an important development for the Sydney live music and performance scene, on Tuesday 26 August Leichhardt Council unanimously endorsed the recommendations of the Parramatta Rd Live Music Reference Group without amendment.
Introduced to Council by Mayor and Reference Group member Darcy Byrne, background to Council was also given by Leichhardt Council Director Environment and Community Management Peter Conroy. Speaking from the floor on behalf of the Reference Group, members John Wardle and Kerri Glasscock addressed Council on the 9 recommendations as well as the policy context for the live music initiative.
The theme of “Off Broadway” not only includes the strong history of live music that this area of Sydney has but also the many cultural ancillary businesses along Parramatta Rd such as teaching, dance and recording studios, musical instrument retailers and repairers, costume designers, as well as comedy venues.
Tweaking local controls to encourage small bars, working with business on measures to support activating vacant premises as well as public domain improvements including lighting will lift the current demeanour of Parramatta Rd and support existing venues and business.
To encourage the cultural development of this area, Council has resolved to work closely with the City of Sydney and Marrickville Council on developing guidelines and advisory information, developing a common approach to the lodgement and assessment of DAs and ensuring that a consistent approach is taken to compliance and enforcement matters.
The Reference Group comprised the following people:
- Holly Throsby – Chairperson,
- John Wardle (CoDirector, National Live Music Office),
- Alex Elliot-Howery (Cornersmith café in Marrickville),
- Adam Lewis (Goodgod & FBI Radio),
- Roderick Smith (Renew Australia),
- Tom Scott (Blackwire Records )
- Kerri Glasscock (Fringe and Venue 505)
- Hugh Nichols – City of Sydney
- Cr. Jo Haylen – Mayor Marrickville Council
- Caroline McLeod – Marrickville Council
- Cr. Darcy Byrne – Mayor Leichhardt Council
The final recommendations of the group have been consolidated into the following nine (9) priority areas. These excerpts have come from the report tabled in Council.
1. The City of Sydney, Marrickville and Leichhardt continuing to work together on the broader State and Regional issues, in particular those identified in the City’s Live Music Taskforce Report, including:
Collaborating with the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing on research and amendments to Legislation and Regulations etc.
- Work on defining offensive noise and its assessment
- Work on s149 Certificates to ensure appropriate notice is provided to prospective purchasers, in particular those buying in the vicinity of mixed use and late night trading areas
- Modifying building codes, LEP’s and DCP’s
- Guidance for creative start-ups and existing venues in ensuring that locations are fit for purpose
- Ensuring that requirements and standards are geared towards nature and circumstances of pop-up and other more transient land uses
- Consistency of compliance and enforcement action
- Improving loading arrangements
- Aligning operations between the organisations to ensure constancy of documentation and advice etc.
- Use of Council premises for rehearsal and performance.
Likewise, the Councils can also link up with other organisations such as the City of Wollongong and pursue common objectives from their respective reports.
The Reference Group believe that it would be beneficial for the three Councils to continue to work together:
- On matters that involve the discussion and review of State wide policies and controls in relation to noise, amenity, fire safety and licensing
- And develop guidelines and other advisory information to facilitate the provision of uniform advice and guidance to prospective applicants
- And develop a common approach to the lodgement and assessment of Development Applications in relation to hospitality and performance applications
- To ensure that a consistent approach is taken in relation to compliance and enforcement matters.
2. Determining “Off Broadway” as the framework for the proposed Parramatta Road Cultural, Entertainment, Performance and Live Music Precinct
For a destination to be attractive to venue operators, artists and audiences it must offer something unique. There is no point in trying to replicate something that already exists and thrives in Metropolitan Sydney.
Something unique will not only assist in establishing a Performance and Live Music Precinct, it will also contribute to the overall vitality and attraction of Parramatta Road.
The reference group is of the view that Sydney’s “Off Broadway” represents such an opportunity.
The term “Off Broadway” is often associated with the creation, development and testing of new works – often but not limited to theatre, musical theatre and cabaret, when scripts and works are refined before being taken to the main stage theatres of Broadway. Sydney currently has no such place for emerging artists to develop their careers or for professional artists to develop new work in small affordable venues.
