Archive for the ‘Creative industries’ Category

Anyone for Memphis or Nashville?

June 11, 2013

I was recently invited by an American friend, Dr. Stuart Rosenfeld, to think about collaboration on creative economies. Among other things, he’s a Board member of South Arts, a creative arts network covering nine states – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

I readily agreed on the proviso that any collaboration should extend to both the creative AND tourism industries because of their complementarity. There were also other timely reasons:

– Cultural tourism is the fastest growing segment of the tourism market, and has a high spend value.
– The Australian tourism market is flat, and Tourism Australia is looking for new markets. And we figured the Yanks are in the same boat.
– Qantas now has Dallas as its main US hub – a great gateway to the relatively untapped southern US market. Qantas and the US carriers surely want to drum up two-way business.
– In March, the Australian Government announced a Creative Arts Program ($235 million) AND a Precincts (Clusters) Program ($500 million for 10 precincts), with a creative arts precinct a distinct possibility.

We thus decided that the planets were in alignment. But, as always, the solution lies in finding the stakeholders with the vision and commitment to make something happen. It seems smart to think of Sydney as the Aussie precinct connected to counterparts in the USA. After all it’s the main entry point for US artists and tourists, and there are two precincts forming around University Technology Sydney, and Walsh Bay – the Rocks.

But Melbourne and other places have equally long and proud histories in the creative industries and strong international links. In any case, it’s our rural regions that appeal most to international tourists – disparate places like Bendigo, Katoomba, Broken Hill, Tamworth, Gladstone, Alice Springs, Cape York, Broome etc. The dilemma is that while the regions have cultural tourism product, much of it is under-developed and hard to get to – regional airfares outside the main trunk routes are crippling, and you’d be loathe to recommend most of our train services to international tourists.

But let’s not dwell on the negatives. We have some fascinating cultural tourism agendas that might form the basis of relationships with cities and towns in southern USA – New Orleans, Dallas, Memphis, Nashville, Houston and Miami come to mind.

We’ve fired off a discussion paper for Dr. Rosenfeld for his next Board meeting. The first hurdle is to get arts administrators thinking tourism, and tourism administrators thinking arts. The second hurdle is to get US tourism/arts administrators engaging with their Australian counterparts, and then somehow connecting their regional cousins into the agenda. The third hurdle is to market the opportunity. On this score, we’ve suggested engaging some champions once things take shape e.g. Harry Connick Jnr. (New Orleans) and Nicole Kidman & Keith Urban (Nashville).

The above scenarios are somewhat speculative, and it involves a lot of cat-herding and people looking to someone else to arrange things. If it doesn’t pan out with our American friends, we might see if there are cultural tourism links back to Italy for Griffith, Mareeba and Leichhardt, or to South Africa in the case of Perth. We’ve found a federal program to defray expenses – so please contact us if this aligns with your interests.

Contact Rod Brown, Cockatoo Network – if you would ike to collaborate in this field.

St. Paul de Vence – a globalised AND localised artistic community

March 7, 2013

Nestled in the foothills of the Alps-Maritime, some fifteen minutes by car from the French Riviera, lies the ancient walled village of St Paul de Vence.

Located on a rocky promontory, the former Roman garrison site dates back 2,000 years and is spread over two acres – comprising a chapel, cemetery, chateau, homes and galleries. Narrow cobbled laneways lead tourists to sculptures, museums and art and craft stores. And overlooking the distant Mediterranean the hills and valleys around St Paul are covered with olive groves, flowers and vines just as they were centuries ago.

Artists began frequenting St Paul in the 1920s attracted by the village’s brown stone, colourful rolling hills and rich intense light. The trailblazers were Paul Signac, Raoul Dufy and Chaim Soutine. They were later followed by Picasso, Fernand Leger, Marc Chagall and Henri Matisse who was based at Vence a few kilometres away. Through the twentieth century actors, writers and artists made St Paul into a bubbling cultural centre. The 1950s and 60s were the village’s golden age when film making put it on the international stage as world famous directors and actors were attracted by the Victorine film studio and the proximity to Cannes Film Festival.

Today there are some 25 galleries displaying art works ranging from modern through contemporary, fringe and naïve across all forms including traditional painting, sculpture, textiles, jewellery and plastics along with four museums.

What attracted me to visit St Paul was a suggestion that this artistic enclave owes its success to government funding, that it seeded the establishment of this thriving art community. So I set out to investigate.

Talking to several shop owners who had been there for decades, all looked at me aghast at the suggestion of government money. Non, non, non! They originally came because St Paul offered the scenery and light, they stayed because their work became popular – there were no handouts then and there are no handouts now! “We pay commercial rents for our shops and get no government help’ was the common view.

