Last week we learned that, according to the Time Out Index, Sydney was rated the 10th worst city in the world when it comes to diversity, culture and dynamism.
On the ground here at UL Syd, we're lucky to see a much different picture on the daily: a new wave of creatives fighting for Sydney's vibrant, living, breathing urban culture.
From the women leading the charge in our exciting food and drink scene, to the former DJs reviving tired pubs for a new generation, opening pint-sized mezcal bars or wild ale rooms, recreating iconic music venues, or daring to dish out a version of an EU-protected Italian delicacy. We see it via the talented art directors and photographers that bring our Threads series to life here in Sydney, and the small but fierce universe of artists, designers and musicians shaping Sydney's eclectic creative landscape.
Last night, I spoke to Tyson Koh—the founder of Keep Sydney Open and one of the party’s three Upper House candidates running for a seat at the table in Saturday’s state election.
Over the phone in what must be a busy week for the KSO crew, he said the reason he started the organisation was that he believes, even now, that “Sydney’s best days are ahead of us”—and I couldn’t agree more.
“There are people who are so passionate and hardworking and have incredible taste when it comes to music, food, design, fashion,” he continued. “We deserve a chance to tell people that story.”
On the eve of the announcement that Mary’s would be stepping in to resurrect another of Sydney’s iconic live music venues this year, business partners Jake Smyth and Kenny Graham spoke about a renewed energy behind culture in Sydney. The Basement, they assured me, in its new form as Mary’s Underground, was a part of that energy—bringing “more layers and more texture to what a night out in Sydney means.”
Like his fellow candidates Jess Miller and Jesse Matheson, Koh is a part of the community of the Sydney creatives, artists, chefs, festival organisers, musicians and venue owners he's battling to support. He produced ABC's iconic Rage program for eight years and has had a part in some of the city's major events like Sydney Festival. He's also a bloody great DJ and used to spin tunes every Sunday afternoon on FBi Radio.
Koh says Keep Sydney Open began "in response to the introduction of the lockout laws in NSW," but that it encompassed so much more than "just being able to get into a venue."
"I saw the impact on musicians and venues and the buzz on the street, but also on our confidence as a city," he says. And as such, Keep Sydney Open's policies rest in the bigger picture for NSW and the many knock-on effects of choking the culture out of a city.
"We wanted to expand on what the word “open” could mean," Koh explains. "Open to us means not just open for business, but also open to new ideas, new ways of thinking, open means transparency and open to each other."
BREAKING! All of our 63 candidates are now officially registered across NSW! 42 candidates in the Lower House and 21 in the Upper House. Keep Sydney Open is now officially a new force in politics, not just in Sydney – but across NSW. Look out for your local candidate. Keep Sydney Open Party, coming soon to an electorate near you! [Authorised by Eoin Maher, Keep Sydney Open, 255B Crown St, Darlinghurst NSW 2010] #keepsydneyopen
On the agenda for the party are things like 24-hour transport, swapping the tax subsidies for pokies with a big investment in live music and culture, an evidence-based approach on drug policy reform, repealing licencing regulation for music festivals and protecting renters rights and increasing the amount of affordable housing.
Openness in the sense of government transparency is also a key message for KSO: "We are proposing to strengthen ICAC and to increase the cooling off period between when someone leaves government and enters a private sector role they once had control over."
At UL, we see Sydney's colourful, exciting urban culture and the awesome people out there creating it every day. What's maybe the best part about KSO to me is their determination to give those creative voices an amplifier, a venue, a stage and a mic to share a story about this city that's gone unheard for a little too long.
You can check out the full list of Keep Sydney Open policies on their website, here.
Image credit: Keep Sydney Open.