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Developing the Creative Industries in the Northern Rivers Region

1. Cultural Overview of the Northern Rivers region
The Northern Rivers Region stretches from the Queensland border to the southern end
of the Clarence Valley and from the coast to the Great Dividing Range in the west.
The Local Government Areas that make up the region are Tweed, Byron, Ballina,
Lismore, Richmond Valley, Clarence Valley and Kyogle.
With a current population of over 271 000 people, the Northern Rivers Region has
one of the highest rates of population growth in an Australian region outside the
capital cities.
New residents are attracted to the lifestyle opportunities and an increasingly
sophisticated regional community.
The Northern Rivers Region is culturally and environmentally diverse and is
renowned for its warm climate, rainforests and stunning beaches, and big rivers.
The rich culture of the region is influenced by the Indigenous Bundjalung and
Gumbaynggirr heritage, a rural and agricultural past, the traditions of the New Italy
settlements, the alternative cultures introduced after the Aquarius festival in Nimbin
in 1973, as well as surf culture and university students, and the newest wave of seachange settlers relocating from the metropolitan centres.
Major cities in the region are Tweed Heads, Lismore, Grafton and Ballina. However it
is best known for its tourist icons such as Byron Bay and Nimbin. People every where
know where we are!
The Northern Rivers Region is a culturally diverse and active region has been
described as an artists mecca renowned for its creative communities, cultural
activity and high concentration of artists.
2. Research in the region:
And we also have data! We will provide a brief overview.
"Making Art Work" was a comprehensive Report into the Art Industry of the
Northern Rivers region complied by Peter Wynn-Moylan in 1991. The Report
concluded then that the Northern Rivers region had become the liveliest and most
exciting arts area in Australia with more artists and craft workers per head of
population than anywhere else, including the cities. The Report canvassed artists and
arts organisations in all the art forms. In total 1285 professional 'artists' were
identified in the region. The largest percentage identified in this study were visual
artists: 25.7% (330).

The Report also provided data on the income and expenditure of artists, their needs,
arts organisations, galleries, retail outlets and arts funding.
The development of the area as an artist's mecca was tracked back to the midseventies, when the migration of artists from the cities began.
However, the report concluded that "The true potential of the Arts as an important
INDUSTRY in this region has not been realised. The benefits which would flow from
a vigorous, integrated art industry are considerable and extensive and the opportunity
to take advantage of its potential has never been greater."
That was 10 years ago. Perhaps Peter was ahead of his time, and only now have
regional development agencies understood that the creative industries are a potential
ecenomic driver for the region. However this report provides a 10 year old snap shot
which allows us to trace trends.
Chris Gibson's 1999 PhD and subsequent articles and reports also provide a
comprehensive analysis of the music industry in the region, mapping employment,
income, business trends, festivals and the links between music producers and those in
information, desktop publishing and design industries and the increasing amount of
musical activity targeted at tourist markets, in particular at Byron Bay.
Then in 2000 Cathy Henkel conducted her important study, which established the
critical mass of creative practitioners 4.1% of workforce and identified the largest
concentration of credited screen industry producers outside of Sydney and Melbourne
(the new entrepreneurs).
The Study identified a total of 1621 people involved in audiovisual industries in the
region, and a further 2278 involved in creative industry organisations in the region,
representing writers, musicians, performers, theatre practitioners and multi-media/new
media artists and businesses. The total number of people involved in 'creative
industries' in the region in 2000 is conservatively estimated to be 3500, which is 4.1%
of the local work force. This marks a growth of 104% since 1992 and 214% since
1996. The term "creative industries" is used to describe the traditional arts, cultural
and media sectors and the new emerging enterprises resulting from the convergence
of these sectors.
This study taken seriously.
3. Changing view of importance of creativity and the role of independent creative
3a. Creative Industries in the UK
The term 'Creative Industries' was coined in the U.K. in 1997. The incoming Blair
government defined creative industries as "activities which have their origin in
individual creativity, skill and talent and which have the potential for wealth and job
creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property". Creative
Industries offered a way forward that responded to technological and global shifts and
the political climate of the times.

