A NSW Government website

Public space is where we share our stories and values, and where we forge the ties that bind us. Over summer the NSW Government supported councils to bring public spaces to life by running free, safe activations and events, creating more opportunities for people to connect.

As part of the NSW Government’s support for community events, the Department amended the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 (Codes SEPP) to include an exempt development provision for temporary outdoor community events, for the duration of the Summer Fund program. Find out more about the amendment.

The Summer Fund brought The Festival of Place to people right across the state, as part of the NSW Government’s efforts to support community wellbeing and economic recovery in our local centres.

The program supports the Premier's Priority to increase the proportion of homes in urban areas across NSW within 10 minutes' walk of quality green, open and public space.

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Fairfield City Council's Cabramatta Lunar New Year's Eve event brought freedom Plaza in Cabramatta alive attracting 2,500 people and activating 180sqm of public space.
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Penrith City Council's Penrith Producers brought over 1,000 people to Triangle Park on High Street, enlivening 1,700sqm of public space.
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Murray River Council's Sunday Session @ Moama Soundshell employed or engaged 30 people and attracted 300 visitors to Moama Soundshell on Meninya Street.
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Cabonne Council's March Music Month reinvigorated community wellbing by bringing to life the Molong Community Hall and Cudal Community Park.
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Wollondilly's Summer Live and Local in the Dilly was held across three public spaces, the Picton Botanic Gardens, Argyle Street and Appin Road, attracting around 3,000 people.
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Newcastle's New Annual Art Market was held in Civic Park in Newcastle's CBD, activating 3,100sqm of public space with over 6,700 visitors over two weekends
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Gilgandra's A Night Under the Gums saw over half the population, with over 1,000 in attendance, enjoying local food and music along the banks of the Castlereagh River.
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Lithgow's Pioneer Pictures activated 480sqm of open public space on Main Street, with over 100 local community members attending the street cinema.

Almost 100 councils participated in the program. Here are a few highlights of public spaces brought to life thanks to the Summer Fund.

Blacktown City Council - Our Kids' Place

Blacktown City CouncilA pop-up park on Patrick Street in Blacktown’s CBD provided a space for kids in the city centre and encouraged families to visit and stay. The space was programmed with performances, storytelling, workshops and more, providing an opportunity for people to engage and connect. The project attracted over 600 people to the centre over summer and received strong support from local businesses, as the programs helped to maintain safety and encourage positive and healthy social behaviour.

Temora Shire Council - Temora Creative Expo

wool spinning workshopTemora Shire’s Creative Expo brought to life high streets, Paleface Park and public facilities including Temora Shire Town Hall, Rural Museum and Historic Woolshed. The Expo ran creative workshops including cooking, printmaking, chocolate making, photography, crochet and more, providing an opportunity for the local community to engage in creative education for free and helped council establish ongoing workshops and classes through the year.

Council received feedback that the event had a positive impact on the community’s mental health and helped to generate potential employment opportunities for workshop facilitators and creative workers. Council emphasised how much the Festival of Place contributed to its community, saying “supporting regional creatives has so many positive and ongoing benefits for rural and isolated communities like Temora”.

Narrabri Shire Council - Narra-BRIGHT CBD Pilot Activation

Narrabri Shire CouncilCouncil used funding to pilot a night-time activation, with light shows illuminating Maitland Street facades in Narrabri’s CBD. The pilot complemented the NSW Government’s Outdoor Dining trial, providing an opportunity to transform and enliven the public space, boosting foot traffic and dwell time in the centre at night.

Council boosted evening trading by engaging 18 retailers creating 27 window displays along Maitland street. The pilot saw a tripling of average daily sales  during the 3-hour activation period.

Edward River Council - J-Milla free Live Concert

J-Milla free Live Concert300 visitors gathered in Deniliquin’s new outdoor amphitheatre on George Street to enjoy a free concert and workshops featuring hip hop artist, J-Milla. Council worked in partnership with South West Arts, South West Music and Deniliquin High School students to deliver music workshops and a live concert. Funding supported creative and cultural organisations to extend their live music programs and support employment of local artists, benefiting the local music sector and providing a reason for the community to visit and stay.

Eurobadalla Shire Council - Regeneration

Eurobodalla Shire Council - RegenerationRegeneration was an immersive performance experience held in Quota Park in partnership with Narooma Youth Theatre, Narooma Chamber of Commerce, and the local Mens Shed. A year after the devastating bushfires, these original performances brought positive stories to the community, creating an opportunity to celebrate with light relief and dwell in the stunning Wagonga Inlet princinct of Narooma.

Council relied on a temporary amendment to the Exempt and Complying Codes SEPP, which meant that council did not need a development application to set up temporary installations and fencing for the performances. Council observed that they would not have been able to proceed without the amendment, given the time constraints.

Inner West Council - Light Up the Town Halls

Inner West Council - Light Up the Town HallsLight Up the Town Halls featured projections and audio on the Balmain Town Hall Facades in celebration of the local Aboriginal community. The project supported engagement and employment of creative workers and producers. Over 2,000 visitors across 10 days gathered to hear the stories of Baludarri (Balmain)’s local Aboriginal narratives projected onto the colonial Town Hall in a truth-telling project. The project provided an opportunity for people to safely return to their public spaces, with some of the community commenting on the excitement around seeing public activations occurring again.

Discover where we're investing in your community

Explore the map to discover where NSW Government is providing councils up to $10,000 to run free, safe activations and events, creating more opportunities for people to reconnect as we re-emerge and adapt.

About the program

The Department provided NSW councils up to $10,000 to boost free, small-scale activations and events in public spaces in and around high streets in local centres. This funding contributed to free activations or events that enlivened local public spaces from summer until the end of the Easter holidays on 18 April 2021.

The goals of the Summer Fund program were to:

  • Support community wellbeing by giving people opportunities to safely return to public spaces
  • Enliven public spaces in high streets within local centres through small-scale activations or events, contributing to The Festival of Place
  • Boost foot traffic and dwell time in local centres during the day and night, to help revitalise the local economy
  • Support engagement or employment of creative workers, food and beverage operators and producers

The funding went towards free activations and events like outdoor markets, creative lighting shows or projections, micro-festivals, open-air theatre, talks, street parties, lawn libraries, performing arts or street entertainment.

Regional councils were able to work with their Regional Arts Development Office to leverage funding available under Create NSW’s Regional Music Micro-Festival program.


A program webinar was held on 7 December 2020 about Summer fund for councils December 2020:

Webinar: Summer fund for councils

Summer Night Walks

Tim Ross invites leading thinkers, artists, comedians, performers and public figures to take him on a 'Summer Night Walk' to a special place in their neighbourhoods. Watch the first episode.

Public Spaces Ideas Competition winners announced

We partnered with the Committee for Sydney to ask for your ideas about how to transform public space across Greater Sydney. With more than 500 entries, find all the winners here.