Bendigo arts community still in dark one year after $3 million 'creative industries hub' announced

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Bendigo’s artistic community is still in the dark about the details of a multi-million-dollar “creative industries hub” one year after the state government first announced the project. 

The investment was announced in the lead-up to the 2016-17 Victorian budget, part of a $115 million package creative industries minister Martin Foley said would develop artistic talent in film and television, gaming, fashion, music and performing arts.

One year on, little is known about the central Victorian project, which Bendigo East MP Jacinta Allan described at the time as “critical”.

Representatives from several galleries, council departments, arts businesses, educational institutions and community groups in Bendigo said this week they knew nothing more about the hub than what was flagged last April.  

But a spokeswoman for Mr Foley said “significant” consultation had already occurred and negotiations for a potential location were underway. She did not list the stakeholders consulted. 

Ms Allan and Bendigo West MP Maree Edwards launched a $1 million “centre for culture” in February, which would see Bendigo host an international arts conference next September. But the Labor MPs said the centre was separate from the proposed creative industries hub.

“I know there’s an eagerness to hear more about [the hub], but it’s taken a bit of time to make sure we’ve got the foundation right so that it’s sustainable into the future,” Ms Allan said at the centre for culture launch.

Regional Development Victoria director Stan Liacos said last November his organisation was putting together a business case for a creative industries hub – seven months after funding was first announced.

He earmarked the City of Greater Bendigo, La Trobe University, Bendigo Kangan TAFE, and “a range of private entities and local creative industries practitioners" as potential partners in the project. 

Mr Liacos said any hub should support the growth of design, digital startups and arts education programs.  

Bob boutique proprietor Sonia Brit said she was unaware of the government’s plans for a cultural hub but believed more support was needed for creative start-ups in Bendigo, explaining it was difficult to gain traction in the local market and online.

“We've found it really hard to even implement small ideas,” she said, listing help with online marketing as something that could grow her business.  

Bendigo Theatre Company secretary Mary White also expressed excitement at the possibility of a cultural hub in which to collaborate with other artists but said no contact was made with the group since the announcement last April.  

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