Sydney has an insatiable appetite for culture but won’t share the spoils

“And finally, monsieur, a wafer-thin mint?” Recent consternation over Sydney’s arts and culture glut brings to mind the restaurant scene from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, when John Cleese’s maître d’ plys an insatiable Mr Creosote — aka Terry Jones — with all the fare he can stomach until he literally explodes.

Sydney’s cultural appetite, it seems, knows no bounds. But don’t dare suggest the harbour city has had enough, or worse, could share the bounty.

The crowds at Circular Quay for this year's Vivid festival.

The crowds at Circular Quay for this year’s Vivid festival.

Photo: James Alcock

Take the Vivid festival. Overcrowding, we hear, has made it “impossible”. How dreadful. Basking in the glow of all that culture has never been so gruelling. Meanwhile, in large areas of western Sydney, the closest we get to a light show is a mosquito sparking the insect zapper at the local chicken shop.

Entirely reasonable suggestions that Vivid be “less frequent” or, heaven forbid, be held “elsewhere some of the time” are refused. The Tourism Minister responds that this is a job for the crowd control experts.

Would it be so bad if Vivid were held in, say, Campbelltown, Liverpool, Penrith or Blacktown every other year? Isn’t that what creating a vibrant 30-minute city is all about, prioritising access to cultural events as highly as jobs and services?


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