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Platform4 at Newcastle Station

2 February 2018 | Posted in: News

Written by: Rayannon Innes | Photography: Edwina Richards and Landcom

Late last month, the team at Renew Newcastle were privileged to receive notice of being awarded the short-term activation lease of the Newcastle Station. With commencement of the temporary activation intended in June, Renew’s program entitled ‘Platform4’ aims to build a successful destination through facilitating the local community’s pool of creative and culturally rich talent.

This concept, with reference to the site’s unique location, was borne out of the proposed ideas of the local community for what public uses the station could and should engage in. From the substantial amount of unique ideas offered through the Revitalising Newcastle Ideas Festival, distinct themes emerged that would inform four key pillars of the Platform4 program.

Although still in the planning stages of development, these four pillars or ‘platforms’ will comprise of the following:

Hospitality Platform: This will be in direct response to the significant request from the community for café, bar, and eateries to be offered within the station. We intend to source and support local business and suppliers in this endeavour to make their mark in the revitalised station destination. In addition to this, we foresee pop-up food events taking place to showcase a diverse range of local enterprises that will make visiting the station a unique, social occasion.

Event Platform: In response to the community’s desire for more inner-city activity and appeal, a rotating weekly, monthly, and seasonal calendar of events will take centre stage inside the station. These events, led by creative practitioners, local event coordinators, arts and cultural bodies will be attractive to tourists and locals. Inclusive and engaging in nature, these major events are intended to be free and open to all members of the public.

Innovation and Education platform: A key objective of the activation outlined by Revitalising Newcastle was the opportunity to create more education pathways and employment opportunities within the Newcastle CBD. A collaborative and centralised space for visitors to work, learn, and play will be established. We aim to partner with academic institutions such as the University of Newcastle, Hunter TAFE and other educational initiatives to facilitate sector-specific skill building for all ages. Industry leaders and those within the local and wider business community will engage in this educational accelerator platform to galvanise Newcastle’s emerging entrepreneurial workforce.

People’s Platform: We see the station as a place operating for the community, by the community. The legacy of Renew Newcastle has and continues to be a product of the people. We live in a city full of people who have great ideas; we want to see how we can facilitate those ideas and enable them to evolve within the tangible public spaces of the Newcastle station.

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Identity through memoir

2 February 2018 | Posted in: News


Written by: Rayannon Innes | Photography: Kristen Daly

From tea to gender identity, the former gallery and tea house owner, now academic research writer Bastian Fox Phelan has experiences worth reading about.

Having recently relocated from Sydney, the author, musician, poet, zine maker, and all-round creative force has set their roots firmly in Newcastle in order to pursue the final chapters of their upcoming memoir. Although still studying their masters and working in Administration and Outreach for the University of Sydney, Bastian recently secured a Renew space on Hunter Street that would serve as the ideal writer’s studio, away from the hustle and bustle of the Sydney CBD.

Having formally been involved with Renew Newcastle in 2009 through the creation of Totoro’s Tea House with artist Natalie Aylward – a live music and exhibition space and one of the first tea houses of its kind to exist in Australia – Bastian would establish a following for their writing through self-published zines circulated at the time.

Nevertheless, although the life of a gallery owner and teahouse operator might inspire some great stories, it’s Bastian’s personal experience with facial hair and gender identity that is at the forefront of their writing. Rooted in Bastian’s personal experience with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), their book explores themes of self-acceptance despite the challenges faced in mainstream social and cultural structures.  Like many non-binary identifying people, Bastian uses the gender neutral pronoun ‘they’.

“I think there’s a huge amount of shame around PCOS because it’s related to things that are taboo in society” Bastian explained.

PCOS is the most common endocrine disorder in women and affects one in ten of those at childbearing age. Symptoms include excess hair, weight gain, acne and fertility problems.

Despite the high instances of PCOS among women, the condition is very rarely publicly discussed. Subsequently, as Bastian has personally observed, this has often created misconceptions around the condition. As an individual who accepts their facial hair, Bastian believes that their memoir might shed light on the topic and encourage self-acceptance by challenging mainstream ideas of beauty.

“I don’t think there’s really anything like my writing… although essentially, I’m just writing a story about how I decided to be myself and that’s something that a lot of people have written about and relate to.”

Bastian was shortlisted for the Scribe Non-Fiction Prize for Young Writers in 2017. They will be seeking a publisher for their memoir later this year after submitting their Master of Arts (Research) thesis.

Bastian and the other artists of The Sanitarium will be holding an Open Studio on February 28th from 6-8pm.