The Blair governments Creative Industries Taskforce (1998) identified this sector
as a key to future economic prosperity it was experiencing rapid growth, and was
driven by cultural entrepreneurs and the creativity of independent content producers.
The Creative Industries Task Force estimated that the Creative Industries generated
revenue of 50 billion a year, employed 982,000 people and generated value-added
revenue of 25 billion (or 4% of GDP) and had export earnings of 6.9 billion. These
industries were growing at almost twice the rate of the economy as a whole driven by
powerful forces: cheaper and more powerful communications and computing, the
spread of the Internet and growth in digital networks which were opening up new
distribution channels for small producers to serve global markets
Creative Industries experienced rapid growth in many OECD economies over the
past 6 years and it is now widely accepted that Creative Industries are a significant
driver of the new economy.
Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer in the UK mentioned Creative
Industries in his 2005 budget speech an indication of the increasing importance of
this sector and how it is moving from the fringes to the mainstream. In a speech at the
UK Enterprise Conference in February 2005, Gordon Brown said
I want Britain to be not only a centre for the science-based industries of the future
but also the hub for creative industries as a whole. One in every five new jobs in
London is in the creative industries which now contribute 8% of UK GDP.
The opportunity now is to build on this extraordinary talent with the challenge to
encourage not just creative industries but all industries to be creative. So among
budget measures for greater flexibility, we will back risk-takers with incentives for
new enterprise and encourage a new generation of venture capital for expanding
To date, most Creative Industries' analyses have focussed on urban or metropolitan
settings. Research was undertaken in the Yorkshire and Humber regions of the UK by
Simon Roodhouse in 2000 which indicated that the creative industries there have the
potential to play a major role in regional regeneration. The study I am undertaking in
the Northern Rivers will contribute data and discussion to the question of the role of
Creative Industries in non-metropolitan regions.
3b. Leadbeater & Oakley. - understanding the new creative entrepreneurs
A large and growing share of employment in the Creative Industries is accounted
for by the self-employed, freelancers and micro-businesses. These new independent
entrepreneurs are often producers, designers, retailers and promoters all at the same
In their 1999 work, The Independents, Charles Leadbeater and Kate Oakley
provided a definitive account of the new breed of innovative freelancers who are the
driving force of the Creative Industries.
The independents thrive on informal networks through which they organise work,
often employing friends and former classmates. They do not fit into neat categories.
Although some are ambitious entrepreneurs, many want their businesses to stay small
because they want to maintain their independence and their focus on their creativity.
Yet that does not mean they see themselves as artists who deserve public subsidy.
Most want to make their own way in the marketplace. They usually have few tangible

assets other than a couple of computers. They usually work from home (in bedrooms,
garages or owner built studios) or from non-descript offices or workshops. Their main
assets are their creativity, skill, ingenuity and imagination.
In Surfing the Long Wave (2001) the authors concluded that entrepreneurship is
taking new forms: it is now less individualistic and more collaborative. The traditional
view is that an entrepreneur is either a struggling small businessman or a lone hero
with charismatic qualities willing to take risks and persuade others to back their
judgement: for example, Anita Roddick or Richard Branson. Their research shows
that this stereotype is increasingly misleading. While entrepreneurs may often be lone
mavericks, entrepreneurship is a far more structured, often team-based activity. Public
policy should be more concerned with promoting the conditions for successful
entrepreneurship as an activity. Entrepreneurship succeeds by pulling together
different skills and know-how to turn an idea into a business, product or service.
3c. Richard Florida (2002) Rise of the Creative Class instead of people
following job opportunities, Florida argued that companies follow the location of
talent - they move to places where the creative class have chosen to live
Richard Florida has argued that cities and regions with diversity, tolerance, creative
professionals, high-tech industries and the arts are more likely to be growing and
economically successful than others. Instead of people following job opportunities,
Florida believes that companies follow the location of talent - they move to places
where creative people have chosen to live. The implications of these concepts for the
Northern Rivers region are clear.
Floridas work has important lessons for the way cities and regions think about
economic development strategies and investment attraction. If the message is that
investment, firms and high value industrial activity will follow people and not visa
versa, then we need to focus on strategies for attracting and retaining smart people.
A key element in harnessing and organising creative energy, is the importance of
place. The corporate company is no longer the key to growth, its the location. People
used to work for a company for life, and the company was the central organiser of the
workers lives. Not any more. Today, the average stay in one job is three years, and
amongst younger people, its one year!! Its the place that attracts people, he argues,
and the companies will follow. People are accustomed to moving around, searching
for their preferred lifestyle; a place that will nurture and encourage them; a place
where there are many opportunities; a place that supports their creativity. People want
places that are thick with opportunities. And companies want places with thick
labour markets. So the critical mass of creative talent becomes an important factor.
But work alone is not enough. People want a place with other attributes: they want
energy. They want great venues and places where they can do fun things. They
want to participate, to be active, they want physical activity, street level arts and
culture, a vibrant scene. They want music, art, performance. They want the bohemian
factor. They want a community that is open and tolerant. The Northern Rivers and
especially Byron Bay offers these things. However, a major contradiction inherent in
this bohemian factor is the dilemma that once a place becomes prosperous and