Today there are only a handful of local painters, and they haven’t achieved the recognition of their predecessors. The art is now sourced from all over Europe. As one shop owner said, art is a specialised business, we operate in a particular segment and we have to cater to an international market which is constantly changing and evolving, we cannot just keep stocking what was popular last year or the year before, we have to stay abreast of changing tastes, we have to know our market intimately and continually adjust to it. There can be no loyalty to any local artist, not if we want to survive.

Contributed by Peter Kittler (Canberra), a consultant to the Cockatoo Network –

Regional museums and galleries – from liabilities to assets

October 11, 2012

There are 1,000 museums and 500 commercial art galleries across Australia. And I’d hazard a guess that 50% would benefit hugely from professional support.

The good news is that as a result of interviews with the national museums and galleries in Canberra in recent months, I’m predicting a new federal program to rejuvenate these facilities. There are two main triggers – the government’s current overhaul of the arts programs, and Minister Crean’s desire to leverage the arts on behalf of regional Australia.

Background – There is a bit of a story, and I’d like to walk you through it.

Rural and urban communities alike often don’t appreciate their cultural points of difference. This point was brought home recently in talks with Museums Australia, the Canberra-based industry association. The MA’s head, Ms. Bernice Murphy, is adamant that regional museums and galleries are under-appreciated sources of community identity and pride, but we agree that the issue is how to unlock the potential.

As flagged previously, there is considerable scope to get more of the collections of the Big 7 national institutions out of Canberra and into the regions. The reason is that they have a large proportion of their collections in storage – for example, the National Museum, sitting proudly on Lake Burley Griffin, has 96% of its collection out of sight in the industrial suburbs of Canberra. Similarly the War Memorial, Sound and Film Archive, National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, National Library etc. have a good proportion of their collection in storage.

However accessing these collections isn’t a simple process. These institutions are essentially the keepers of the national estate – so there are strict loan procedures. As Bernice explained ‘Art museums are geared up and ethically charged to take highest care of all works owned, and not to let works out of their care (even though a huge number of works may be in storage) except under strictest controls and regular checking.’

But when I broached the possibility of getting more of these collections out of Canberra, the response from most staff was positive. This seems to be because many of the staff seem to have come from interstate museums and galleries and thus understand their problems. They are also aware that Minister Crean has been dropping hints about more collaboration between the arts and regional development agencies within his portfolio.

The opportunity – There are three broad industry segments:

– The state museums and galleries, which are relatively well-resourced.
– The facilities in the bigger regional cities (Newcastle, Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Freo etc.) which are growing in stature, but face continual financial worries.
– Hundreds of mostly marginal facilities in the smaller cities and towns.

The last category provides the opportunity. The norm is a collection of furniture, kitchenware, farming equipment and artworks cobbled together by local volunteers. These facilities are open only for short periods during the week and/or year, and get by with a council grant to cover electricity bills and so on. They don’t generate much tourism traffic or revenue, which is a great shame because when local museums and galleries ‘click’ they are powerful attractors of tourists, business investment and jobs. The great examples of Bungendore, Yarragon and Clunes are on our blog (

Based on discussions with the experts, there is an exciting opportunity looming for the small museums and galleries. It lies in accessing outside curatorial and marketing expertise, marrying items from the national institutions with the local collections to create stand-out displays, and creating hubs to attract and hold tourists.

These agendas won’t be easy, so you need to be persistent and think long-term about four necessary steps.

First, your community must decide whether it wants to be seriously in this game, and that it has sufficient people with the energy and commitment to make it happen.

Secondly, you need to ensure you have a building that can meet the standards required for the national collection. This doesn’t mean you need a new multi-million dollar facility e.g. there are precedents of old scout halls and commercial buildings being renovated to the required standard.

Thirdly you need to identify the cultural product that would underpin your museum or gallery. Is it an agricultural, maritime, industrial, mining, environmental, forestry, sports and leisure or social theme? If it’s not apparent, then cultural mapping is generally advised. This can be done by local historical groups or universities, but expert consultants also undertake this work.

Fourthly, thought needs to go into what businesses could be clustered in order to build complementary revenue streams and share business expenses e.g. marketing, electricity, staffing. Restaurants, bakeries, antique shops, coffee shops, wine bars and newsagencies spring to mind.

Getting started – The suggested start point is a dialogue with the professional groups. Museums Australia fits the bill. There are also numerous workshops and conferences run by them and its partner organisations where you can make the right connections. We can also help with the steps outlined above.

