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Current location: Home > Speeches > City Talk: Greening Sydney's Cultural Ribbon

City Talk: Greening Sydney's Cultural Ribbon

Sydney Town Hall

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Thank you, and good evening, everyone.

I would like to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the traditional custodians of this land, and I pay my respects to the Elders, both past and present.

And I welcome tonight’s guest speakers—the Sydney Theatre Company’s artistic directors, Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton. They’ll be telling us about greening their historic building at Walsh Bay and about their vision for a creative and sustainable precinct.

Creativity is one of our city’s great strengths, which we must support and nurture into the future.

Fostering “a cultural and creative City” is one of the ten goals of Sustainable Sydney 2030, following extensive research and talks with City communities.

We want to build on Sydney’s cultural strengths, and support new and emerging creative sectors.

The fundamental principle of 2030 is action on global warming.

We have set ourselves the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the entire City by 70 per cent by 2030. That’s what the best available evidence told us is needed to play our part in averting damaging climate change.

It’s ambitious – but it can be done if we all work together to rethink the way we live and work.

We don’t expect to easily achieve the target. In fact our ‘waterfall chart”—where we plotted expected results from each carbon reduction program—points to a deficit that needs to be filled by future innovation.

In this challenging era of climate change, the creative impulse is our greatest ally.

As we map the dimensions of the problems confronting us, creative minds will suggest solutions, imagine new ways of doing things and offer alternatives.

Creativity can help us achieve a thriving and sustainable future and it is no surprise that our creative communities are among some of the first and most innovative in exploring and finding new green solutions.

Artists have long explored environmental themes, from the reuse of materials in new forms to cutting edge sculpture exploring renewable energy in response to global warming.

Allan Giddy’s ‘Earth v Sky’, commissioned by the City, will light waterfront fig trees at the end of Glebe Point Road in colours responding to the sky at sunset. Integral to this work is a domestic-scale wind turbine that will power the lights and help provoke wider public understanding.

Last June, I welcomed to Sydney, Justine Simons, Cultural Strategy Manager for the Greater London Authority. Justine headed London’s Creative Industries environmental program, bringing together theatre, film, music and visual artists to work on their industry’s sustainability.
In one practical example Justine gave, London’s theatres were throwing away around 600,000 used batteries each year. Most were batteries for radio mikes, replaced after every performance. Now those batteries are collected and recycled.

That’s not to suggest our own creative industries are not taking action and innovating—and tonight we will hear about the Sydney Theatre Company’s work.

At the Museum of Contemporary Art, the new wing under construction will incorporate sustainable design, including a seawater heat exchange with a fully integrated air-conditioning system.

The Opera House, the Australian National Maritime Museum and the Botanic Gardens all have strategies to reduce water and energy consumption and to encourage recycling.

Metro Screen and Screen NSW have Green Screen policies to reduce environmental impacts while an organisation known as GRASS, or Getting Real About Sustainable Screens – is a national initiative of the Australian Directors’ Guild to help reduce the carbon footprints of industry productions.

Some argue that Sydney has under-appreciated its creative sector and that there is more we can do to promote our cultural life. But it’s also true that there is a flourishing creativity here that daily enriches our city life.

If you take the broad definition of “creative industries”, it includes the arts, web culture, media and publishing, film and animation, library and information services, and the design professions.

By that definition, Sydney is home to one-third of all creative workers in Australia, although we have only 20 per cent of the total Australian workforce.

We rank first in absolute numbers and in relative share, and we have between one quarter and 60 per cent of all workers in areas ranging from performing arts to film, from recreational services to internet publishing and broadcasting, among others.

According to UTS research, Broadway is the epicentre of creative industries within the City, with 20 per cent of employment in Ultimo-Pyrmont in the creative industries, 20 per cent in Chippendale and Redfern, and 30 per cent in neighbouring Surry Hills.

UTS is now home to the Federal Government’s Creative Industries Innovation Centre, which will further strengthen that Ultimo-Pyrmont base, which we identified in Sustainable Sydney 2030 as a “Central precinct” to be developed as the centre of creative, media and knowledge industries.

During a City Talk in 2007, Neil Armfield, Director of the Belvoir Street Theatre, spoke about the need to maintain the "seedbeds" of culture — the places where artists and performers can be nurtured, work and grow.

He described opportunities provided to young musos and visual artists by the Melbourne small bar scene. It was then I resolved to move a private members bill to introduce small bars into the NSW licensing system. I am pleased to report we now have 36 small bars in Sydney City – providing opportunities for our creative talent.

Although an authentic culture must grow organically, there is much we can do to fertilise and stimulate that growth.

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