successful because of its vibrant arts and cultural life, it gets trendy and expensive and
the creative community moves out. (eg. Noosa, Byron Bay).
So the key to growth, according to Florida, are places with the 3 Ts
A place needs all three to be assured of economic growth. If one is missing, it can be a
major inhibitor. Places that are open, tolerant, have access to technology and a large
pool of creative talent are more likely to attract and sustain the creative class.
At the AIDC in Adelaide, Florida expanded his argument about the importance of
an open and tolerant society in attracting the creative class. He claimed that since
9:11, the USA has become more closed, intolerant and isolated from the rest of the
world. He has started to notice a clear trend: the creative talent is considering moving
to Canada, New Zealand and Australia. He was in Australia, and indeed in Byron
Bay, looking at real estate. According to Florida, we are still regarded in the US as
one of the most open societies in the world we hope that this doesnt change under
this government!!! The message for the federal governments policy of closing up
Australias immigration and building prohibitive walls around the country is clear.
This will stifle growth in the new economy.
3d. Development of Creative Industries focus at QUT support of research in
the Northern Rivers.
Data on the growth of Creative Industries development in Australia is still limited.
Leading the field is Queensland University of Technology, in partnership with the
Queensland Department of State Development. They have identified an emerging
Creative Industries sector in south east Queensland and the state government has
invested $15 million in developing a Brisbane-based Creative Industries Precinct.
QUT is supporting Creative Industry development in the Northern Rivers region
through the PhD project I am undertaking as a QUT student. The project has ARC
support and Prof Stuart Cunningham is my principal supervisor. QUT provides access
to national and international research and thinking as well as physical and financial
resources for the study and international case studies.
4. Strengths of the region
We have discussed the critical mass of creative talent; lifestyle attributes and the
culture of this open, tolerant, diverse and funky region and the tourism market.
Another key strength is the learning and educational focus.
The region is a centre for arts education through Southern Cross University based in
Lismore, the many campuses of North Coast Institute of TAFE which offer courses
including Music, Visual Arts, Digital Media and Design, the Northern Rivers
Conservatorium and Arts Centre and the Clarence Valley Conservatorium.
Then we have our cultural jewels which include:

