When COVID-19 spread globally, central business districts (CBDs) emptied as workplaces, retail and cultural venues locked down and work-from-home became widespread. Urban recovery strategies now abound, with culture and creativity featuring prominently to enliven precincts and attract people back to city centres. Yet these ‘vehicular’ formulations of CBD revitalisation raise pressing questions about inclusivity, the dominance of financial and property interests, the representation of creativity as consumption rather than production, and the absence of engagement with the actual livelihoods and production practices of creative/cultural work. In this research, rather than placing creativity in service of the CBD, we foreground the experiences of those in the cultural and creative sectors hard hit by the pandemic, with an initial focus on the working lives of Sydney musicians. We report here on how we are engaging participants in conversations via qualitative mapping to trace their work, networks, uses of space, and adaptive strategies. Early findings reveal a dynamic picture of the changing geographies of musical work. By generating new practical knowledge of city centre reconfigurations and networks of creative industries across metropolitan spaces, we aim to produce insights for urban policy to support more inclusive recovery and governance.
The project team includes cultural, urban and economic geographers, all located in ACCESS at UOW. It combines Chris Brennan-Horley's expertise in qualitative GIS, Chris Gibson and Peta Wolifson''s background in the creative industries, music geographies and cultural economies, Pauline McGuirk and Nicole Cook's interests in urban governance and policy, and Andrew Warren's expertise in geographies of work. The team is collaborating on the ARC-funded Discovery project: Reassembling the pandemic city: shifting geographies of creative work.