by Julius Grafton
Peak employer association Live Performance Australia briefed arts industry leaders in Sydney on November 28, reporting on difficult progress with the NSW Government, and on ticket sales nationally. The live performance industry continued to drive Australia’s cultural economy in 2018 with more than 26 million attendances generating almost $2.2 billion in ticket revenue. Revenue increased by 14.8% on the previous year with growth in all states and territories except the Northern Territory. Attendances also increased by 14.1% on the previous year.
However the issues facing performance companies and promoters have sharpened.
The ‘war on festivals’ and the lack of progress reopening Sydney’s Theatre Royal highlight the disinterest of the NSW Government, in stark contrast to other states, particularly Victoria. A proposal to measure state, territory and the federal government commitment to the arts annually was raised by CX, arguing that annual spending charted over time could influence better outcomes. LPA observed that they have many policy programs underway, and that one report on arts funding was recently commissioned called ‘A New Approach’.
LPA chief Evelyn Richardson detailed the history of the Theatre Royal shutdown, with LPA lobbying the high-rise building owners even before closure four years ago, and joining with the Media, Entertainment, and Arts Alliance union to bring pressure on the owners and the State to re-open the venue. Sydney suffers a chronic shortage of theatres, which denies the state tourism revenues and when combined with the (now repealed) Lock-Out laws has resulted in a sharp contraction in the night time economy.
The NSW Government announced in November that the theatre lease would go to open tender, after major operators rejected the previous ‘expression of interest’ lease proposal which required a one-off up-front payment of $37 million to the developer – before any renovations which would also be at their cost. It is unclear what has shifted.
During the briefing the management at Parramatta Riverside Theatre expressed alarm at delays and uncertainty over a redevelopment of that complex, associated with inaction on moving the Powerhouse Museum from Sydney’s CBD to Parramatta.
LPA did clarify the Labour Hire License scheme introduced by several states, most recently Victoria. Read broadly, the legislation appears to require any firm or venue adding labour hire onto an invoice be licensed, but LPA Director David Hamilton stressed it only affects crewing agencies and not production suppliers or venues.
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