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Opinion June 26, 2018

The lockout laws may have started in Newcastle, but so did the thing that will save Sydney culture

The lockout laws may have started in Newcastle, but so did the thing that will save Sydney culture

In 2008, the lockout laws was introduced in Newcastle in a shortsighted bid to curb violence, drunkenness and general loutish behaviour. What it did instead was to simply spread this behaviour into areas not within the lockout zone, while also presenting a new violent problem, when thousands of people are ejected from clubs and pubs at the exact same time and all spill into the streets, frustrated and all looking for a taxi, trying to hop on crowded buses, or into unreliable trains.

It doesn’t need to be spelled out how brutally these lockout laws have decimated the night time economy here in Sydney. Jobs have been lost, once thriving pubs have been forced to close, and developers and politicians have successfully used the very-expected level of violence in the Kings Cross area as a veil under which to disguise their true intentions for this — not coincidentally — prime real estate.

But I digress.

Also launched in 2008 was Renew Newcastle, an initiative where unused storefronts are rented to artistic types for a nominal amount. These spaces — once boarded up bridal stores and the like — quickly transformed into art galleries, record stores, bookstores, fashion hubs, cafes, restaurants, curated clothing stores – and the whole of Hunter Street was soon teeming with life.

newcastle

As my tried bus yawns down Parramatta Road each morning I see the same thing I saw in Newcastle prior to 2008: empty stores, buildings with ghost signs and smashed windows, boarded up blights sitting there, doing nothing. The Annandale Hotel didn’t die due to mismanagement — and believe me, compared to its past, it is very dead — it was simply because it is so isolated. Nobody wants to be in that area of the city, because it is devoid of character.

Sydney has all but priced itself of being a place where young people can come and commit to any artistic or low-level business pursuit without a substantial safety net. There are countless empty buildings in the city just waiting for life to be breathed into them. It would be a shame if something like this doesn’t happen in Sydney, but there are clues it may be on the brink.

Marni Jackson is Cultural Projects Manager for the City of Sydney, and previous helmed Renew Newcastle. The city has already started offering affordable artistic spaces where possible, but these spaces are highly fought over, and not plentiful. Would it be amazing to have entire streets, blocks, hubs solely dedicated to such affordable artistic pursuits? It would create entire new scenes, new neighbourhoods, and would encourage other businesses to build nearby and take advantage.

It could be a bohemian paradise. Or it could remain a series of empty bridal stores.

This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.

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