Kings Cross Festival

I grew up on the leafy, quiet north shore. I discovered East Sydney when I was 18 and fresh out of school. When I finished Uni I got a part time job in Darlinghurst in 1996 and 9 years later took over the lease of where I was working and opened my own business. I’m still here in my business with one casual, one part time, couple of mates that do contract stuff for me when needed and a bunch of awesome crew that call the recordstore a home away from home.

I moved to East Sydney in 1999 and have been living in Potts Point now for 15 years. I’ve also been active in my community for about 11 years, google me, you’ll see I can’t keep a lid on it when I have a point to make.

For 11 years I have variously been founding member, agitator emeritus and now president of the Darlinghurst Business Partnership, which currently comprises about 70 members, less than 15% of which are local alcohol related businesses. Bar two museums, all members are small to medium businesses.

Our membership fees are low, we don’t take money from big business, corporates or vested interests and we are currently funded by the City of Sydney Business Support grants.

See more here: www.dbp.org.au

For those who know me, you would be hard pressed to call me anything other than independent and my goal has always been to see Darlinghurst thrive to the benefit of all stakeholders: residents, businesses and visitors.

For years, one of the notions I have been pushing out into the ether is that the distinction between resident and business in Sydney’s Villages is pretty much a false one. The City of Sydney’s economic Development Strategy shows that 80% of Village businesses are SMEs.

http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/156525/Draft-Economic-Development-Strategy.pdf

From personal experience I know this means that the owners probably work in their own stores and probably live locally, i.e. are businesses and residents, just like me.

I.e.this business versus resident thing – at least in East Sydney – is a false dichotomy.

So I am currently a little bit baffled by a series of events in Potts Point.

There seem to be some very disgruntled residents and they are levelling their ire at the Potts Point Partnership’s Kings Cross Festival. The main gripe, from what I can tell is that 1) it’s a food and wine festival and not an arts and culture festival and 2) council is spending rate payer’s money on a business group.

It’s here that my bafflement turns to perplexity because firstly, judging from the stall holders of the currently vibing Saturday Kings Cross markets at the El Alamein Fountain, the people of Potts Point and Kings Cross seem quite partial to some local food and drink; I know I am.

Secondly the council derives just a touch under 80% of its rate revenue from commercial premises. That means that business contributes 4 times as much rate revenue to the council coffers as residents. Why business should not then be entitled to organise a group, incorporate it and apply for a grant to do a festival is beyond me. This is essentially what the Potts Point Partnership has done.

Residents are also perfectly entitled to organise, incorporate and apply for grants. And I wish they would, because then they would see that when the Council grants $7500 to do a business plan for a festival it is not, as seems to be implied, because of some kind of incompetence on behalf of the organiser, but rather that council demands that their funds be spent in such a way that satisfies many, many criteria and meets many, many KPIs (Key Performance Indicators – yes, they also make you learns what initialisms like this mean – I know, because before I started applying for grants to try and contribute to my community – I had no idea what it meant either).

And really, you would actually expect nothing less from a council spending ratepayer’s money.

It bears repeating, there is absolutely nothing stopping residents groups from doing what the business groups are doing: organising, incorporating and then jumping through a squillion hoops to get a City of Sydney grant to try, in their own small way, to contribute to their community.

Anyone doing so should be warned however, that the council teet is not an endless source of funds, from experience, even if you pull off a successful event Council would like to see you become sustainable, which is why they tend to reduce funding for repeat events over time.

This is part of the reason that the Darlinghurst Business Partnership does not do big events or festivals because becoming sustainable means becoming profitable and this, in my experience and with regards to festivals, means you either take some BIG money and lose your independence, or you bring in outside stall holders, which kinds defeats the purpose of trying to benefit your local businesses.

In an ideal word business groups and resident groups would work together or at least in a synergistic way to contribute to their communities.

In an ideal world people would not draw a line between residents and small businesses where there really isn’t one.

In an ideal world anyone who wanted to do something to contribute would actually just do it and not try and tear down other people that are simply contributing in their own way.

Call me a glass half full guy, but I’d rather live in an ideal world than one in which neighbours snipe on twitter, trade haughty letters in little-read streets rags and bombard councillors with parochial gripes.

Really, this negativity is a complete waste of time and sucks the life and passion out of anyone who might have been thinking of trying to do something cool in their hood.

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