Call for Sydney festivals to help revitalise city’s inner city “gaybourhoods”

Call for Sydney festivals to help revitalise city’s inner city “gaybourhoods”
Image: Sydney Harbour Bridge during Vivid Festival (PHOTO: Benedict Brook; Star Observer)

LIGHT shows at Taylor Square, book readings in Potts Point bars and films projected onto the buildings of Oxford St laneways could all be on the cards under new proposals to transform some of Sydney’s gayest suburbs.

Sydney councillor Jenny Green, part of a coalition of independent councillors of which Lord Mayor Clover Moore is a part, wants to encourage the city’s major festivals, such as Vivid and Good Food Month, to extend their events to Darlinghurst and Kings Cross.

Green said there was a huge demographic change in the area: “This is about trying to cater to the local community and lots of different age groups and provide options that aren’t all dependent on alcohol.

“There is a real opportunity for local businesses, the community and the city to work together to create and support sustainable and varied entertainment and cultural options in these areas.”

According to ABS data one-in-five couples in the two suburbs are same sex relationships.

The motion, being debated at tonight’s council meeting, will also look to approach the Writers, Film, Comedy and Sydney festivals with a view to staging events, including live music and talks, in the suburbs.

“Vivid was jam packed… and spreading [those visitors] out just a little would be fantastic,” Green said.

The Darlinghurst Business Partnership (DBP), which represents traders in and around Oxford St, cautiously welcomed the proposal but called for it to be more “nuanced.”

DBP president and co-owner of Darlinghurst’s The Record Store Stephan Gyory said Sydney needed to be “weaned off its festival crack,” whereby all events were in the CBD or harbour.

“We are doing a disservice by having everything in the CBD,” he said.

“I trade 355 days a year and [CBD-focused] festivals tend to suck the life out of Darlinghurst so we’re dead.”

While cultural festivals along Oxford St were welcome, Gyory said markets and food festivals actually encouraged people to stay away from local traders.

“Vivid would bring people to the area but food and wine festivals empties us,” he said.

Gyory said council should be looking to attract visitors and locals to city fringe neighbourhoods throughout the year with a longer term aim being to divert through traffic away from Oxford St to make it less congested and more of a “high street not a highway.”

A council spokesperson said Lord Mayor Clover Moore was supportive of Green’s proposal and that Sydney Council was already in contact with festival directors “as part of its commitment to enhancing the life of this important precinct.”

Moore said the city was working on a “placemaking and revitalisation project,” which has seen consultants work with: “local businesses, traders, property owners and residents along Oxford St to improve the retail precinct for the benefit of the community.”

The city also employs a dedicated Business Precinct Coordinator who works with local businesses in the area on initiatives such as the Shopfront Improvement Grant Program.

Image: Sydney lights up during this year’s Vivid Festival. Similar light shows and other festival events could be extended to Sydney’s “gaybourhoods”. PHOTO: Benedict Brook


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