The group believes that in the case of Sydney’s “Off Broadway”, it can be associated with low cost, flexible space that will facilitate the organic development and growth of new work for emerging artists and markets.
Various performance spaces could be established within this framework, for example:
- Flexible, intimate performance spaces
A range of other ancillary and complimentary land uses could also sit comfortably within the “Off Broadway” framework, for example:
- Live Music
- Graphic design
- Small bars
- Music, performance and event equipment
- Artist studio and gallery
- Marketing and publicity
- Social media
- Vintage clothing and furniture
- Props and prop hire
Finally, a number of the above uses also sit comfortably with both Councils in terms of “Sustainability”, as they involve the re-cycling and re-use of clothing, furniture and other goods.
- Shopfront radio station.
3. Expanding and supporting small bars and ancillary land uses
Small bars are one of the smaller scale activities that can contribute significantly to the diversity and vibrancy of an area.
Recent experience in Sydney has confirmed that “Small Bars” are one of the main facilitators of “creative” and interesting new land uses.
Small bars also have the capacity to:
- Evolve out of existing business’s – for example a bookstore that be expanded to include a small bar and visa-versa
- Cater for all ages
- Operate both during the day and at night.
It also needs to be acknowledged at this point, that venues that provide “Live Performance” for the benefit of patrons, often operate quite differently to premises that basically serve food and alcohol with or without recorded background music.
Bar service in Live Performance or similar venue is significantly lower to that of other licensed premises. Bar sales tend to drop off or cease completely throughout performance times. Upon completion of the performance patrons then resume using the bar service. The income earned either side of the actual performance allows to operator the engage the performers and cover the other costs associated with operating the business.
Another challenge for the Councils is to determine how they can facilitate these new creative small businesses without exposing them to a range of upgrade costs that will render them unviable before they even start.
It is the view of the group that Marrickville and Leichhardt need to either build on the work already undertaken by the City of Sydney or collaborate with the City of Sydney to advocate and provide services and guidance in relation to:
- Submissions to the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing
- Determining standards that are both compulsory and discretionary
- Identifying potential sites
- Establishing appropriate trading hours for each area
- Publishing fact sheets, guidelines and requirements for lodging applications
- Co-ordinating activities across the many departments that often exist within Councils.
4. Define initial activation area boundaries – Parramatta Road and Sydenham
The two areas assessed by the Reference Group are quite different in terms of location and character. However both provide genuine opportunities for focussing action and support for live music and associated activities.
5. Public domain improvements
A key element on the project going forward will be to make some improvements to the public domain. However, any Public Domain improvements should:
- complement the “Off Broadway” framework that is being proposed
- be attractive to proprietors, emerging artists and their patrons.
The basis for these improvements are threefold:
- Transforming the nature of the area to complement increased pedestrian traffic
- Improving access and safety for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users, with improved signage, illumination of pedestrian crossings etc.
- Ensuring that the many people who currently pass through the area are aware of the changing nature of the area.
The following is a sample of initiatives that could be considered by Marrickville Council, Leichhardt Council and other stakeholders:
- Installation of location lighting
- The painting of shop fronts
- Landscaping with pots and plants
- Installation of bike racks
- Improving street lighting
- Permitting/encouraging food trucks, buskers and the like Promoting activities and public transport stops in the vicinity of the area o Encouraging landlords to re-invigorate shopfronts, remove or modify security shutters and the like
- Introducing banner poles, banners and signage
- Ensuring that the establishment and operation of the area is safe for patrons, in particular in relation to the proximity of Parramatta Road. In this regard the re-introduction of kerbside parking and/or other barriers may assist
- Utilising the existing Public Art Programs – run by the two Councils, to develop and locate new installations – temporary or permanent at key locations.
6. Working with existing businesses and landowners
Working with existing businesses and property owners will be critical to the success of the project. The reference group believes that the Councils should formally engage with all owners and/or businesses associated with properties:
- that currently operate within the umbrella of Culture, Entertainment, Performance and Live Music – they will be the foundations upon which the future is built
- the use of which could be to provide a range of complimentary activities, for example properties used as café’s during the day could be expanded to become a small bar and small performance venue at night that are currently vacant
- that are currently used for purposes that are in no way associated with Performance and Live music.
