AUSTRALIAN ART CURATOR BLOG: FUTURE TRENDS AND WHERE WE SHOULD BE STEERING SYDNEY
Over the last two weeks, I’ve explored Sydney’s community problem, and had an in depth look at Sydney’s night time economy. This week, I want to examine what trends are happening across the world in strengthening communities, and what we can learn from cities that are culturally rich, 24 hour, bustling urban hubs.
Where do we start? Who do we look to as an example? Let’s take a little trip over to what was my home city for a decade: London.
In November of 2018, London released a report called London at Night: An Evidence Base For A 24 Hour City which not only outlined what London should do to become a 24 hour city, but what it’s already doing. The report found that “London is a city of night owls” and that a quarter of Londoners are going to bed after midnight. Almost 50% of these people are using their evening time to run errands, with the rest using it to shop, socialise, play sports, and go to art or culture events. If there are people out and about in the city after the regular closing time of around 5 or 6pm, having a city to cater to those needs makes perfect sense (Sydney, take note).
How many times have you had to leave an event early because you needed to get the last train home, avoiding an uber or cab charge, only to have to run to the station, just scraping through the closing doors? One of the main concerns of the London at Night report was public transport, and making it easier for people to get home safely. And this isn’t only for the people going out and hitting the town, this is for the workers doing the night shifts at bars, hospitals, or restaurants. A 24 hour night tube was implemented to ensure a safe journey home for all Londoners, and in doing so, created around about 2,000 permanent jobs, and boosted the city’s economy by £360 million. While Sydney already has its own night bus service, you’d understand why people try to avoid it and the drastic improvement needed, if you’ve ever had to catch one home. Even if you just wanted to catch the train from anywhere on the city circle line to a populous place like Marrickville or Newtown after 10pm, you could end up waiting on the platform for up to 25 minutes. That’s a long time to stand alone after dark, on an empty platform, which then becomes a natural deterrent to staying out late.
And what about implementing art in public spaces? Can art make a place safer? Of course! We can beautify spaces with works that not only function on an aesthetic level, but create a safer, more accessible space. Bristol based artist Zoe Power didn’t always feel comfortable riding along a key cycleway to and from the University of West England after dark (where she was a student), and was becoming fed up seeing pedestrians and cyclists collide on the unlit path. She decided to take action, reaching out to the university asking for funding for a public art project. The result was Electronic Moon, a permanent light installation, which is both an incredible destination artwork to look at during the day, and now lights up the previously unlit bike path at night, making it safer for all.
The ‘Mayor’s Illuminated River Program’ is a similar project detailed in the Think Night: London’s Neighbourhoods from 6pm to 6am report, which takes the same sort of idea and implements it on a much larger scale. The program aims to bring light based art installations to 15 Thames bridges across London, and should start illuminating them by summer of 2019, with all bridges illuminated by 2022. The goal of this initiative is to “create welcoming, safe and easy to navigate streets and public spaces at night, year-round” (think London’s own permanent little Vivid). Can you think of some dark pockets of Sydney that could do with some creative lighting solutions? I certainly can!
Over in Amsterdam, we are seeing more positive night time policy in action, with some nightlife establishments such as clubs and music venues, have been given a 24-hour license to allow them to function as restaurants, cafes, or even art spaces during the day with the aim of diversifying the Amsterdam clubbing scene. These venues are being treated as a valuable commodity in Amsterdam, now able to service the community at all hours, rather than only being open for half of them. On such example is De School, described as “a 24-hour licensed initiative in Amsterdam-West, open 7 days a week as a club, a music venue, a restaurant, a cafe, a gym, and an exhibition space.” De School focuses on locally based artists (across music, performance, and visual arts), while still welcoming international acts. It’s since become an artistic hub for Amsterdam, actively creating culture and community across a variety of areas in it’s multi-purpose venue, day and night, with the general consensus that it’s now an important part of Amsterdam’s cultural ecosystem.
So what have we learnt? What can we implement and build upon here to create a bigger and better Sydney? Very simply put, here’s just a few ideas;
A range of non-alcohol centric art and cultural events for Sydneysiders.
Extending trading hours into the evening, benefiting both businesses and consumers.
A continued activation of Sydney’s community hubs such as Newtown’s King Street or Darlinghurst’s Oxford Street.
A safe and regular 24 hour public transport system, offering a cheaper alternative to Ubers or Taxis.
Continued support from the government in illuminating public spaces, making them feel safer and welcoming.
And of course, more public art that not only activates a place but transforms them into safer, more beautiful areas (Art Pharmacy can help with that!).
Sydney is definitely on it’s way, and I feel that something like Vivid is a prime example of that. It’s solid proof that Sydneysiders are willing to come into the CBD, outside of regular hours, to readily engage with art and culture around the harbour. “If you build it, they will come” as they say. What trends have you seen overseas that we can implement here in Sydney? We need to hear your voice, the voice of the people actually living in the communities that we’re trying to improve.
So let’s get out there Sydney, let’s build something beautiful together.