The Blue Mountains has long been regarded as a creative hub, recognised by the NSW State Government as the inaugural City of the Arts in 1998. The creative industries account for 7.4 per cent of locally available jobs in the Blue Mountains, a figure 60 per cent above NSW state average. In monetary terms, this represents a $166 million contribution to the Blue Mountains' gross regional product.
Blue Mountains Economic Enterprise's (BMEE) Creative Industries Cluster manager Ann Niddrie was a guest speaker at this year's EDA National Economic Development Conference in Adelaide from October 23-25. With more than 200 of Australia's economic development leaders attending, the theme Digital Globalisation, Digital Localisation has particular resonance for the creative industries. As Ms Niddrie reported, many practitioners are seeking to find a balance between connectivity and authenticity in the increased overlap in a local/global marketplace.
Ms Niddrie presented at the conference on her recent study tour of Los Angeles and Portland in the United States and Aarhus and Copenhagen in Denmark. She was awarded an emerging practitioner study tour scholarship by Economic Development Australia (EDA), the peak body for economic development professionals nationwide. In applying for the EDA scholarship, one of Ms Niddrie's aims was to consolidate her work on how BMEE might best continue to support creative industries and facilitate regional revenue growth. She visited best practice examples in film making, collaborative workspaces, maker's co-operatives and public art schemes. Each showcased how creative industries flourish when government, industry and education/research sectors are co-located and when they prioritise inter-departmental collaboration.
For those in creative industries locally, Ms Niddrie's study tour learnings confirm that the MTNS MADE brand is anchored by best practice principles. The BMEE team has begun to workshop the next stage of the MTNS MADE evolution, based on the recommendations outlined in Ms Niddrie's study tour report, "ELEVATE: Case Studies showcasing how Creative Industries can be a lever for Economic Development".
For our 'City of the Arts' to co-exist as a 'City in a World Heritage Area', collaboration between the community and industry must continue, alongside consultation with creative industry practitioners, private developers and philanthropists. It is only through a multi-disciplinary approach that the true worth of creative industries, and the place-making that follows will be realised.
Ms Niddrie's report can be downloaded from the BMEE website. She will be presenting to staff of Blue Mountains City Council upon her return from the National Economic Development Conference, in addition to mentoring a number of interstate and local regional groups looking to emulate the success of the MTNS MADE brand.
As always, the BMEE team welcome your thoughts and ideas, so please feel free to get in touch via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donald Luscombe AFSM is chairman of Blue Mountains Economic Enterprise