The NSW floods are impeding the recovery of the state’s arts and music scene, as Labor and Liberal politicians join forces for a summit to lift the cultural sector out of a “state of crisis” caused by the pandemic.

NSW Arts Minister Ben Franklin said there was no doubt the arts sector had been hit hard by COVID-19, which had caused mass cancellations of festivals and events.

“In recent months, the music sector has been further impacted by the floods and severe weather conditions,” he said. “The cancellation or last-minute moving of music festivals is impeding the rebound of the industry.”

Mr Franklin and Labor’s federal arts spokesman Tony Burke will join local artists and performers, creative businesses and policymakers at the summit at Marrickville Town Hall on June 2.

Inner West mayor Darcy Byrne said the Inner West Arts Recovery Summit was designed to come up with a plan to reinvigorate the arts and music.


“Prior to COVID, the Inner West was the beating heart of Sydney’s arts scene and the revitalisation of the creative economy depends on the arts and music bouncing back here,” he said.


The Australia Institute last year reported the COVID-19 crisis had cost the arts sector 80,000 jobs and $24 billion in lost output, but those figures do not take account of last year’s extended lockdown.

The arts and entertainment sector in 2018-19 had an estimated value of $17 billion – 0.9 per cent of GDP. Artists and performers were forced to sell their homes, live on food vouchers and exhaust their savings as the pandemic robbed them of their livelihood.


Singer-songwriter Andy Golledge said he hoped the summit would “get the ball rolling” on more funding for venues and performers such as touring grants or funds to upgrade stages, seating and sound systems.

“A universal basic income for artists and musicians would be a dream, but realistically I don’t know whether that could happen,” he said. Pandemic lockdowns forced Golledge to cancel a tour to promote his debut album, but he said he was “fortunate enough” to receive JobKeeper for a while thanks to casual work at the Marrickville Bowling Club.

“It really put a stop there for two years to my potential career growth,” he said. “Emotionally I suffered greatly not being able to perform.” Cr Byrne said the arts and music sectors were in a “state of crisis” after two years of the pandemic and economic hardship. “As we emerge from the pandemic, it’s now time to look forward and identify opportunities for revitalisation and recovery,” he said.


Mr Franklin said the state government had spent $350 million on the arts sector during the pandemic “and more funding will be made available in the future”. Mr Franklin welcomed the summit as an “effective way” for the arts industry to work faster and more efficiently with policymakers to reinvigorate the sector. “We will continue to work with the sector to explore fit-for-purpose solutions for creatives and organisations impacted by COVID-related cancellations and significant disruption,” he said.

Sydney Fringe festival director Kerri Glasscock said she hoped for a continuation of bipartisan support for the arts that emerged during the pandemic.


The summit was an opportunity to hear from people not usually included in roundtables or on task forces “and empower them to set the agenda for the future,” she said. “We are really keen for this event to not be a whinge-fest focussed on past gripes, but an opportunity to reset and reimagine.” Ms Glasscock said the arts sector was entering a period of transition as the COVID-19 crisis eased, but the woes of artists and performers predated the pandemic.

“The old business structures and deficits of the past are no longer tenable,” she said. “That combined with a decade of pressures felt by the industry ranging from over regulation, reduced funding, rising costs of living, gentrification and land-use conflicts, has left our arts and music landscape in a tenuous position.” Ms Glasscock said there had been “unprecedented support” in NSW for the arts during the pandemic, but many arts and cultural businesses were in a tenuous position. “I’d love to see discussion around safeguarding existing venues and space, how the community can utilise the incredible suite of regulatory levers NSW now has to activate space, and how our companies and artists can be backed for success,” she said.

Written by Andrew Taylor is a Senior Reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.