Leaving the party smarter

Safe partying in Sydney proves successful

When Mathieu Ravier moved to Sydney he was frustrated that the major night time entertainment was drinking. In other cities where he’d lived – namely Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong and Toronto – there were more options for late night entertainment. Now he is Director of The Festivalists, a Sydney-based non-profit company that organises unique events. This week we ask him about one of his innovative events, Jurassic Lounge, which contributes to a profitable, safe night time economy that is enjoyable for everyone – a concept the City of Sydney has picked up on in their new OPEN Sydney: Strategy and action plan 2013-2030.

Bring 2,000 young people inside Australia’s oldest museum, at night, in an environment of dimmed lights and loud music, and give them access to alcohol. What might at first glance look like a recipe for disaster has in fact resulted in one of the most successful models of cultural engagement ever seen in Sydney.

Since 2011, Jurassic Lounge has brought over 53,000 young people back to the Australian Museum in what is now used as a benchmark for the City of Sydney’s late-night economy strategy. Part of this strategy is about encouraging a diverse range of venues such as museums, art galleries, libraries and cafes to stay open later to attract a wider range of people into the city centre to enjoy different activities that aren’t just centred around alcohol.

While there are four bars running simultaneously across the Museum’s three public floors, the focus isn’t on drinking. Instead crowds are entertained by live bands, dance performances, stand-up comedy, crafts workshops, night markets, DJs, vintage games and ping-pong, Date Roulette, burlesque performances and much more.

Through all of this, audiences sip wine or knock back a beer or two. The drinks and themed snacks are integral to the experience, part of the appeal, but not the only draw-card. In fact, over the past five seasons of Jurassic Lounge, I remember only one incident where security had to throw someone out, and that individual had entered the premises already inebriated. It helps that it’s a weeknight, perhaps, and that the night is over by 10pm.

It’s a profitable event not because large volumes of alcohol are sold, but because locals have responded en masse to a good idea, purchasing up to 2,000 tickets a night to the innovative event. Alcohol plays a big part in the night’s success without becoming a problem.

At Jurassic Lounge visitors have discovered a new way to engage with the Museum and rediscovered their appetite for a nightlife in which drinking and culture are not mutually exclusive. Jurassic Lounge has become that rare thing, a party one leaves smarter than one entered.

GrogWatch is interested to hear your ideas or experience of innovative late night entertainment. What can Australia’s cities do to catch up with the rest of the world’s capitals in providing creative solutions to preventing alcohol-related violence?