Contributed by LG Focus – October 2012 edition.

Lobbying – an imperfect business

July 2, 2012

Very good roll-out at the ALGA National Assembly in Canberra last month. Attendees appreciated the opportunity to better understand the Mad House and its occupants.

Indeed, local councils arguably need to sharpen their lobbying efforts because it’s really about helping politicians and officials make the correct decisions. The days of Arthur Daley lookalikes are long gone. There are some 280 consultants registered with the federal government, and we work in widely different areas.

My company specialises in progressing R&D, investment and infrastructure proposals, as well as anything with an industry or regional development flavour. We also draw on Cockatoo Network members’ professional expertise.

In my experience, successful lobbying by local councils revolves around three steps.

1. Decide your pitch

Canberra is a madhouse of paper and scraps of information. Write to the Minister rather than the Department because it confers more status, and there are timelines required for Ministerial responses.

With respect, councils tend to write to Ministers in convoluted, quasi-legal terms, without making a compelling case. In return, you get non-committal replies about three months later.

My advice is to adopt the KISS principle – cast your thoughts simply in terms of what, why, where, who, how much, and expected outcomes! We specialise in this stuff.

2. Identify who needs lobbying

It’s important to address your message to the right people. A formal letter to Ministers might be the first step, but in 90% of cases he/she won’t be reading it until signing the reply – the staffer or SES officer will be signing it off. A briefing to these folks is often advisable.

Finding the right Minister and Department isn’t so easy. For example, say you’re an inner-urban council grappling with air traffic noise, road congestion and loss of lifestyle and amenity. You might start by considering the following groupings:

Industry/infrastructure focus – Industry & Innovation; Resources and Tourism; Agriculture; Communications (BCDE); Infrastructure & Transport; Regional Development & Local Government.

Social/environment focus – Health; Families and Community Services (FAHCSIA); Vets Affairs; Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population & Communities (SEWPC); Climate Change; Education; Employment.

Unaligned – Treasury; Finance; PM&C; Defence; Attorney-General’s; Immigration; Foreign Affairs & Trade.

As you can see, it’s a bit tricky. In this example, Department of Infrastructure & Transport seems the most relevant, but they might bat like Bill Lawry. The alternative is thus to begin a dialogue with SEWPC, failing that it would be Regional Development & Local Government or possibly FAHCSIA.

3. Tapping the self interest

Using the same example, you might get a warmer reception from a social planner in SEWPC than an engineer in the Department of Transport. But you need to research SEWPC’s website to confirm things.

And lastly, don’t drop your confidence – buzzwords and acronyms are hallmarks of Canberra-speak. But those spouting jargon about ‘moving forward in a post GFC environment’ etc. are no smarter than you!

Next month – the importance of maiden speeches – engaging your local member – the Red Wine Strategy.

This article appears in the July 2012 edition of Local Government Focus (Good Oil column)

Creative Class Revisited

June 28, 2012

Richard Florida is out with his new book ‘The Rise of the Creative Class, Revisited’ reports Jeff Finkle at IEDC.

Jeff says it has been ten years since Florida’s first book on the Creative Class was published, when he spoke at IEDC’s conference. He will be joining the IEDC again in Houston this year. There is a good article on Richard Florida at

The gist is that Detroit is drawing on a long legacy of creativity and innovation that’s a part of the city’s very DNA, from the industrialist Henry Ford to the architects and designers Albert Kahn, Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen and Minoru Yamasaki.

And then there is Detroit’s incredible line of musical innovators. The blues’ John Lee Hooker moved to the city in the 1940s. The legendary jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd grew up in Detroit and of course there was Berry Gordy’s Motown, which brought such artists as Smokey Robinson, Aretha Franklin, The Supremes, The Temptations, the Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, and Michael Jackson, among many others, to national prominence. And it doesn’t end there. Detroit’s influence on rock ‘n’ roll goes back to the 1960s, with Mitch Ryder, the MC5, Iggy Pop, The Amboy Dukes, Grand Funk Railroad, Alice Cooper, Marshall Crenshaw, Glenn Frey, Bob Seeger and Kid Rock, not to mention hip hop’s Eminem, Insane Clown Posse and the late J Dilla. In recent years, the White Stripes and Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson of Detroit Electronic Music Festival fame have kept the city in the forefront of popular music.

Florida is basically proposing that Detroit can tap its creative roots as part of its adjustment away from the automotive and engineering industry. Indeed, the Chinese aren’t likely to be a threat in western music.

Grace Kelly features in Bendigo

May 29, 2012

Did you notice that the regional city of Bendigo (Vic. Australia) has a three month exhibition ‘Grace Kelly – style icon’? What an extraordinary coup!

