Now, you merely have to have an Instagram account or be related to someone and the doors to Sydney’s social scene are thrown wide open for you.
My learned colleague Lucy Manly, who’s social scene column abuts these musings, has an inbox heaving with invitations to the launch of this brand, or the opening of that bar – and I always take great joy in guessing who will top the invite list.
Traditionally, PRs will list their guests from most important to least in order to attract the attention of Lucy’s social photographer. Usually the list will be topped by the brother of Margot Robbie, the sister of Cody Simpson or Erin Holland. Sometimes all three. Occasionally The Veronicas. Very occasionally someone from Home and Away. Rarely anyone of great interest.
A recent visit by an international fashion designer was celebrated with a lavish party by the harbour, the kind of event that in any other city would be attended by a veritable who’s who of society. This one was filled with bloggers and people with social media followings in the tens.
The brand may have been targeting micro-influencers, who knows, but it made for a very dull party where the only bit of sparkle came from the mirror ball.
Whether this low-key social dirge is a result of PRs who don’t know how to find the actual social influencers of the city, or part of Sydney’s general malaise in relation to stepping out after dark, is a mystery. But Sydney is the greatest city in the world and deserves a social scene that matches.
Do what it takes to get Cate Blanchett or Chris Hemsworth or Margot Robbie at your event, give the city something to feel excited about when they wander past your red carpet or read about it in the social pages later.
Even musical first nights, once the hottest ticket in town with the hottest party to match, have gone low key.
Less than a decade ago, when Mary Poppins opened in Sydney, it was nearly impossible to get into the venue due to the fans gathered around the theatre to see the film and TV stars who turned up. After the show Disney turned Town Hall into the streets of London with a lavish affair that was nearly as transportive as the show. The room was heaving with Australian showbiz royalty.
These days your average musical opening night has a small step-and-repeat banner accompanied by cheap champagne in the foyer and even that is usually just a small do for the cast. And don’t even get me started about Sydney’s favourite party genre: store openings, which are nothing more than drinking in shops.
At last week’s AACTA awards, fans gathered around the venue and near the red carpet to catch a glimpse of their favourite star. It gave the event a sense of occasion. It felt like, at least in a small corner of the city, there was something to celebrate.
When the smoke clears and the Sydney’s stunning weather takes hold, hopefully our event organisers will remember what a special place we live in and give us a party scene to match – instead of throwing events that give them the opportunity to write “social media reach” on their reports.
Better parties are better for the brands and shows they are launching, but they are also better to make Sydney feel like a truly world city. London and New York would be ashamed to host the kind of dross we have to endure.
Andrew Hornery is on leave
Nathanael Cooper is the deputy culture editor at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.