It’s been four years since the party-halting lockout laws were introduced by the NSW government, affecting businesses in formerly vibrant nightlife zones like Kings Cross. And we’re still experiencing the impact of this legislation – particularly in the way Sydneysiders view their options after dark. In the latest Time Out City Life Index, in which Sydney ranked 28th in a list of 32 global cities for livability, 66 per cent of Sydneysiders said it had been 12 months or longer since they last went to a nightclub. So even if there are places to go out at night, we’re feeling pretty down in the dumps about it.
So what now? Do we want to wallow in nostalgia for nightlife gone by? Or is there anything we can do to revitalise our city’s streets after dark?
Today, the City of Sydney has launched a new expert advisory panel tasked with invigorating the city at night – and they’re calling for people from across the nightlife and creative sectors to join. The new Nightlife and Creative Sector Advisory Panel will advise the City on how best to support a thriving, diverse, safe nightlife, and work is likely to start next month.
Councillor Jess Scully tells us the panel will be “sort of like our brains trust, like our sense checkers. They’ll get to hear everything first – from what the City is proposing to how they’re planning to communicate with the sector and the community – and they’ll get to give first-hand advice.”
They’re looking for representatives from hospitality, retail, live music, urban planning, public safety and property development, and applications are open now until February 26.
“The goal is to get voices in the room that aren’t usually at the table,” says Cllr Scully. “There’s a generation gap when it comes to engaging with council processes and submission timelines, this is a way of saying ‘hey, if the local government isn’t communicating with younger audiences in the right way, how can we do this better?’”
There are up to 16 places on the panel, which includes at least two spots for representatives under 30 years old. Scully, “an ancient 37 year old”, is keen for the panel to reflect the way younger generations go out at night now – not five, ten or 20 years ago. “Things are changing more dramatically from generation to generation and what we want to do is to make sure that we’re getting the most up-to-date method of telling this story and asking the right questions to younger generations who are often not represented.
“We’ve got to understand that nightlife is changing in Sydney and part of the goal is to go back to the community to say ‘what do we want nightlife to look like this year, next year and the next ten years?’ Since the lockouts where has nightlife shifted? Is it working?
“Nightlife is in a constant state of flux. Right now there is a great nightlife in Sydney but the more we talk it down the fewer people go out and the more of a self-fulfilling prophecy it becomes.”
The panel is expected to weigh in on the City of Sydney’s proposals, but to become a megaphone for communicating progress back to their communities. They’ll be able to hold council accountable for delivering on agreed changes, too.
“I’m – as always – an optimist about Sydney, and I think it can be a tough town, it can be an expensive town where we're fighting all the time, but so is London and so it is New York, and so is Paris and even Amsterdam, but in different ways,” says Scully, who explains that the panel will operate on a model similar to those working in other other global cities – including those that have so-called Night Mayors to champion the city’s reputation after dark.
The City of Sydney has met with Amsterdam’s former Night Mayor, Mirik Milan, and has participated in the Global Cities After Dark conference and the Electronic Music Conference. Scully says every city in the world is dealing with a version of this challenge, regardless of the lockouts. “Property prices or changing demographics – every successful global city deals with these tensions. We need to learn from our counterparts around the world, and this is about throwing it open to get more ideas in the room.”
Know someone who’d make an excellent panellist? Prod them to apply for a role on the Nightlife and Creative Sector Advisory Panel before 6pm on Monday February 26.