There is an old, time-honoured adage: those who cannot do, teach; and those who cannot teach, legislate. It can certainly feel that way these days – politicians seem increasingly disconnected from their electorate, and distrust of officials is at an all-time high, both here and abroad. We are, after all, living in the age of wasteful plebiscites, majority governments who can barely hold together a majority, the rise of third-party candidates, and, crucially, the spectre of that orange-faced demon named Donald Trump.
But in terms of practical real world experience, Councillor Jess Scully shatters the cliché we might hold in our heads of bloodless, inexperienced pollies. Scully has been kicking goals for Sydney’s creative scene ever since she came to office, and her skill when it comes to navigating both political red tape and the pressures of the entertainment industry has been well proven by now. Scully has not been merely sidelined into a job looking after the creative arts, and her goal is nothing less than to secure the arts scene the respect it sometimes misses out on.
“While I was at uni I started editing magazines, and kind of got into creative industry stuff that way,” Scully explains over the phone during a spare 20 minutes on one of her typically busy days. “That’s kind of been the trust of my career since then – creative projects.”
In that way, Scully has real world experience – not just in the realm of politics, but in the creative industries themselves. And that, she argues, has been the key to her political approach for years now, guiding her as she works to increasingly bolster and nurture Sydney’s live music scene.
— Jess Scully (@jessaroo) September 2, 2017
“There is the danger of [politicians] getting into that kind of bubble thinking. Policy people don’t always understand the impact of what they do on the real world.
“Whereas my whole career has been about … saying, ‘We are living through a shift from the resources economy to the knowledge and creative economies.’ We’re seeing that all around us. We’re moving away from the manufacturing industry in Australia – and if that industry does continue here it will become the advanced manufacturing industry, which draws on creativity and science.”
For that very reason, Scully sees the respecting of the creative arts not as some kind of dalliance, or an elaborate exercise in money-burning. After all, as the widespread ramifications of our post-capitalist – potentially universal-wage saturated world – begin to take hold over the next few decades, the world of the creative arts will only become a bigger, increasingly essential source of employment. Not, mind you, that the earning capabilities of Australia’s creatives should be sniffed at now.
— Jess Scully (@jessaroo) August 10, 2017
“The creative sector is actually our second largest employer,” Scully points out. “That’s why I am really glad I can be on the council and represent that perspective, because it contributes over a billion dollars a year to our economy. We’re just behind professional services, which includes lawyers.
“And yet we never hear about the economic impact of the creative industries. But that, essentially, is what I see as my mission on council. I want to make sure we’re represented. I want to make sure there’s not just this mindset that artists are just getting handouts, or that it’s some kind of charity. Because it’s not. Arts policies are really important industrial policies. It’s a way of guaranteeing that people will continue to have jobs into the future.”
As a result, Scully’s plan is both practical – concerned with the handing out of grants, and the allocation of opportunities for young creatives – but it’s also awareness raising too, and she is ever concerned with making the true importance of Sydney’s creative scene known.
“Live music is really important for the music industry, and supporting the talent pipeline and making sure artists can build careers out of their passions and their talents, but it’s also really important from a social and cultural perspective,” Scully says. “[Bars] are places that we go to make friends. They are the places we go to tell our stories.”
We’re working with the City Of Sydney to tell the stories of Sydney’s live music scene. For more information about Councillor Scully and her work, head here.