Friday, August 18, 2006

Arts festival de-funded

Ironically the previous post on this blog was an interim web presence for the last Kings Cross Arts Festival program. Nearly a year later, it looks as if the 6th annual festival was the last one as council has decided not to continue funding. Council's rationale is that the festival had received funding for three years therefore other things had priority.

On the other hand the Kings Cross Partnership, a big-business association which has also received funding for several years, has been awarded $70,000 in direct funding, seemingly $20,000 above the limit set for business associations.

Council's rationale for de-funding the arts festival would therefore appear to be utter drivel.

This comes as no surprise to the local arts community as this council has bent over backwards to block, divide and sabotage the volunteer-driven event. Originally awarded $30,000 pa by the previous Lucy Turnbull council, this council halved it when a splinter arts group also applied, cutting the budget to $15,000. This is hardly enough to pay for publicity, let alone to hire artists or mount public events, and contravenes the council resolution which approves funding for AN arts festival each year.

There appears to be no redress when staff simply disobey a council resolution.

Nevertheless the Kings Cross Arts Guild went ahead and produced two successful festivals on this reduced budget, with an extensive program covering several weeks, featuring a high proportion of local and original talent. The Kings Cross Partnership refused to sponsor or support the festival.

The problem? The local community of Kings Cross are, shall we say, forthright, earthy people. This is not acceptable to Lord Mayor Clover Moore and council staff who it appears respond only to corporate or gentrified elements. They are rabid about 'cleaning up the Cross' despite their 'City of Villages' policy which aims to maximise the unique character of each urban village.

Unfortunately for them, the character of Kings Cross includes strip clubs, homeless people and thousands of late-night clubbers so its character is unacceptable to the 'naice' people. After $20m+ spent on 'upgrading' the place, not much has changed and we have 60 or so vacant shops in or around 'the strip'. The banks have all moved out and there is little parking. Yet the KX Partnership and council continue to fantasise about turning it into a nice little retail strip for 'the mother and child market' -- just like every other suburb in Sydney. Llankelly place, the first area to be 'upgraded' is virtually dead and its thriving Pad Thai restaurant is about to move across to Roslyn Street where they have more indoor seating.

Many locals, on the other hand, believe that major arts initiatives are the way to revitalise the Cross in a way that evolves its character rather than destroys it. So what does council do? Remove funding for the local arts.

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