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Sydney’s Beloved Carriageworks Has Been Saved

Sydney arts hub Carriageworks has been rescued from the hangman’s noose after an anxious seven weeks.

The beloved creative space based at the former Eveleigh Railway Workshops entered voluntary administration back in May, becoming the city’s most devastating arts casualty of the COVID-19 lockdown.

“Carriageworks generates 75% of its revenue outside of government funding, primarily through on-site events and programs,” a spokesperson said via The Guardian at the time, referencing the Sydney Writers’ Festival, Mercedez-Benz Fashion Week, multiple concerts as part of Sydney’s VIVID Festival and more.

“The sudden cancellation or postponement of six months of activities due to restrictions on public gatherings has resulted in an irreparable loss of income,” the statement continued.

Now though, help is at hand, with a philanthropist-backed bailout officially signed, sealed and delivered.

As SMH reports, a collective of philanthropists including the Packer family, Michael Gonski, Kerr Neilson, Geoff Ainsworth and Johanna Featherstone — who recognised the space as the beating heart of Sydney’s arts community that it is — spearheaded a rescue deal between the creditors, the Carriageworks board and the NSW government.

Their multi-million dollar bailout has now secured a 20-year lease and five-years worth of operational funding for Carriageworks, meaning the resident companies that call the space home will be able to stick around, while its annual events and programs will be able to continue (once it’s safe to do so).

However, the multi-arts precinct is also likely to return from its near-death experience as a much leaner organisation, with chief executive officer Blair French flagging its future artistic programming will be more “financially risk-averse”, while staff redundancies are also likely due to operational cost-cutting.

“Over the next 18 months the program will be largely focused on Australian artists, companies and work and we will certainly be working with a reduced programming budget for the foreseeable future,” he told SMH.

“However within that framework, there is still a lot we can do to support adventurous contemporary work across artforms and to work effectively with our numerous artistic partners.

“This approach, coupled with a planned operational reorganisation and our work with commercial partners and clients is undertaken to ensure that we build resilience and are able to withstand any further COVID-19 impacts.”

He continued: “We are very aware of how difficult the operating environment remains for arts companies, artists, and venues but now, thanks to the support of those who have rallied around us, have the opportunity to approach these challenges with some confidence.”

Now let’s just hope ‘rona fucks off ASAP so we can start pumping life back into the city’s ravaged arts economy, Carriageworks included.

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