How do we keep Melbourne’s vital arts scene alive?

How do we keep Melbourne’s vital arts scene alive?
Ellen Sandell

I was so pleased to recently attend the opening night of the War-Rak/Banksia festival at the newly rebuilt La Mama Theatre in Carlton in December.

This local theatre has been through so much. Following the fire that destroyed the theatre in 2018, La Mama committed to rebuild, only for us to enter a pandemic which has devastated Melbourne’s arts and creative industries.

But through all this, the La Mama team persisted, and the new theatre is absolutely stunning. The War-Rak/Banksia was chosen as the theme for their reopening festival as, after fire, its flower comes back stronger and more beautiful than ever.

The arts is such a big part of what makes Melbourne unique. It feeds our soul and it fuels our economy. But the Omicron outbreak is continuing to make it very difficult for our precious arts and creative industries to survive.

After significant advocacy by artists, the Greens and others, I was very pleased to see the state government recently announce four-year funding for more than 100 creative organisations - including La Mama theatre, Melbourne Fringe Festival and Midsumma. Ongoing, more-secure funding for festivals and arts organisations is something I asked the government to provide as part of our CBD recovery plan and I’m very pleased to see this funding become a reality.

The arts have a history of reviving cities after crises - from Berlin to Christchurch. Our iconic arts organisations and festivals often run on the smell of an oily rag or exist on unstable year-to-year government funding.

Longer-term funding for this sector will help ensure our creative industries and workers thrive and become sustainable long-term, and that our city remains vibrant.

But more is needed to keep our creative sector alive right now. We also need to protect our arts communities and heritage buildings. Yet right now one of our most iconic arts venues - the Nicholas Building - is about to be sold and is at risk of being turned into apartments. I’ve joined the community in calling on the state government to provide a loan to the City of Melbourne or the Nicholas Building Association to buy the heritage building so that it can be retained as an affordable, unique arts and creative community. So far, the Labor state government has refused, but we’re continuing our advocacy.

I want my kids to grow up in a Melbourne rich with culture and creativity - the Melbourne that I know and love. I will continue to push for support for creative industries, along with other important initiatives to get our city thriving again. You can find out more about the Greens plan to revitalise the CBD here.

If there’s ever anything I can do for you, please get in touch at [email protected]

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