THE creation of a cultural precinct at Barangaroo and Walsh Bay that would include a new 2000-seat lyric theatre should be an ”utmost priority” for the state government, says a report the government commissioned.
To keep pace with Melbourne and Brisbane, Sydney also needs to build outdoor multi-purpose venues including one that could hold 20,000 people for free and ticketed events, and another for circus tents, the report says.
The first study in 16 years looking at Sydney’s long-term cultural needs found the city compared favourably with other cities, including Chicago, Manchester, Copenhagen, Hong Kong and Australia’s two other east coast capitals, with a couple of ”notable exceptions”.
It said the future use of the Domain for cultural events such as Opera in the Park was at risk because of the ”extremely high” costs of staging events, which could become uneconomic for the Sydney Festival.
The Planning Sydney’s Cultural Facilities report was commissioned by the former Labor government and prepared by Rob Brookman, the former general manager of the Sydney Theatre Company, for government agencies including Destination NSW, Tourism NSW, the Barangaroo Delivery Authority and the City of Sydney.
After holding 94 consultations with representatives from the performing arts, museums and galleries, Mr Brookman has compiled a list of Sydney’s cultural needs for the next 15 years.
Since the last such study commissioned by the City of Sydney 16 years ago, Sydney has added a recital hall, a lyric theatre at the casino, and the Sydney Theatre, as well as refurbishing the Capital Theatre, Belvoir Street Theatre and the Verbrugghen Hall.
But Sydney has missed staging several musical premieres because of a lack of suitable theatre space. The report says one is needed, and would cost about $150 million. That would relieve pressure, but not indefinitely. ”In the short to mid-term, audience demand and producer activity levels are unlikely to support the immediate construction of more than one new lyric theatre in Sydney but that within a 15-year time frame there may well be demand for two new theatres,” it says.
It says the central zone at Barangaroo – between the commercial towers in the south and new headland in the north – would be ideal for a theatre and a large capacity outdoor venue.
”Sydney has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create something of extraordinary value and this review argues strongly that the conscious development of Barangaroo/Walsh Bay as a cultural precinct should be of the utmost priority,” the report says.
The Minister for the Arts, George Souris, said it was too early to say which proposals might be supported.
”We recognise that there are areas which have been neglected over the past 16 years and need updating and we will be considering the report’s recommendations over the coming months,” Mr Souris said.