Montefiore: Is Town Hall incubating Adelaide’s creatives or a nest egg?

Incubation is Town Hall’s new cultural buzz word — but the real money is not in creating, but in managing.

It’s been many years since Sir Monty collected eggs from the nests of contented chickens. Nowadays he collects invitations to events capitalising on Adelaide’s ‘night-time economy’, a concept invented by some creative Town Hall soul to measure the number of related businesses (767), creating $1073.4m revenue and dominated by food-led business, followed by entertainment and something called ‘drink’.

A combination of all three appears to be the best approach to hatch out a good living, but if you’re an artist or musician all you can do is make a noise and hope that people come and look or listen. If you’re good, you don’t need a bureaucracy to make it work.

The matter of incubation came to mind as Sir Monty perused Town Hall’s Cultural Strategy and Live Music Action Plan 2017–20, and noted that there’s a thing called a cultural sector in Adelaide and that one key part comprises ‘Creative Incubators’, featuring “organisations that provide for creative careers across a variety of forms, including visual art, film-making, writing, music, performing, designing buildings and public spaces, and making games, clothes, jewellery and objects.”

He chose objects, given that his last performance effort on the C sharp trombone jagged a club chandelier (as he danced upon a table top) and brought down part of the ceiling upon a table of stuffed-shirt club diners who are still consulting their Gouger Street lawyers.

Sir Monty’s reputation with objects is not well known beyond the club’s North Terrace door steps, but among the Old Adelaide Money set who keep accounts inside and drink most of its Champagne, it’s legendary. They know that some mediocre objects can be turned into things of great value, using the conventions of commerce and money making mechanisms developed in the mid-20s on Wall Street, which, despite the accident of one depression, multiple recessions and a global financial crisis, are still popular today.

However, with regard to City of Adelaide objects, Sir Monty sees that things are quite different at Town Hall and has vowed to, as they say, adopt the new paradigm. Step 1, apparently, is for everyone to climb into the Lord Mayor’s Think Tank. Who thinks and who tanks is not clear in the agenda papers. Most attendees are also signed up members of the quarterly Cultural Community Forum, and some of them even sit at the Public Art Round Table. This ‘sit-in’ aligns with a Town Hall mantra behind a film loop screened on a meeting room wall, intoning the words: “Shift in approach: culture makers feel they must leave to flourish [changes to:] culture makers come, stay and thrive.”

On hearing this, Sir Monty was thrust a Think Tank proposal to establish a Creative Social Ventures Entrepreneurs Program, which appeared to have well-greased wheels. He took a seat near the driver and pretended to know the way. As it took off, he read the shuttle notice: This way to the Emerging Peer Assessment Panel for the Arts and Cultural Grants Program.

Many winding pathways later, with Sir Monty hopelessly lost, he arrived at the terminus, where a crowd of Emerging Curators were… well… emerging. Several of them were carrying a curious, ivory handled magnifying glass, which he later learned was the Town Hall Cultural Lens, apparently crucial for analysis of City of Adelaide regulations and procedures “to consider criteria that maximises cultural value”.

Thus far, however, to Sir Monty’s disappointment, there had been no hint of good, old-fashioned money-making opportunity, until, emerging through the sun-streaked clouds of fine print he spotted a series of asterisk-linked footnotes snoring at the bottom of the page.

Here at last was the golden nugget that Sir Monty inevitably finds, weary from scaling the peaks and troughs of admin-speak. This year Town Hall is funding ‘More opportunities for live music’; A ‘cultural volunteer pool to support initiatives and marketing’; ‘Smartygrants: ‘Online Grants Application Program’; ‘Marketing grants for the promotion of cultural activity’; ‘The Think Tank’; ‘The Forum’; ‘Arts and Cultural Grants’; ‘The Creative Social Ventures Entrepreneurs Program’; ‘The Adelaide Libraries Yearly Action Plan’; “Promotion of the use of the Cultural Lens’.

There was more… But all told – how much? $101,000 to implement the Cultural Strategy; $20,000 for additional music and marketing categories in the Arts and Cultural Grants program; $26,000 for delivery of cultural operations; $40,000 for strategic partnerships; and $15,000 for a software subscription to Culture Counts.” There’s more: for that, add another $40,000.

There was only one curiosity. None of the men and women behind these plans, tanks and program can entertain or do stand-up comedy or play a musical instrument or draw or paint or write poetry or direct a film, or craft silver trinkets or create beautiful objects. All they do is manage.

That’s where the real money is. If incubation is the game, Sir Monty is throwing away the trombone — and simply will be managing for the highest contract fee possible.

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