marcus westbury

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A crisis is a terrible thing to waste (Help – i’m crowdfunding a book!)

July 7th, 2013 by marcus


First let’s cut the chase: I’m crowd-funding a book and everything below is an attempt to get you to give me money or stuff.  Just go here and do it if you don’t want the long explanation.

The longer version is I’ve spent the last two years working to build Renew Australia up into a successful  sustainable, national organisation and — for the most part we’ve been getting there. We are a not for profit social enterprise. Renew Australia doesn’t get government funding (although Renew Newcastle does and Renew Australia are most definitely working on it!) so we are entirely dependent on contracts from main-street committees, local governments, property owners, corporate clients, etc to pay the bills.

The good news is that in the long term, we’ve got plenty of interest (132 separate communities around Australia have contacted us asking for support!) and we do have plenty of good projects in the pipeline. In the short term though two of the three biggest projects we had on for the first part of this year fell over for reasons that were largely beyond our control. As a result, as a small organisation with no buffer, we’ve had to cut back staff and find savings to keep the organisation ticking over until some exciting new projects start to ramp up. The good news for Renew Australia (but not so much for me) is that there is one substantial expense can be cut back very easily and mostly solves the short term problem: paying me.

So, I’ve agreed to work for free for up to three months to get the projects we know are coming over the line. I have no doubt we will and i have no doubt that it will pay me back one way or another when we do.

Plan B: I’m crowd-funding a book! 

Fortunately a crisis is a terrible thing to waste so i’ve come up with a plan that will hopefully both help me keep myself afloat and get me to finally knock off something that has been on my to do list for a long time. I’m putting the ideas and experiences behind Renew into a book.  Since before Renew even existed i have been writing and thinking about cities, culture, creatvitiy and how they intersect and why they often fail to. I’ve been collecting notes on this for at least 4 years. I have a few high quality pieces and at many tens of thousands of words of notes — some of which has been published in various forms but much of which is waiting around for me to polish it up and do something useful with it.

So, to kill two birds with one stone, if enough people get behind it it will work both as a means to pay my bills for the next few months (maybe even pay me back some of the many tens of thousands of dollars of my own savings i’ve spend on this work) and it will create a chance to get some interesting ideas out there and start a debate or two. The aim is an Ebook primarily — made up of short essays and snippets. It will, at worse, include a mix of new and previously published work but if the crowd funding campaing really goes off i’ll aim for 100% new material. There will also be a limited print on demand version that you can preorder through pozible.

How you can help

1. Support the campaign. Buy the book! 

The first and most obvious thing you can do is get behind the Pozible campaign. Visit and make a donation. Share the link with your friends, spruke it up, talk it up, and pass it on. At this early stage the main reward will be a copy of the book, getting your name in it as a thank you and the warm and fuzzy feeling of supporting my work. If you have money and means and you’d like to see this happen just get online and donate.

2. Can you help provide a reward?

Crowd funding campaigns often stand or fall on the quality of the rewards. Sadly, I’m not an artist but fortunately I have spent half my life hanging around them and leeching off their talents and occasionally had them leech off mine. As the crowd funding campaign will run until the end of August i’m going to use the first 30 days to crowd source some interesting works and donations that i can offer as rewards in the later stages. Right now i’m simply offering stuff i can do myself but come the 1st of August I hope to switch gears and start introducing some unique, exciting, quirky and wonderful rewards.

This is where you, my artist friends, all come in – i know most of you aren’t exactly flushed with cash so there’s an alternate way I’d really like to ask some of you for a favour. If you are an artist who has benefited through Renew Newcastle or Renew Australia would you consider donating a small object? Are you someone whose career was helped by LOUD, Noise, Sound SummitNational Young Writers’ FestivalTHIS IS NOT ART or Next Wave, Free Play or any of the other events I founded or was involved in. If so, i’d love you to consider donating something. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just interesting and meaningful.

I’m specifically looking for:

  • Simple, original fit-in-an-envelope style artworks that can be offered as random prizes to, say, donors of $20 or more. Ideally this won’t cost you much to make or me much to post and while every donor will be credited on the pozibe site it will be luck of the draw as to who gets what. If you want to provide one or more such works then simply send them in or pass them on (See below for details)
  • Signed books, CDs, or whatever. If you are an author or a musician whose been involved in something i’ve done in the past donating a CD or signed book would be greatly appreciated (at least the participants can be confident that they will get one good book out of it!).
  • Larger, bespoke, one off more valuable things — a large artwork, a piece of jewellery, etc. If you are happy to donate such a thing (say something enough to bundle with a donation of $50 or more) then email me (marcus[AT] a line, let me know what it is, what it would usually sell for and we will promote it as a special one off reward. We will probably need to manage the complexity.
  • Experiences — are you in a band or something a bit famous? Could you play an acoustic set in someone’s lounge room? Can i auction your time or might you want to be part of one of our beers and ideas nights? Zany ideas most welcome but drop me an email first.

The only important criteria for donations is that we are only interested in original stuff! You must have made it and in an ideal world I’d love to know the story that connects it back to Renew, TINA, Next Wave or any of the other projects that i’ve been involved in if they influenced, enabled or just inspired you.

How to practically do it:

Drop stuff off

We will be collecting crowd funded object donations until 1st of August and offering the donated objects until the campaign closes a month later.

If you are in Newcastle and would like to make a donation, the Renew project Make Space will gladly receive them from now until the end of the campaign. They are located at 200 Hunter St Mall (opp The Emporium) and are open Wed – Sat 10-3pm. Your contributions will be collated at Renew HQ and sent on from there.

If you are in Melbourne then feel free to drop things in or off at the Renew Australia office at upstairs 242 Victoria St Brunswick. The office is only attended part time but we are part of a great co-working environment and we will do our best to creates a drop off system.

By mail: If you aren’t in any of those places then feel free to post contributions to Renew Australa’s PO Box: PO Box 415, Brunswick. Victoria 3056.

IMPORTANTLY: Please make sure your donation is clearly labelled with your name, contact details, brief description of the work (including title and it’s estimated value) and a little note about any project which you have been involved with if relevant (Renew Newcastle, Docklands Spaces, This Is Not Art, etc) that would be appreciated.

… Oh, and one last thing. I’m looking for a squilionaire philanthropist with a crazy passion for art, culture, cities, towns and empty spaces. Both Renew Newcastle and Renew Australia have DGR status to donations to both can be tax deductible (this crowd funding campaign is not). On the off chance you know one or are one do feel free to drop me a line.

Image credit: Brenda Gottsabend  via Flickr used under a Creative Commons license. 

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