Panel beaters from last weekend’s panel at VIVID’S Creative Sydney provided a strangely upbeat mix of responses regarding the question “Is Sydney pricing creativity out of the picture?” Or in other words “Is the high cost of living in Sydney fucking over the very creative people who make Sydney a great place to be”.
In this context it is important to note VIVID Sydney is produced and financed by EventsNSW, which is a wing of the Tourism portfolio of the State Government, soon to amalgamate into a new entity called Destination NSW and receive an additional $45 million dollars in public money to add to its $400 million dollar budget. Hence the question seems to be better phrased as: Now that ‘creativity’ is a key driver for the economy, in particular for selling the metropolis to consumers of tourism, how can growth be maintained when it’s obvious to everyone that overheads in the cost of production are so high, and that not all parts of the sector can compete evenly.
So rephrasing the question to “Can Sydney afford to keep pricing out certain types of creativity?” Well, the cynical answer is, errrr, yes. If the vision for Sydney includes main stage musical theatre and $900 million dollar convention centres, then yes. And particularly if your vision is shared by the same decision makers who were not overly concerned that large flat screened TVs in Sydney’s pubs were a valid alternative to live musicians. Or that real estate prices are allowed, nay encouraged to, continue rising by the business community and the government, pushing out anyone who can’t afford to keep paying them. Or that artists who play their part in gentrifying an area for 2 years in a “free” warehouse given over by developers, should be gracious in moving on and leaving their creation of surplus value behind for others to profit from. Yes, the answer is a definitive Yes! Sydney can afford to price creativity out. As long as this is the kind of Sydney you want to live in.