Culture Interviews

Conversations with Laura Southcombe, UpTown Sydney

We sat down with the powerhouse behind the VividPlace Food Trail, Laura Southcombe (COO at UpTown Sydney).

Can you give us a quick introduction to yourself and your role at the UpTown Sydney?

“I’m Laura Southcombe, a born-and-bred Sydneysider with a stint in NYC under my belt. Currently, I’m the District Coordinator (a.k.a. COO) at UpTown Sydney. My gig involves building the district’s brand, launching it to market and seeking out partnerships to boost foot traffic and support our member businesses.

With a background in managing marketing for various venues in the UpTown district, I’ve seen firsthand the exciting revitalisation happening here, with major developments like Sydney Place and Quay Quarter Tower. Coming back from NYC, I understand the importance of placemaking and fostering community engagement. 

So, when the NSW government offered grant money to promote our district and enhance Sydney’s 24-hour economy, I seized the opportunity. I know how hard folks in hospitality and other sectors work, often with limited time for larger projects like this. That’s why I’ve been happy to step up and take on this role over the past 12 months.”

Where did the idea for the VividPlace Food Trail come from? What are you hoping to achieve with this Vivid Sydney activation?

“The idea for the VividPlace Food Trail stemmed from a desire to give local businesses a boost and enhance the Vivid experience for attendees.

Our goal is twofold: firstly, to support businesses during quieter winter nights and increase trade and awareness; and secondly, to provide festival-goers with more affordable and tasty food options. We wanted to show Vivid attendees that there are excellent dining options just a few minutes away from the main light attractions (something like 81% of the 3+ million people going to Vivid eat out). By pitching to DestinationNSW to join the official Vivid Sydney program, we were able to be awarded some funding, launch a marketing campaign and are bringing the area to life with theming and signage. 

It was also a fantastic chance to highlight some hidden gems that often get overlooked. While many people stroll down George Street, Pitt Street or Macquarie Street, if they’re up for a little adventure and cut through these blocks, they’ll discover the laneways of Sydney Place and Bulletin Place, brimming with fantastic food and beverage options.

The result: approximately 20 food and drink establishments will extend their operating hours and offer special menu items during Vivid. This initiative ensures festival-goers have access to delicious, affordable, and convenient food options, enhancing their overall Vivid experience. 

Not everyone wants a lavish dinner during Vivid and also doesn’t want to rely on overpriced food trucks; some may prefer to spend less than $20 on a satisfying meal before immersing themselves in the lights with their family. It’s about providing accessible and enjoyable dining options for everyone amidst the vibrant atmosphere of Vivid.”

What are you most excited to see come to life as part of UpTown Sydney’s partnership with Vivid Sydney 2024?

“I obviously want to taste all the amazing dishes from the participating food and beverage operators. What really gets me excited, though, is the fact that we’re not doing this alone.

We have the full support of DestinationNSW and government agencies who see our mission as a collective effort and are backing us. It’s incredibly rewarding to know that local business owners can be a part of something bigger and that, together, we can make a real impact on the Sydney community and its visitors. “Jacksons on George is proud to be participating in the VividPlace Food Trail as part of Vivid Sydney 2024. Browse our exclusive Vivid menu and swing by to experience it for yourself from 24 May to 14 June 2024.”

May 2024

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