by Nicole Elliott.
Like most Councils we [Shellharbour] find ourselves thinking; if only we had a bigger budget, more time and a captured audience to consult with…Not just the naysayers.
We have found however that creativity arises and thrives within these very limitations – these limitations have not defined who we are but inspire us to think more creatively …. Yes, it's challenging, but these boundaries have inspired us to think outside the box.
Part of unlocking our creative potential was firstly understanding who we are as a city, and ensuring that our engagement captures our diverse population.
Located on the beautiful South Coast, Shellharbour is a City of contrast. While we have one of the youngest populations in NSW, our over 60's are set to double in the next 20 years! With a median age of 37, we have a high population of young families and people who commute by car and also travel to work outside of the area.
An example of how we engage our often hard to reach community was recently demonstrated through 'Creative Shellharbour', an engagement program designed to help shape Council's new Arts and Cultural Development Strategy.
'Creative Shellharbour' included a program of outreach consultation to members of our community. This included pop up opportunities at our schools, libraries, businesses, local shopping centres and finally a weekend of inspiration and ideas generating!
We plastered our exhibition centre wall to wall with paper and invited the community to bomb their ideas for a 'Creative Shellharbour' – no matter how big or small.
A creative evening was hosted with guest speakers from a range of creative industries. These 'lighting talks' empowered our community by providing firsthand experience on the do's, don'ts and how's.
An interesting outcome was the realisation that Council does not necessarily have need to be the funder or provider for cultural activity, rather the role of local government should focus on enabling and supporting our local creatives.
Hearing these perspectives encouraged our community to think even further outside of the box and shifted their focus from what Council should do, to how residents and artists can work with their Council for the benefit of the community.
We also engaged a roving street performer to encourage people to idea bomb on the move. This did its job with people approaching us and asking 'what's this about'?
So if you were asked 'would you take you city on a date?' – what would you say?
Hell yes! It makes me smile, it's beautiful, interesting and engaging or NO WAY, I am running a mile, this one's tired and depressing, nothing ever changes!
What's your big idea for your community? #creative Shellharbour
Council staff involved in the project were:
- Toni Lindwall, Community Engagement Officer
- Sarah Davis, Arts and Cultural Development Officer