The City of Sydney is providing one-off seed funding of $85,000 to a creative organisation to bring a digital ‘theatre passport’ scheme to life this year, to help create a new generation of theatre lovers. As part of the new scheme, high school students will have access to unsold seats at theatre, dance and music performances across the city at a fraction of the regular cost.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the digital theatre passport scheme was one of the great ideas from the City’s cultural policy, aimed at helping young audiences develop a taste for Sydney’s diverse cultural life.
“The new scheme will help boost cultural participation among young people by making a trip to live performances more affordable,” said the Lord Mayor. “Most importantly, young people of all walks of life will now be able to get involved in Sydney’s fantastic performance scene and expand their creative passions and talents.
“Shopfront, the group we’ve chosen to bring this unique scheme to life, have proven their capacity to bring cultural venues, ticketing agencies and young audiences together, while keeping ticket costs down.”
The City last year conducted a two-stage expression of interest process to find a suitable organisation to operate the scheme. This included finding an organisation that could manage relationships with cultural organisations, market effectively to young people and keep ticket prices down.
Shopfront Arts Co-Op – a not-for-profit arts organisation with a 40-year history in the youth arts sector, was ultimately chosen to develop and maintain the scheme, which they have dubbed ArtPass. Shopfront demonstrated a contemporary approach with a digital focus, and more importantly, a commitment to financial sustainability and support by the sector, with cultural venues guaranteeing approximately 12,500 tickets to the program in the first year.
Their previous works include national and international tours and creation of multiple large-scale performances and art pieces. Today, the group focuses on the integration of a range of artworks including performance, filmmaking, writing and theatre.
“Shopfront is very excited to be working with the City of Sydney to develop and deliver the ArtPass program, ” said Shopfront CEO, Daniel Potter. “As an organisation we’ve been working for 40 years to provide equitable access to the arts for all young people, and this program will increase our capacity to do just that.
“Similar schemes have been very successful in other parts of Australia and overseas. We have already been, and will continue to, develop ArtPass with young people directly – stripping back preconceptions about how they should engage with arts and culture and then working from the ground up.
“In this way, ArtPass has the capacity to be revolutionary simply by putting the power back into the hands of the next generation of artists, audiences and consumers of culture.”
The theatre passport scheme was first proposed in the City’s Creative City Cultural Policy – released in 2014, and is based on a similar program run by the Adelaide Festival Centre that gave high school students the opportunity to purchase low-cost tickets to performing arts events with unsold seats.
Students remember the program as providing “unforgettable exposure to the performing arts”, building their awareness and knowledge of theatre and, in many cases, ‘fostering a lifelong love of the arts’. The City conducted research into the potential market demand and size in Sydney and received positive feedback from high-school students and teachers alike, along with support from several cultural institutions.
For more information regarding the City’s Creative City Cultural Policy and Action Plan, visit: www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au for details.