It’s also a very good example of the benefits of brand building. So I chased up the Sharon Wells at the Bendigo Art Gallery for the good oil for our loyal readers.
The factors underlying this exhibition appear to be six-fold.
1. Bendigo has longstanding expertise in fashion and textiles. This dates back more than a century.
2. A continuum of top notch gallery directors, the latest of which is Karen Quinlan who has been in residence for seventeen years. Karen had been tracking the Grace Kelly collection in Monaco for some time, and she harnessed Bendigo’s collaborative strengths to bid to host the exhibition.
3. A bevy of champions – Andrew Cannon (Honorary Consul for Monaco in Melbourne), Victorian Major Events Corporation (its first investment in a regional gallery), Vic Tourism, Regional Development Victoria, Bendigo City Council, Premier Baillieu etc.
4. State, local and philanthropic funding for the upgrading of the Gallery building – some $14 million over 15 years. This now provides a quality venue.
5. Very good and committed staff.
6. Bendigo is a marginal seat!

Visitor traffic has been huge. Based on entry fees of $20/head ($5 for primary schoolers, $10 for secondary schoolers), I guess that revenues might nudge $4 million.

A great aspect of this project is the spin-off business it has created for other art and tourism facilities, hotels, motels, restaurants in and around Bendigo. It has given Melburnians an additional reason to take a weekend trip.

This article appears in the Good Oil column of LG Focus (June 2012)

Brave New World – Toggle Media

March 6, 2012

NBN and Federal Government funding is leading to new media projects as the rollout of broadband encourages the development of online education partnerships in creative new ways.

Toggle Media, a Sydney based, but ‘office-less’, new interactive media company which develops online education utilising existing face to face and paper based learning materials, has just gained a contract through ISIS (Interactive Skills Integration Scheme) to work with ARK (a gaming company), and the University of New England’s SiMERR Australia to turn a facilitated literacy and numeracy program into an interactive online and mobile delivered product.

This is a federally funded project under DEEWR and DBI and is led by Australia’s leading centres for creative industries research and business development: the Creative Industries Innovation Centre (CIIC), the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CCi) and QUT Creative Enterprise Australia (CEA).

The aim of the project is to provide the opportunity for start up new media companies to partner with established businesses to provide a positive long term outcome.

Involvement in an ISIS Pilot Integration provides Interactive Media practitioners with an opportunity to extend their skills across industry sector boundaries and bolster their professional development by working closely with dedicated business transformation mentors and experts from selected industry sectors.

Call Margaret Cameron on 0418 708 567 or email if you’d like to know more.

(Margaret is a very collaborative person and a long-time Cockatoo member – Editor)

Blueprint Mississippi: Capitalizing on the Creative Economy

December 16, 2011

CraftNet Sketches has alerted us to a document that is very timely in view of the need for many regions to find new growth areas.

The Mississippi Economic Council has developed a collaborative vision for moving the state’s economy and community forward – known as Blueprint Mississippi 2011 it has led to goals and recommendations on education, the economy, diversity, financial resources, health, infrastructure etc.

A top focus is the creative economy.  The following creative economy strategies are based in large part on the study we completed with the Mississippi Development Authority and the Mississippi Arts Commission Development. The reports are available here and on the Mississippi Creative economy website.

The recommendations relating to the creative economy include:

  • Promotion of entrepreneurship and small business growth among creative firms.
  • Help for communities to preserve and generate added value from cultural and historic heritage.
  • Increased use of art and design in buildings.
  • Enhancement of networking infrastructure for creative talent across the state.
  • Measures to grow and retain creative talent living and working inMississippi.
  • Development of  tools and strategies to support the tourism industry.

 Involved in the creative industries? Why not plan a trip to the Deep South. Dallas is now Qantas’ main USA hub – so fly direct, hire a car and drive east a couple of hours for a coffee with David‘the Preacher’ Dodd (Louisiana) and then onto Mississippi to meet with the CraftNet folk – they are a very collaborative outfit..

 Go to

Furniture Cluster – Letterfrack, Ireland

April 5, 2011

Established just over two decades ago with 20 students, the  Furniture College at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) in Letterfrack, Ireland now provides 280 students with an internationally renowned education in furniture design, technology, manufacture, restoration and conservation.

 Located in a small village in County Galway, GMIT Letterfrack enjoys a 95-97% completion rate. The college began as a partnership between Connemara West, a community and rural development organization, and a Regional Technical College. It was a development strategy for a community with an unemployment rate of 50% and, with assistance from the Danish Technological Institute, helped rescue a lagging furniture cluster.

