Renew Newcastle Departs
4 February 2019 | Posted in: News
After 10 years of cultural participation that has turned heads on an international stage, Renew Newcastle will cease to operate on 8 March.
General Manager, Christopher Saunders says “it has been a great victory getting this far, but it is disappointing that the financial hurdles of establishing a participatory community space in a quiet city corner have become insurmountable”.
“We have invested every last dollar and every ounce of ourselves to attract, support and promote new and existing events to establish The Station as a venue. But at a time and a location that is yet to be on people’s list as a destination it has been impossible to generate enough income to continue.”
Despite statistical proof of a 14:1 return on investment and long-term financial partnerships, all existing funding sources ceased shortly after Renew won the tender for The Station in late 2017. In 2018, the organisation received a donation from Hunter Water, was awarded a few small grants and HCCDC invested in acquisition of equipment for use at The Station.
“With very little income for the past 12 months, and a costly path to opening The Station, we no longer have any capacity to absorb the expenses of establishing the venue. As a not for profit organisation the financial risk of continuing is not one the board of Renew Newcastle are able to take.”
For 10 years Renew has been a major catalyst for renewal in Newcastle creating change from the ground up. During this time 82 properties have been activated with 264 participants. 174 participants have gone on to operate successful businesses. The 16 current studio based enterprises are now commencing to seek new premises.
As an organisation Renew Newcastle was created as a structure to enable temporary activation of underutilised space. It was based around making a city work for people with creativity not capital. It was software rather than hardware. It encouraged experimentation not permanent solutions. As such Renew has delivered in spades.
Some of the key benefits include the creation of jobs and skills development; volunteer engagement; mitigation of blight; improved business confidence and improved regional brand value. Renew removed the barriers to entry, lowered the cost and complexity of participation and encouraged artistic risk by allowing people to try new creative ideas.
“Renew approached the opportunity presented with The Station with this same vigour and ideology. It has been a platform for experimentation.”
Since The Station opened in October, 22 weeks ago, Renew has worked with 25 individuals, local businesses and organisations to host almost 40 events. These 25 collaborators have brought a vibrant array of activity from parkour, live art and yoga to robotics, music and comedy events. Alongside this, four indoor spaces have hosted longer term tenancies offering retail, hospitality, education and start up innovation. Renew also enabled the installation of free wifi on the platform.
The vision for the Station was beginning to take shape but without a plump bottom line it is not commercially viable for an organisation to continue.
“Low visitor numbers to the city make it difficult to attract enough foot traffic and destinational visitors to cover the costs of hosting events. As a new venue, in this location, negotiating commercial fees for hire has been almost impossible. As a community space, offering free events, is an expectation.”
Renew has always been about supporting local artists and experimental businesses. Renew’s presence in Newcastle for the past 10 years has shown that cultural participation creates a unique and vibrant city. Winning the tender to operate The Station was an opportunity to expand on this using public space.
“It is regrettable that as an organisation we are not able to continue to support cultural activity as part of our developing city. Tribute must be given to everyone over the last ten years who believed in the vision, who showed up to support, who rolled up their sleeves and participated to help renew Newcastle.”
What’s arrived at The Station?
21 November 2018 | Posted in: News
Visitors to The Station are able to shop, learn, enjoy fantastic coffee, and regular food trucks. Activities at The Station respond to specific feedback from the community and the continued desire for more inner-city activity and appeal.
Our core partners have created a retail store and markets showcasing and selling high quality designed and handmade products. Technology based educational workshops, demos and research will bring worldwide expertise to Newcastle. A café will support local roasters and producers and give visitors a reason to stay and play a while in this iconic location. A bar with local brews from the city, bay and valley will open at events and functions.
It’s a framework to create something for everyone. An ‘everyday’ destination, a space for community activity and a platform to kick off some great events. Choose your destination and jump on board.
Café – Stunning scenery, plenty of room for the kids to run, fantastic Floozy coffee, a fresh, simple and kid friendly menu. Café open every day.
The Victoria – Immerse yourself in the beauty of The Victoria, a concept store by Hunt & Gather. With hand-picked homewares, jewellery, art, fashion and more from local and further afield designers and artists. The Victoria also hosts a workshop room, available to book for workshops, yoga, seminars, mentoring, launches, and so much more.
Food Truck gatherings – Enjoy unique local and gourmet food served by mobile food vendors. The food trucks will shunt in and out each week but the open air village dining will be the same whatever the menu.
Hand made markets -A boutique market focusing on handmade product to compliment The Victoria and provide meet the maker opportunities.
Community Hall – a multipurpose space specifically for community events, exhibitions, conferences, music and performances, exercise classes and more. If you wish to hold an event here please get in touch. See photos of past events and info on upcoming events.
Smart Lab – University of Newcastle School of Creative Industries. Delivering collaborative workshops and research using cutting edge technology including VR and AR to address global issues at a community level – health, aging, disability, education and wellbeing. A unique opportunity for Newcastle to link to Europe’s network of Smart Labs.
Creative & Tech Space – a place to showcase and trial new technology and products, share or exhibit creative projects with the community. Our initial project, Sharkview, is developing technology to reduce shark attacks for the surfing community. If you have a project for this space, please get in touch.