NoRPA, the preeminent regional professional theatre company, which was the first
regional organisation to win the prestigious Sidney Myer award, and which has
developed its unique Creative Laboratory.
The award winning Northern Rivers Symphony Orchestra (70 musicians),
Peak resource organisations supporting the key creative industry sectors: the
Northern Rivers Writers Centre, Northern Rivers Screenworks and the North Coast
Entertainment Industry Association. This is unique in regional Australia. These three
organisations have combined subscriber lists of over 3000 people.
There are three excellent Regional Art Galleries, approximately 16 Community and
Artist Run galleries as well as a plethora of private galleries and studios and over 20
community museums and heritage organisations.
Tweed Shire City of the Arts 2003 2005 Tweed Shire was chosen for the three
year City of the Arts Program, funded through the NSW Ministry for the Arts.
Another key feature of the cultural landscape are the diverse range of festivals and
events, ranging from the East Coast Blues and Roots festival there were 75 000
tickets sold this year and the Spendour in the Grass, the Northern Rivers Writers
Festival - now the major regional literary event in Australia, 48 Hours of Visual Arts
and the Wintersun Festival in the Tweed, and the Lismore Lantern Parade, to heritage
festivals such as the 70 year old Jacaranda Festival and a range of smaller community
There are literally hundreds of groups and organisations working in the arts and
cultural development in the Northern Rivers Region, with new groups emerging all
the time.
And there are the artists and cultural producers en mass, which include some of
Australias most respected practitioners across all art forms.
Arts Northern Rivers was established in late 2003 one of 13 RABs across NSW.
The objectives of Arts Northern Rivers are to:
Foster and promote the culture of the region;
Foster and encourage Indigenous arts and cultural programs and practices;
Promote the arts, and achievement in the arts, to enhance social and economic
community development;
Encourage an increase in the level of cultural tourism.
Regional cultural planning, development of sustainable arts infrastructure,
development of creative industries, marketing and audience development are key
With all this creative activity it is hard to keep up!!
Key creative industry sectors in the region are the screen, music, the established
visual arts and crafts sector, as well as performing arts, writing, design and a range of
other art forms and sectors .
Creative Industries have been identified as one of the key economic sectors in the
NRRDBs RIEP. Another strength is that both state and federal regional development
agencies DSRD and DOTARS have recognised the importance of creative
industries development as a key priority, and provided seed funding to a range of
initiatives including Screenworks and Cathys initial research.

5. Weaknesses
* perceptions of regional, distance from Sydney
* need for business development models and investors
* need for better cross-industry networking, collaborative partnerships, also need to
develop a collective identity, and educate other business sectors on the opportunities
the industry offers;
* daily struggle for survival of many artists and arts workers who have difficulty
selling their work and/or finding employment, and lack of employment opportunites
* need for greater marketing information and business skills to find new broader
markets for local cultural product. The screen industries are connected to international
markets but other sectors need to look at national markets and export opportunities.
* communications infrastructure in the region is seriously lacking.
* Peak bodies not adequately resourced, need a sustainable model or ongoing
government support
6. The role of New Creative - Phase 1: Building the Industry - in overcoming
these weaknesses and building on strengths.
Since the release of Imaging the Future in 2000, there has been a growing
awareness that the Creative Industries are emerging as a leading edge of the regions
economy with the potential to generate significant opportunities for wealth creation,
employment and export earnings.
It is also acknowledged that while the potential for Creative Industry development
in the region is great, the preconditions for a truly dynamic industry have been slow to
coalesce. The regions creative professionals have begun to develop a collective
identity as an industry and cross-industry networking and collaborative partnerships
are emerging but are still embryonic. Other business sectors have been slow to grasp
the opportunities the industry offers and local government is uncertain of its role in
supporting the industry. Communications infrastructure in the region is seriously
In late 2004, a consortium was formed of key organisations with a commitment to
Creative Industries. Their purpose was to examine way to overcome these weaknesses
and to raise the industrys profile both locally and nationally. The organisations
involved include: Northern Rivers Screenworks, Arts Northern Rivers, NRRDB,
Southern Cross University, Northern Rivers Writers Centre, NORPA and the CLIC
The consortium decided to undertake a joint industry development process under
the title of New Creative to unfold in several stages over the next two years.
The purpose of New Creative is to raise the industrys profile and to build greater
awareness in the business sector, all levels of government and the community in
general of the industrys importance in the future of the region.
The first phase: Building the Industry: will take place between April and September
2005 and will be launched this afternoon. Its aims are to
* Engage industry stakeholders in establishing development strategies for the industry
* Strengthen co-operative links within the industry
* Mobilise regional support for the industry
* Raise the industrys profile nationally and internationally.

