As we assembled at the Red-C Events venue in June 2020, people glanced around the room to see who they knew. It’s strange to think how seldomly representatives of the creative sector gather in one place and therefore not surprising that names and reputations are more widely recognised than faces. Of course, all that was about to change.
No, this wasn’t a networking event, although it truly had the effects of one! This was an impromptu meeting of members of the Coffs Coast Creative Industries Facebook group. The trigger was that the group’s moderator, SWIFF Co-Director Dave Horsley had alerted us to the absence of Arts & Culture in the draft 2036 Regional City Action Plan for Coffs. This plan is the NSW State Government’s vision for Coffs Harbour – and they were telling us Arts & Culture is not a priority in our community.
“So, someone’s going to do something about that right?”, we heard ourselves think.
That ‘someone’ – a small working group – was formed the very next day. And the ‘something’ became a comprehensive submission that, as a result of broad consultation across local business owners and with advice from Council (who to give them credit, had included Arts & Culture in their initial recommendations to the State Government), successfully gave voice to the many hundreds of artists and arts workers that make up the Coffs Coast creative sector.
And along the way we gained a few prized insights about the value of the creative industries. Did you know, for example, that here in Australia in ‘normal’ years, the arts are apparently worth $111 billion in direct and indirect value to the Australia economy and at least $8.7 billion in direct activity to the NSW economy. Each year, twice as many people in Australia visit a cultural event or facility than attend sporting events.
This piece of advocacy, pulled together in under 9 days and at a time when the vast majority of creative workers had seen their livelihoods affected by COVID-19 related shutdowns, was warmly welcomed by our fellow creatives and got us thinking…
What if we could turn advocacy into action? If government plans don’t place the arts as a priority, who or what will?
So, we persisted with our little working group and turned our minds to exploring ways in which we can drive development, unity and growth across the creative industries in the Coffs Coast region. We’ve come up with a few strategies and we’re also aware that right now, a lot of opportunities await the cultural creative industries in this region.
And so here we are, following a 9-month gestation: BlackLight Collective Inc – a nascent social enterprise comprised of determined workers focused on generating events, jobs and an authentic voice for creatives. And that’s the sh*t we love at BlackLight!