29-30 November, Giant Dwarf & Cake Wines Cellar Door

‘Kieran J Hennessy Crashes EMC & Global Cities After Dark Conferences, Finds Free Food’

My shirt clung to me with mad sweat from the hot walk to the first of three days of music conferences. I was late, of course, and had missed the Global Cities After Dark keynote speeches. For once, I had good reason – work. You have no chance of business success in the world of Sydney nightlife without working your ass off at all hours.

It shouldn’t be that way, but it is. What an irony that I couldn’t hear the keynotes about improving our suffering nightlife because it’s such a battle to get enough work done in our own city’s nightlife industry. Is Sydney still a Global City? Or just a global joke we can’t yet bring ourselves to laugh at?

I ran up the side of the building where the Giant Dwarf Theatre is in Redfern across from Prince Alfred Park. I almost bowled over several politician delegates mingling for morning tea in the courtyard but straightened up just in time to not cause anyone any lasting damage. Jack Single, a friend and sick photographer from yeahsure. was shooting the event.

“What did I miss, Sack Jingle?”

“Interesting keynotes from the Night Mayor of Amsterdam, another speaker skyped in from Argentina. Insightful stuff. Free food.”

Mirik Milan, the Night Mayor of Amsterdam, was key in organising this invite-only conference. The invites all came with a hefty price tag – all except my media pass – cheerin’! – and patronage saw a wide spread of ages and representatives from the private and public sectors.

Jack and I met while getting rather loose at Lost Paradise the year prior. The tendency for bigger, special, unique and experiential events to attract the bigger ticket sales, like festivals in the bush outside of the cities, is a natural trend since going out in Sydney for live and electronic music became so overregulated and undervalued, with no support from government and a dwindling sense of community and culture.

This in itself is a broad overstatement – I’m more reiterating the tone of the conferences, including Electronic Music Conference which occurred over the following two days. Vi Hermans, co-founder of Motorik (plus a bunch of other cool shit), may as well have delivered a eulogy for Kings Cross – we feel like we can’t truly be free in the current regulatory environment, he said, and this is completely true. We’re shackled at our own events. Though there are still us few zombies clawing at the soil of Sydney to get back to a point where we can breathe again.

As Hermans said, “If you want to work in this industry, you got to do it for the love, not for the money.” The lack of money, though, is all the more reason for policymakers to support creative businesses, rather than stifle them. John Graham, Labor Member of the Legislative Council, was present and we had a chat, along with Mitchell Wilson from his office and another representative of City of Sydney policy, but I’ve lost his business card so can’t name him. They may have been the guys I almost knocked over upon arrival, but they embraced me as a fellow. There is real interest and effort being made to fix things, at least from some people in positions of influence. The amount of discussion across both conferences on revitalising Sydney’s nightlife, especially given the political representatives at Global Cities, showed some promise here, but the movement will still take years.

Some key points that arose from this was that a bottom-up approach must be taken more seriously, with community collaboration that brings about initiatives with the true DNA of the community. A combination of critical mass and political leadership is the only way to get things done, requiring allies all throughout nightlife industries (including hospitality and transport) and in government.

An example was raised in the Global Cities conference during a collaborative group workshop that Waverly Council doesn’t allow food trucks. The excessive regulation and endless red tape merely stifles experimentation and innovation, which are the keys to development and social progress. Collaboration vs regulation – let’s make a decision like adults.

Given such regulations, in the panel ‘Where The Streets Have No Name; Parties Off The Radar,’ alongside Hermans, Edward MacDonald of Human Movement spoke about his own illegal events thrown on Eastern suburbs beaches and under tunnels, where sometimes a little bribe to a local official would be necessary to keep the hounds at bay and let the people play and party and partake in all that the freedom of the night has to offer. I help throw a weekly event in Kings Cross, And Then Saturdays at World Bar (come on down yewww), and hearing about these incredible expression sessions underground made me wonder what I’m doing with myself, what we’re all doing with ourselves?

Following this, I managed to catch the end of the panel ‘When the Beats Just Don’t Match; Mental Health In Electronic Music.’ Mental health is a huge issue in the music industry given the nature of creative work and the bizarre, demanding hours – a primary topic of discussion was how people keep up with the high-intensity social flux of working in music, where drugs and alcohol are often openly available, and plenty of people struggling to connect with each other in a real way. We meet so many of our fellow music lovers but in such loud, transient spaces that it can sometimes isolate us rather than bring us closer.

I sat in the park after this panel discussion, staring at the city skyline and the grass and trees and everyone seemingly enjoying themselves, and I wondered if my own crazy ups and downs were natural and normal, or am I suffering something deeper? It’s a struggle in the current regulatory and cultural climate of Sydney. We don’t want violence or trouble – just good people, good music, good times, good sex, good drinks, good parties. Does the ridiculous music work cause the mood shifts, or do the mood shifts push you into the ridiculous music work? Fuck knows. Just keep creating cool shit with amazing people and hopefully earn a living ya battler.

Thank you Global Cities, EMC and LunchBox for the passes and the morning tea. For the sessions I actually attended, it was lovely.