Stoked at the news that Keep Sydney Open is considering running for state parliament, we caught up with Tyson Koh, manager of the campaign and FBI radio DJ, ahead of their event this weekend - Meet me in Darlo.
RR: Tyson, good to speak to you. We’re delighted that Keep Sydney Open is considering running for parliament. What’s the plan?
Tyson: Yes, we’re considering registering as a political party! We want more of a seat at the table. Nightlife is important, we want people to be proud of their city and we think this might be the most effective way to change things. We also want to use nightlife as a pathway into other important issues that our supporters care about, so we’re asking if we should start a party. We need 750 registered members, so let’s see what happens!
RR: Well, we think it’s a great idea. A political party that supports actual parties? You can definitely count us in! The Keep Sydney Open campaign has really captured the hearts of those after a decent night out in Sydney. How did it all start?
Tyson: The campaign actually started a couple of months before the Lockout laws were passed in Feb 2014, but when they came in to effect people lost morale and accepted the outcome, so the campaign was pretty much dormant. Six months in I was becoming increasingly angry at the damage being done to Sydney’s nightlife so I decided to take it over, re-brand it and develop a new strategy. It started as a side project but has taken over my life!
RR: I bet haha. Do you think the campaign has made progress?
Tyson: There has been lots of positive change due to the campaign - in attitudes and legislation. We helped the government realise that live music venues, including those with DJs, offer a unique type of entertainment in the city which led to an extension of the lockout time 1.30am to 2am. Plus small bars can now serve spirits without mixers after midnight and the ‘three strikes’ regime – which previously could mean a loss of license for venues for a few mistakes – has been relaxed. So there has been progress, but ultimately the Lockout laws are still around, which gets frustrating when you see Sydney’s venues and reputation suffering.
RR: How should the industry tackle this incredibly damaging problem?
Tyson: I think all stakeholders – artists, venues and promoters need to get more organised and get involved. We are 4 years in to the Lockout laws so it can be hard to motivate people, but everyone who is affected has to be part of that conversation with the government.
RR: What about individuals who want the freedom to be able to go out without all these ridiculous restrictions? What can they do?
Tyson: People should strike a balance between acknowledging that there’s a problem and being optimistic about the nightlife economy. Keep going to venues and supporting the musicians and DJs who keep Sydney alive. There are still lots of great parties going on but people aren’t always participating. We need to be ready to embrace a free and open nightlife when we achieve it. So don’t accept the status quo, stay passionate about the issue but do support the events taking place!
RR: Sounds like a plan. It’s clearly a massive operation, how do you staff and fund the campaign?
Tyson: We have a small dedicated team and rely on the goodwill of volunteers. We haven’t asked for donations, we fund it through the selling of Keep Sydney Open merchandise and fundraising events like the one we did in King’s Cross in July.
RR: Yep, it was a great event. You’re doing something similar, Meet me in Darlo this Saturday. Why Darlinghurst?
Tyson: The Darlinghurst area, particularly Oxford St is one of the country’s premier spots for nightlife with plenty of great, diverse venues but it has been struggling recently. We want to support the area and for people to experience all it has to offer. There are free and ticketed events taking place all day across multiple venues with lots of great artists. It should be a lot of fun and people can register their interest for our political party there too.
RR: Nice. We like a bit of house & techno here at Rave Reviewz. Any underground electronic music on the bill?
RR: Sweet as. We’ll meet you in Darlo mate.
Find out more about becoming a member of the Keep Sydney Open Party here
If you’re interested in volunteering for Keep Sydney Open, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo credit: Parker Blain