Just a month into 2017, Sydney has lost two live music staples – the Newtown Social Club and the Harold Park Hotel’s Sunday evening sessions.
The Newtown Social Club, formerly the Sandringham Hotel (or “The Sando”), announced its impending closure on 25 January, via a Facebook statement.
“Three years since saving the venue from the hands of developers, it is with a heavy heart that Newtown Social Club announces it will be shutting its doors on April 23rd 2017,” the statement reads. “Whilst the live music part of the business was a resounding success, the current regulatory climate in Sydney and the inherent challenges therein have made it unsustainable. We look forward to exploring new opportunities in the future.”
Meanwhile, the Harold Park Hotel will not be closing, but has terminated its Sunday evening acoustic sessions, which have been running for six years in the pub’s courtyard. Following noise complaints from a neighbour, the City of Sydney asked hotel owner William Ryan to halt the hosting of live entertainment outside. He is, however, allowed to host it within the building.
“I’ve had thousands and thousands of Facebook posts and tweets and personal letters and phone calls in support of the music,” Mr Ryan told the ABC. “I’m not talking about playing heavy metal until three in morning … it’s appropriate low-risk music and I’d like to think that’s … a sensible policy.”
Sydney’s live music situation is not helped by the apparent blocking of public protest by live music activist group Keep Sydney Open, and the new Premier’s seeming indifference to softening lockout laws as we report here.
Despite the challenges, musicians, venues, policy makers and organisations are banding together to devise strategies. On 31 January, The Basement hosted a free panel discussion titled Trajectories: The Changing Face of Live Music in Sydney. Moderated by ABC Radio’s Simon Marnie, the panel comprised Kerrie Glasscock, CEO, Sydney Fringe Festival; John Wardle, director, Live Music Office; Hugh Nichols, strategy advisor for Live Music, City of Sydney; Hannah Crofts, executive producer, MusicNSW; and Keith Sue and Saurabh Das, Six8.
Furthermore, throughout 2017, Western Sydney is set to benefit from a series of free live music events and festivals, enabled by funding from Arts NSW and coordinated by the Live Music Office.