marcus westbury

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Newcastle Reflections

August 16th, 2009 by marcus


Renew Newcastle project map

I’m spending the weekend in Newcastle for another round of Renew Newcastle project launches. It’s my 21st trip since last April but so much has happened in that time. From a so-crazy-it-just-might-work scheme a year ago now Renew Newcastle is seriously working. We are up to 36 projects now in 24 separate spaces. It’s a pretty impressive achievement even if i do say so myself. I’m genuinely surprised at the momentum and with the quality of all the projects.

Last night was fantastic – the opening of the Arthive studio and gallery complex, the Ciao Miow gallery and shop and a special preview of Tottoro’s Tea House which will officially open in the coming month. There were probably a few hundred people at the various events and there was a palpable vibe forming.

There is a dynamic starting to form. Several of our newer projects are by people who have actually moved to Newcastle for the opportunities presented by Renew Newcastle. Last night i spoke to quite a few people who had come up from Sydney to check out the action and after a few drinks they were contemplating aloud the prospect of relocating. Newcastle is the promised land for those low capital creative projects that are so hard to get off the ground in Sydney. It will be interesting to see the reactions that will be generated come the time of This Is Not Art.

The other realisation of the weekend is that this is going to get daunting from here. Marni and I have quite a mission ahead of us. We’ve pretty much filled all the spaces that we’ve been able to get access to and the proposals keep flooding in. The low hanging fruit has been harvested. Yet there are still well over a hundred empty buildings and we need to agressively chase and somehow convince their owners.

We’ve got a lovely brochure that we are about to mail out to 600 odd property owners and then i’m hoping we’ll be able to convince the people sitting on all this empty space that’s it’s in their interests to bring the city back to life again.

Check out the photos in our Flickr group.

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