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A creative career recaptured

2 February 2018 | Posted in: News

Written by: Rayannon Innes | Photography: Mitch Lee

Although much too modest to admit it, Edwina Richards has led an immense and inspiring career, whether it be through her role at Renew or within her own creative endeavours. Impossible to coop into just one creatively-driven box, Ed, following a rapidly growing client-base for her photography work over the past year, has chosen to commit to her photography practice full-time.

This exciting commitment to her growing business signifies the departure from her Project Advocacy role at Renew. Arguably too qualified for her role – having formerly been a key component of one of the first Renew projects for almost five years – her invaluable wisdom and infectious warmth will be missed by many.

Nevertheless, the renewed focus on her craft will enable Ed to continue what she has found to be a core passion of hers: storytelling through means of narrative documentary. Currently engaged in a number of exciting projects with the likes of the University of Newcastle and Out Of The Square Media, Edwina strives to illustrate local stories in honest and beautiful photographic detail.

“I’d love to do this more with teams around Newcastle” Edwina says,

“I want to take it out of the purely art world as well because there’s just so many different stories to tell”.

Ed’s love for storytelling is nothing new, having worked alongside Jono Everett and Carl Morgan in curating the museum quality travelling exhibition, Renew In A Box. Through the careful selection, arrangement and refinement of thousands of photographs – a majority of which she captured herself – Ed achieved in illustrating the nine-year legacy of creative activity that defines the Renew story.

Currently working away in her darkroom and studio space at Hamilton’s Clocktower Studios, we’ll be keeping a close eye on the incredible things to come from Edwina in this exciting, new chapter of her life.

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Space for creative abundance

2 February 2018 | Posted in: News

Written by: Rayannon Innes | Photography: David Ford 

“When you give people space to do interesting things, they will”

Lindsey Scannapieco, the co-founder of international urban design and space strategy collective Scout Ltd., witnesses this in her line of work everyday.

Through practical yet playful place-making, Lindsey and her team reinterpret vacant or under-utilised space that works in engaging and empowering the local community to take ownership of their city’s surroundings. From interactive way-finding installations to film festivals constructed entirely from abandoned fridge doors, it’s the engagement of local people that has fuelled the meaningful, long-term outcomes of Scout’s creative spatial projects.

This bottom-up approach has recently been rectified on an immense scale when Lindsey and her team were given the opportunity to reactivate 300,000 square metres of vacant space in her hometown of Philadelphia. Formerly a vocational school, ‘BOK’ enables activity and affordability in creating a revitalised place of making, training, learning and job creation through the utilisation of existing infrastructure.

Reminiscent of The Emporium’s retail, maker, event, and exhibition activation of the former David Jones building, BOK facilitates the likes of artists, small business owners, not for profit organisations, social enterprises, and educators. From an architecture firm and glass blowing studio to a boxing club and even a daycare centre, BOK is flooding the once vacant classrooms with new activity and experiences, 80% of which has been initiated by local Philadelphian residents.

Having visited Newcastle late last year as part of the Vanguard Conference, Lindsey observed a strong maker-centric culture similar to that of BOK and her home city;

“There’s an influx of makers. I think a tourist destination can be driven around that here” Lindsey shared,

“A space where people can learn, watch and understand process and craft”.

Lindsey’s observations echo Renew’s Platform4 concept where local talent will share their skills, knowledge, and craft with the public. Through four key pillars: People’s Platform, Innovation and Education Platform, Event Platform and Hospitality Platform, the station will transform into an inclusive location in the heart of the city built for community, collaboration, work and play. 

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Supporting small acts for big change

2 February 2018 | Posted in: News

Written by: Neroli Foster | Photography: James Bennet

In 2011, Richard Kerr began working for a company based in Newcastle West and witnessed first hand the tremendous work Renew had done in reactivating the Mall. With an engineering background and a bit of a bent for planning and strategy, he was looking to make a contribution to Newcastle and says he is “really grateful to Renew for offering that opportunity.”

As a Renew board member, Richard has contributed to grant funding applications and pulling together our Strategic Plan for 2018-2020. He also worked with Newcastle City Council to make an application to the Federal Building Better Regions Fund to upgrade the mall.

Richard views the changes in the mall and the closing of The Emporium as a positive result of the effectiveness of the Renew model in activating vacant space with creative industries to encourage future use that benefits the city.

“Due to the massive impact that Renew has generated with a tiny budget and a group of extremely talented individuals, I’ve had a profound realisation that big change happens in lots of small parts and that there’s no substitute for creativity and hard work,” he said.

“I find it really rewarding to help spread that message.”

Richard’s dream for a better Newcastle is to see a more collaborative, open and welcoming culture founded on creativity.

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