7. Activating vacant premises
During the site inspection, the Reference Group members noticed a number of vacant Premises along Parramatta Road.
The Reference Group is also aware of Leichhardt’s recent success at the Italian Forum through introducing “Renew Leichhardt” based on Renew Newcastle. These programs have a number of important attributes, one of which is quality control.
This program could be extended to Parramatta Road and be used as a catalyst for introducing short-term land use activities that could contribute to:
- The establishment of the “Off Broadway” framework for the Parramatta Road precinct
- The uniqueness and vibrancy of the area, as has happened at the Italian Forum and Newcastle
- Improving the longer term prospects of properties along Parramatta Road.
8. Marketing and promotion
All of the preceding activities need to occur within the context of a well-planned and programmed Marketing and Promotion Strategy. All must be aligned to achieving Sydney’s “Off Broadway” precinct.
Any Marketing and Promotions strategy should therefore be consistent with the evolution of a low cost, flexible space that will facilitate the organic development and growth of new work from emerging artists.
The following is a sample of Marketing and Promotion initiatives that could be considered by Marrickville Council, Leichhardt Council and other stakeholders:
- establishing “branding” that is consistent with Sydney’s “Off Broadway” precinct
- planning and programing related activities in a way that supports both the evolution of Sydney’s “Off Broadway” and its identification by people passing through it
- utilising social media and other contemporary marketing and promotion tools
- utilising opportunistic marketing and promotion tools
ensuring that the public domain and shopfronts are consistent with the “Off Broadway” proposal.
The Marketing and Promotion Program could provide for:
- A “kick off” event
- The Co- ordination of activities across the area
- Co-ordination with existing activities such as the Fringe Festival, Marrickville Open Studio Trail and Leichhardt Open Studio Trail
- Include annual activities such as the Beaurepair Record Fair.
9. Developing partnerships
An important element in the delivery of the strategy will be building the interest and capacity of younger people:
- currently studying at a range of private and tertiary institutions
- recently graduated and looking for opportunities to utilise their recently acquired knowledge and skills
- self-trained and looking for opportunities to develop their skills
Young people, teenagers and others are not only a significant source of creativity and new ideas; they also have a feel for emerging genres, performers and markets.
Existing young venue operators also require support and guidance in their business dealings.
The reference group therefore believes that it would be beneficial to establish relationships with one or more organisations, and formalise opportunities for:
- Work experience in the industry sector
- Accessing training opportunities
- Accessing short term use of equipment and other support services to facilitate start ups
- Accessing mentoring in relation to business planning, venue establishment, venue operation, audience development and the like
Some examples of organisations that may be willing to develop formal relationships with the two Councils include:
- Performance organisations such as FBI Radio and Sydney Fringe
- Tertiary institutions such as Sydney University and UTS
- Private institutions such as the Actors College of Theatre and Television
and JMC Academy of Creative Industries.
The Councils may be able to further assist this program by facilitating pop ups, leasing strategic sites for short term activities and /or developing additional programs with Renew Australia. Finally, the development of these strategic partnerships could also assist in the establishment of an “Implementation Group” to participate in the ongoing implementation of the Reference Group recommendations by Marrickville and Leichhardt
Leichhardt Council currently has $60,000 set aside to fund the implementation of Parramatta Road Live Music. In addition Marrickville Council has set aside $50,000 to fund its Live Music initiatives. The City of Sydney has also set aside funds to support Live Music initiatives.
Should Council endorse some or all of the recommendations of the Reference Group, it will be necessary for Council Officers from the City of Sydney, Marrickville and Leichhardt to meet and develop a draft implementation plan.
Once endorsed by Council the draft implementation plan will have to be presented to key stakeholders, such as the current Reference Group and exiting businesses and land owners for their input.
A final version of the draft implementation Plan could then be presented to each Council for adoption and subsequent implementation.