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Greens call for 10 weeks of free live music to help Wollongong's post-COVID recovery

Read the article by Brendan Crabb in The Illawarra Mercury, 7 May 2020

Greens call for 10 weeks of free live music to help Wollongong's post-COVID recovery


The proposal has received support from one prominent Illawarra live music promoter and booking agent.

Greens councillor Mithra Cox has proposed that Wollongong City Council would subsidise local bars and cafes to pay musicians to perform over a 10-week period, to encourage people to come back into the central shopping districts.

"It's about building a thriving live performance industry in our town, bringing people back together, and also helping our great small bars and small businesses get back on their feet," she said.

"You wouldn't need to look up what's happening. You would know that every Thursday, Friday and Saturday there will be heaps on, you can just jump on the Green bus and come for a wander and there will be something to your taste, that is free."

Cr Cox said venues would be required to book musicians at or above Live Performance Award wages.

The venues would then receive the subsidy from council after showing proof of payment.

Cr Cox, also a musician herself, said she would not be applying for this initiative.

"At award wages, three nights a week, half a million dollars could fund approximately 10 weeks of free live music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights," she said.

"One key condition on the venue would be that there would be no cover charge - so it would be free for the public to go and experience live music, but musicians would be assured a decent gig fee.

"Creative industries, and bars and cafes have been absolutely decimated by the COVID-19 restrictions. This is something tangible we can do to enliven our city, to re-build locals businesses and get dollars and good times rolling again in our town."

Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said with council's draft budget to be tabled on Monday night, they would have to consider the budgetary implications of the proposal.

"It might be feasible to use some of the money that we plan to spend on stimulating the central business area; use some of that money for that purpose," he said.

"When the COVID restrictions are lifted and venues are allowed to re-open... (We could look at) taking some of that funding that is specifically identified for stimulating the CBD, and applying it to the music and performing arts area."

Yours & Owls co-owner Ben Tillman said they would always advocate for more live music.

"I think the area has definitely flourished in the past five, ten years, and I think a big part of that is because of our creative culture that's been growing, and that includes live music," he said.

"Any support would be very appreciated."

While it remains unclear when live music venues would be able to re-open, Mr Tillman said, "I think everyone's feeling that overall vibe that there might be a light at the end of the tunnel".

"We're remaining optimistic that we'll see shows before the end of the year, but when that it is, I don't know," he said.