The college has since extended its partnerships to include universities and programs throughout the world.

 GMIT Letterfrack’s strong reputation and relationships with employers in and outside Ireland offer its students the chance to apply their education through internships and postgraduate careers. A majority of students are ffrom Ireland and enroll in the college directly from secondary school. About 10-20 percent of students, however, are over 23 years of age. The college has a small number of full-time international students in addition to the six exchange students the college hosted this year.

 Many internships are in training and education, offering technical support for lecturers or trainers. Others include design and product development, project management, production software, and equipment design. Approximately one third of student placements are to positions outside of Ireland, including Canada, Australia, Finland, Germany, England, United States, Zambia and Morocco.

 Instructors of GMIT Letterfrack include lecturers and technicians. Lecturers are in charge of each training module and delivery of the program. Technicians offer technical support through demonstrations in the workshop. Many of the staff members are hired as graduates of the college. Currently, eight of 25 members are GMIT Letterfrack graduates.

 The town of Letterfrack has greatly benefited from the college. Economic conditions have improved enormously via staff relocating to the area, traveling staff members, and 280 students. GMIT Letterfrack has extended its outreach efforts by working with the village of Maamba, Zambia to develop the Woodworking Training Centre. Four students and their lecturer traveled to Africa to set up equipment necessary to teach a class of 18 students. The first classes were held in July 2009, and the first group of students passed their trade exams in the summer of 2010. The Letterfrack students then led an initiative to develop a market for locally produced furniture and began taking commercial orders.

 Contributed by Corinne Cain – go to

(This item was provided by CraftNet Sketches, a network run by Stu Rosenfeld et al in USA. It does a great job in disseminating best practice. We get a huge amount of enquiries on its behalf from African students. The Letterfrack College seems ideally placed to figure in international aid collaboration – Editor)


Best Practice Projects Update

January 18, 2011

We currently have around 20 projects at various stages of development – across the following categories (1) Idea awaiting partners (2) Project Scoping (3) Funding submission underway (4) Awaiting funding decision (5) Contract negotiations underway.

Below is a state-of-play on some of these. Each requires collaboration – across councils, across companies, between industry and government etc. If you are interested in collaborating on any, please contact us and we’ll put you in direct contact with them.

Clean Energy Hybrids – possibility of an alliance to seek funding for wind-solar hybrid plants for small remote communities. Partners in remote regions sought. Status – Idea awaiting partners.

Indigenous Youth ‘New Horizons’ Project – in discussions with FAHCSIA and ACT Government for support via Innovation Fund to bring indigenous youths from regional Australia to Canberra for a week’s mentoring and job readiness training. We have in-principle OK from Central Darling and East Gippsland Shires. Room for two more. Status – Funding submission due to commence.

Capacity-building in Pacific Islands – a project evolving from former Aust. Foreign Affairs Minister Downer’s interest in driving stronger aid outcomes. We met with Foreign Affairs & Trade in 2010 and they showed particular interest, and referred us to Pacific Trade Investment Office in Sydney. Awaiting CEO to return from leave. Status – Ideas awaiting partners.

Eastern Adelaide stormwater – prior to Nov 2010 federal election, both Gillard and Abbott committed funds ($10m upwards) for a best-practice stormwater project. Status – Awaiting funding decision from SA Government.

Creative Arts Centre – major grant approved in principle for an iconic Outback NSW town. Status – Contract negotiations underway.

Central NSW – exciting film hub project evolving, involving a significant Canberra company. Status – project scoping almost finished. Funding submission due to commence.

Wee Waa Community Centre – community meetings being held to confirm local support. Status – scoping study planned once community and Narrabri Council give OK.

Water pipeline – Murrumbidgee Country Club ACT – won $150k for a pipeline from Murrumbidgee. A few queries from environmental groups, but persistence is winning. Status – Contract negotiations underway.

Sunrise Program – to link networks of companies across nations to drive trade and investment. Our US colleagues have lodged a submission with the US State Department (Development Innovation Ventures program) for support for a business plan. Status – Awaiting confirmation of grant.

Healthy Food Distribution Network – the cost of fresh fruit and vegetables is 50-100% higher in semi-remote areas – a major cause of obesity. An enterprising council in western NSW is seeking federal funding for a business plan to establish a network to deliver fresh food at competitive prices. Other councils welcome to join. Status – project scoping to commence soon.

Regional airfares – we are currently in discussions with regional champions about possibly lobbying the federal Minister for Transport for a trial ‘milk run’ on certain regional routes, with a view to raising patronage and lowering fares. Status – Idea awaiting partners.