Phase 2 will build on the outcomes of Phase 1 and focus around an international
conference on Creative Communities to be hosted by Southern Cross University in
mid 2006.
7. New research and focus on sector development.
a. Consolidated database for Creative Industries
The Arts Northern Rivers database now has over 1000 entries in searchable
categories. Expansion and consolidation of the database is ongoing and we have just
sent out an invitation to the members of NCEIA, Screenworks and the NR Writers
Centre to be included on this database.
b. Visual Arts strategies
We know of around 700 practicing visual artists in the region. While many of these
artists struggle to make a living some of have set up successful companies employing
several people in arts and craft production and other individual artists are generating
annual returns of between 100 000 and 2 000 000 from the sale of their art work.
Since it opened its doors in late 2003 Arts Northern Rivers has been inundated with
requests for assistance from visual artists. In a series of forums in 2003 and 2004
visual artists identified the need to:
1. Reduce the fragmentation of the Visual Arts Industry
2. Enhance the overall viability of visual arts businesses
3. Foster access to the national and international markets
4. Raise the awareness and appreciation of the Visual Arts industry in the Northern
Throughout 2004 Arts Northern Rivers and NSW DSRD worked in partnership to
develop a regional Visual Arts Network (VAN), to provide professional development,
marketing support and export assistance for local artists.
Funding has been secured through NSW DSRD and MFA for the project, which is
also supported by Austrade, Tourism NSW, SCU, the three Regional Galleries and the
NRRDB who are represented on the steering committee, in partnership with the seven
local councils who support Arts NR.
The aims of the VAN are to enable visual artists to reach beyond the region to access
broad national and international markets; to make Visual Arts a viable creative
industry sector and important economic driver in the region; to provide professional
development opportunities for visual artists; and to further the national and
international profile of the Northern Rivers as the creative region.

formation of a visual artists network or cluster
enagement of Regional Network Facilitator with arts business/marketing expertise
range of streamed marketing events and initiatives
high profile curated virtual gallery and portal to gallery and artists sites
high profile Visual Arts Curatorial and Advisory Panel
collaborative marketing strategies

business development support and streamed business skills workshops

series of Northern Rivers exhibitions at targeted national and international galleries
We have just employed a coordinator for the project, which will be officially launched
at 48 Hours of Visual Arts in July this year.
c. Music industry development
The North Coast Entertainment Industry Association was the first Music Industry
Association in NSW. A membership based non-profit association, it has been
supporting the Northern Rivers music industry since 1991.
For 14 years NCEIA has run as a volunteer organisation and has built up a
comprehensive music industry network and run the annual music award and showcase
event known as the Dolphin Awards ( the only regional music award in NSW).
NCEIA represents over 1000 members and each year receives more than 600 entries
for its Awards Night.
The region contains all sectors of the music industry; training, emerging and
professional musicians, several major professional recording studios, promoters like
the wonderful Ku Promotions, radio stations and festivals, venue operators and
teachers, and the large music festivals for which the region is renowned.
However like the visual arts, the music industry sector is fractionalised. There is no
cohesion between the different industry sectors so the potential to capitalise on the
presence of all levels of production in the one region has never been tapped.
There continues to be huge market opportunities for the music industry and NCEIA
has recognised the need for an effective business and marketing strategy in order to
maximise this potential.
In 2004 NCEIA and Arts Northern Rivers worked in partnership to develop the Music
Industry Development Project.
NCEIA received funding for this project from the Federal Government's Regional
Partnerships Program, through the Department of Transport and Regional Services,
and by the NSW DSRD through a Developing Regional Resources grant.
A consultant and coordinator have been engaged and in the next two months they will
be organizing public meetings for musicians and people in the music industry to
discuss: needs and priorities; how to make NCEIA better resourced and positioned to
support these needs; and how to make the local industry more viable and better
connected to national markets.
The Steering Committee for the Project includes representatives from SCU, TAFE,
ABC Radio, Ku Promotions, the East Coast Blues and Roots Festival, Top Cat
Recording Studios, NR Conservatorium, and individual musicians.
The project aims to
* lead to a dynamic regional music industry recognised nationally and internationally.

