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July 28, 2021

Call to drive growth of regional creative industries

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L to R: Arts Northern Rivers' Peter Wood, Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson and Byron Bay Film Festival's Jaimee Skippon-Volke at last week's Vivid Festival panel. Photo Anneli Knight
L to R: Arts Northern Rivers’ Peter Wood, Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson and Byron Bay Film Festival’s Jaimee Skippon-Volke at last week’s Vivid Festival panel. Photo Anneli Knight


Anneli Knight

The northern rivers has the highest concentration of arts and creative industries outside the cities, and high profile members of our creative community have declared it’s time to remove regional barriers so that creative industries can expand and thrive.

A panel of northern rivers creatives, including Byron Bay International Film Festival director Jaimee Skippon-Volke and head of Arts Northern Rivers Peter Wood, spoke on a panel last week at Australia’s largest festival, Vivid Sydney.

Skippon-Volke says faster and more reliable broadband access in the region is a major hurdle for growth in creative industries.

‘There were days in the lead-up to the film festival when we were at 15 per cent of our productivity – upload speeds are killing us,’ she says.

Skippon-Volke says that while some businesses are finding inventive ways to get around the slow broadband, many are losing significant productivity because of limited upload speeds.


In another issue, a clear desire has been articulated by creative industries in the region to have more opportunities for collaboration and Skippon-Volke says television and film projects could facilitate this.

‘The beauty of film and television is that it’s a creative medium that employs people across many fields: sound, makeup, music, actors, writers, set photographers. Once a big job comes in it can hire lots of people that have lots of skills bases – and that makes it quite unique.’

Funding needed

Arts Northern Rivers’ Peter Wood says another factor holding the issue back is funding. While the region punches above its weight in terms of arts funding, the high concentration of artistic and creative people here means there is tough competition.

Wood is calling for Byron Shire to be recognised nationally for its exceptionally high concentration of creative talent.

‘If we are recognised as a creative industries hotspot it will bring more strategic support to the area. We need more grants,’ he says.

Wood says it is positive that the region’s local councils understand the benefits for creative industries both to wellbeing and as an economic driver.

‘This doesn’t necessarily translate into funding, but half the battle is done because the councils understand it,’ he says.

Regional Development Australia supported the northern rivers’ presence at Vivid Sydney, and CEO Kimmaree Thompson says it is important to let the rest of the country know about the concentration of creative industries talent in the region.

‘By showcasing the work of our creative professionals to the people in Sydney, our region can attract more national and international clients for our local businesses,’ Thompson says.

‘We are working on a number of projects that will link creative businesses in our region with sources of work from corporates and startups across Australia,’ she says.

‘To be a sustainable creative industries hub, we have to build businesses so that they employ local people,’ she says.

Anneli Knight is a media consultant for Regional Development Australia Northern Rivers


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