Cultural and creative life

5 minutes with … Kerri Glasscock

Kerri shares her thoughts on the challenges and opportunities facing Sydney’s nightlife.

Kerri Glasscock

Kerri Glasscock is the co-chair of the City of Sydney’s new Nightlife and Creative Sector Advisory Panel. The panel was set up earlier this year to provide advice about supporting a thriving, diverse and safe nightlife.

Kerri has been the director and CEO of the Sydney Fringe Festival since 2013. It’s the largest independent arts festival in NSW. She is also a director of City Recital Hall, and has operated the artist-run Venue 505 in Surry Hills since 2004.

Why did you originally get involved in Sydney’s nightlife and creative sectors?

I’ve been involved in Sydney’s nightlife for almost 20 years – first as an actor and theatre maker working in the independent scene and then later as a venue owner, artistic director and festival director.

My now husband and I founded the underground performance space Venue 505. It was created as a space for artists and audiences to meet and for new works to be tested out. The main focus of the space was the performance that was taking place, not the drinks served at a bar or the big screen TV in the corner. 14 years on, 505 now runs 2 full-time performance spaces – Venue 505 and the Old 505 Theatre in Newtown, with more than 320 performances and events a year.

Running these spaces has thrust me into the world of advocacy for the independent sector and for our city’s nightlife as a whole. I suppose I started out wanting to express myself through performance. As my career has developed that has remained one of the sole reasons I continue to work in the sector – to support people to have a place to express themselves. It’s a basic human right to have a platform from which culture can be heard, and our cities are better for it.

What do you love most about Sydney’s nightlife and creative scene?

I love its resilience, its versatility and its inventiveness. I often say Sydney’s creatives thrive in spite of all they have to endure – so imagine what they could achieve if they were supported!

The great thing about our nightlife is that it’s full of creative people from all across the country and the globe who have moved here to be amongst like-minded people, to find a platform and to contribute to a vibrant community.

Some people like to talk down Sydney’s nightlife, but we have so many talented creatives who are sticking it out and producing incredibly good, high quality, progressive work. This is why it’s imperative to push for changes that support our local creatives to ensure we keep them in the city.

What do you see as the major challenges facing these sectors at the moment?

Regulatory hurdles that actively prohibit cultural activity is the big one. This includes building use, land use conflict and archaic planning regulations. Also challenging to Sydney artists is the rising cost of living, unaffordable housing and a loss of creative space.

What role do you think the advisory panel can play in meeting these challenges?

It’s a terrific opportunity to have representatives from the creative sector in the same room as those writing policies and regulations. The value of this shouldn’t be underestimated, as the nuances of our sector are so finely tuned that having the ability to discuss and debate these with City staff is really beneficial. I’m hopeful it will result in some significant changes that will have a positive result for our city’s nightlife.

What is your vision for Sydney’s nightlife and creative scene in 5 years’ time?

I hope that all suburbs’ high streets have a diverse nightlife full of small creative spaces – maybe a shopfront theatre, maybe small bars or galleries – so residents don’t need to travel into the centre of the city or to destination stadiums to consume culture, they can just pop down the road and visit a local establishment.

I’d love to see a landscape where our interpretation of ‘late’ is adjusted to much later than it is now.

Where retail, child care and all amenities have the ability to stay open later and longer. And of course, I’d love to see adequate public transport that enables people to stay out longer and get home safer.

Published 27 September 2018, updated 3 October 2018