The government of New South Wales has been slammed for dropping the ball for the cultural sector as the country’s largest multi-arts complex enters into voluntary administration due to the current health crisis.
Sydney’s Carriageworks, the site of countless exhibitions, installations and APRA Awards ceremonies of years past, has appointed voluntary administrators citing “irreparable loss of income” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Carriageworks generates 75% of its revenue outside of government funding, primarily through on-site events and programs,” reads a statement issued Monday (May 4). “The sudden cancellation or postponement of six months of activities due to restrictions on public gatherings has resulted in an irreparable loss of income.”
Since the federal government announced a ban on public gatherings, the venue in Redfern, central Sydney has had to scrap several major events, including the Sydney Writers’ Festival, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia, and the design event Semi Permanent, which was aligned with VIVID Sydney.
In an effort to stay afloat, casual staff were let go, and in early-April almost half of its core staff were stood down, with those remaining asked to move to a three-day week.
With restrictions on social gatherings likely to remain in place for some time yet, the board “determined that it had no alternative but to place the company into voluntary administration.”
Now, the business is officially closed to the public until further notice.
Live Performance Australia has put the New South Wales on blast for allowing the precious venue to hit the wall.
“Our largest state has been missing in action so far in the battle to protect our cultural sector from the devastation being wreaked by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Evelyn Richardson, CEO of Live Performance Australia.
Richardson, who has lobbied government for a multi-million-dollar bailout package for the live entertainment sector, has described the Carriageworks situation as “terrible news” for the country’s cultural landscape.
“When cultural ministers from all of our state and territory governments met in late March, we set out very clearly for them the potential devastation of our cultural sector because of COVID-19’s impact on venues and cultural spaces,” she explains.
Some state governments have since actioned measures to support cultural industries, but the response so far from both NSW and the Commonwealth has been “woeful,” she continues.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian “needs to step up both as leader of NSW and as the Minister responsible for the arts,” Richardson adds, warning Carriageworks’ plight is likely to be the “first of many” as the nation’s performing arts companies struggle with the financial impact of COVID-19 on their bottom lines.
The complex opened in 2007 and hosts about one million visitors each year and scores of events, including the 2015 and 2016 APRA Music Awards. Universal Music Australia’s inaugural Zone Out, an exploration of the neo-classical world, took place at the venue last September.
Carriageworks CEO Blair French said he was hopeful Carriageworks would be able to reopen when restrictions are relaxed.
KPMG’s Phil Quinlan and Morgan Kelly have been appointed as administrators.