* identify income generating opportunities and employment for musicians,

songwriters and recording studios and other professionals in the local music industry,
* build a strong and strategic industry network including radio, promoters,
distribution and export, recording companies, performance venues and festivals.
* increase confidence and investment in the north coast music industry
* achieve proposed outcomes through the development of NCEIA's capacity to
support, promote, advocate and network strategically for the music industry in the
d. Screen industries research: Regional development of screen industries in the
digital era: prospects for the NR region.
Overview of PhD research project through QUT in conjunction with three local
industry partners: Northern Rivers Screenworks, NRRDB and Hatchling Productions.
The research examines the growth of screen industries in the region and maps the
developments that have occurred in the period 2000 to 2005. Explores the prospects
for screen industries and whether they offer new opportunities for regional
development. Profiles leading entrepreneurs and projects and examines two
international case studies (Highlands and Islands of Scotland and New Zealand) in
order to examine barriers and possible solutions to maintaining sustainable growth of
these industries in non-metropolitan areas. .
New screen industry survey undertaken during 2004 initial findings..
Case studies of local projects undertaken, interviews with leading creative
entrepreneurs and policy stakeholders; development of consolidated data base for
creative industries and development of a new set of strategies for screen industries.
8. Conclusions and way forward
There is a thriving and active creative community in the region which is growing and
has reached critical mass. A key feature of this concentration of creative professionals
is the number of entrepreneurs who are turning their creative ideas into viable
businesses, products or services. Their main assets are their creativity, skill, ingenuity
and imagination. Most are self-employed, freelancers or micro businesses, and are
looking to global markets to sustain or grow their businesses.
The Creative Industries have the potential to become a new driver of the local
economy. However, there are a number of barriers and weaknesses to growth which
the region needs to address order to ensure that this new sector is sustainable and
reaches its potential. These are being addressed as priorities by the New Creative
industry development process which is being launched this evening.
In her 2000 report Imagining the Future, Cathy clearly established the importance of
the industry and the significant level of skilled professionals and artisans in the
region. Part of the Henkel study involved surveying people employed in the creative
industries. The top four key needs identified by the creative industries were:

Networking and regular industry functions

The development of a central hub or business centre
More training and mentorship
Cohesive marketing for the local industry
NRRDB RIEP emphasises the importance of developing a regional cluster framework
as the key enabling infrastructure or economic foundations upon which the
regions industries and communities can prosper.
The ongoing sustainability of peak bodies or industry service organisations the soft
infrastructure is of great importance to the key creative industry sectors such as
screen, music and visual arts sectors - and remains a major challenge for those
engaged in planning for the development of regional creative industry clusters.
Sustaining these Industry Peak Bodies is of enormous importance to the on going
development of the creative industries in the region. For Northern Rivers Screenworks
and NCEIA sustainability remains a real challenge which the local industries need to
address. Screenworks has been established with both Federal and State government
seed funding but has yet to find a formula for on going sustainability after its seed
period of three years runs out. NCEIA is also seeking business and service provision
models so that it can continue to support the development of the local music industry.
The Northern Rivers Writes Centre has the most successful model, with income from
the highly successful Byron Bay Writers Centre and from its membership base cross
sustaining the peak body, with relatively small amounts of government funding.
Ongoing government support, as well as short term seed funding, is important to all of
these agencies to match industry contributions.
Another challenge for the region is to assist government and policy-makers to support
independent entrepreneurs and to find ways to improve their chances of surviving
amidst the swirl of technological change, and the power and influence of large
companies that increasingly dominate the distribution and publishing of commercial
There is a missing middle in public policy at a national level and also critically at the
regional and local level where it counts most.
Policy makers know little about this new generation of entrepreneurs how they
work, where they come from, what makes them tick, their distinctive needs and how
to interact with them.
Cultural entrepreneurs matter in a regional context because:
They create new jobs and growth
They have the potential to become drivers of the local economy
They offer new models of work- the future of work
They offer a new model of creative production how other industries could be
organised in the future

They play a key role in the future of cities and regions especially in revitalising
areas of economic decline
They contribute to social cohesion and a sense of belonging.
What is the creative future which we imagine for this region, say a vision of 2010?
* region recognized as a unique centre for creative industries producing and exporting
quality visual arts, music and screen productions
* THE creative destination where people come to buy creative things
* a business destination where people come to access creative people and services
* a centre for creative financing connected to global investments and markets.