Visit the website or follow us on Facebook for the latest information.
Friends of Renew
4 November 2018 | Posted in: News
Friends of Renew is a campaign aimed at providing much needed financial support to Renew Newcastle to continue to provide entrepreneurial opportunities in Newcastle’s CBD for creative businesses.
Renew Newcastle is a not-for-profit organisation that exists to support our local artists, provide opportunities for budding new businesses and create connections between local entrepreneurs and the community of Newcastle.
We rely wholly on donations and grants, and the support of like-minded individuals who value creativity, vision and soul to make our projects come to life, and we need your support to continue the work we do to inject life into the Newcastle community!
As a Friend of Renew you will receive:
- Your name listed on the Renew website as a Friend of Renew
- First invitations to Renew events hosted at The Station
- An exclusive Friends of Renew pin
- A tax deductible receipt
Renew is heading on a new journey and pushing the boundaries not only as an organisation, but also for Newcastle. We hope you will join us and become a part of our community.
To become a life-long member of Friends of Renew a minimum donation of $80 is required (fully tax deductible). Your donation will help see Renew through this important milestone and you will be a part of something significant in the Newcastle community.
Make your donation through Pay Pal and then fill in this form to choose the colour of your pin and your delivery options.
The Sanitarium bows to progress
31 August 2018 | Posted in: News
The Room Project, 2008. Written by: Rayannon Innes
As The Station doors roll open in October, the doors of 111 Hunter Street closed to make way for future development. The Hunter Street building known by those who occupied the space as ‘The Sanitarium’ – the name of the former sandwich bar that traded on the shop floor – tells a modest yet meaningful story in Newcastle’s cultural legacy.
In early December 2008, five participant agreements were signed, signifying the beginning of ‘Renew Newcastle’. The Sanitarium was one of three vacant properties on Hunter street that would quickly transform themselves into a hub of creative, community-driven activity.
Over the month of December, the people of Newcastle avoided an empty and vandalised inner-CBD for their Christmas shopping, clean-up was underway for those first few fixing up the commercial space dilapidated from years of unattended vacancy.
The Room Project, the first creative project to take place in the building, was a fitting testament to both the cosmetic and cultural change taking place in the city. Led by Kim Bridgeland and a number of fellow university architecture students, tens of thousands of small lengths of construction timber – a number of which were found discarded throughout the building – were intricately fit together in the floor of the space to create a tactile, sensory experience for the public. Through architectural installation, a creative groundswell could literally be felt taking place within the city.
Over the ten years following the month of hard community-led work, a plethora of unique projects populated the five floors of the Hunter Street building. Studio spaces occupied by graphic designers, architects, writers, oil painters, engineers, natural history and children’s book illustrators culminated in The Sanitarium playing a special role in facilitating Newcastle’s emerging creative community.
Many of these creatives were tucked away in their studios working behind the scenes, a number of public-facing projects also flourished in the space. One particularly memorable project was Totoro’s Tea House. At a time when finding a good coffee in the mall was rare if not futile, two young artists opened one of Australia’s first very tea houses. After a year of music, merriment and matcha, the movement would inspire today’s coffee-lover favourite One Penny Black to acquire commercial lease on the space – the rest is café culture history.
It’s the countless examples of creative experimentation like those that took place on the floors of The Sanitarium that tell the greater story of Newcastle’s creative-fuelled cultural revival. Despite what urban development might imply, the story of this city’s renewal hasn’t finished.
When one door closes, another door opens and we’re excited to continue our creative legacy at The Station.
Our approach to activity at The Station is different from our previous model. With many of our properties now being renovated, our participants have gone on to create successful co working spaces in the inner suburbs. Our new approach isn’t in competition with these businesses, but provides them an outlet to sell and exhibit the work they are producing.
We look forward to opening the doors of The Station to you in October.
It’s always bittersweet having say farewell to a commercial space, but it’s made easier when we learn of how far the tenants have come through their creative vocations.
What we know so far:
- Kylie of boutique women’s knitwear label Klee will be moving her industrial sewing instruments to creative co-working space Studio One Marysville.
- Upon receiving a High Distinction for their Masters paper, Bastian will be pursuing the last chapters of their memoir from a new hot desk space at The Roost Creative.
- Karl Morgan of ZooKraft will continue to lead design courses at UoN and work on his other projects from his home studio.
- Brandon McIntosh of Studio Brandon has just received the very exciting news of an offer as Smart City Project Officer at Ipswich City Council.
- Music Therapist Carlin McLennan has just returned from speaking at a conference in Hong Kong and intends to continue taking his business Play Anything to other parts Australia and the world
- Francois will continue to paint, spray, tan and build his repurposed artworks from home alongside other commitments.
An honour and a privilege
20 August 2018 | Posted in: News
Story: Marcus Westbury Photography: Boony Loahajaroenyot
Ten years ago I found myself back in Newcastle with the beginning of a plan. Over the few weeks of late August and early September 2008, I did the rounds of pretty much any of the city’s stakeholders I could pin down. I met with politicians, lawyers, accountants, property owners, business leaders, did media interviews as I publicly and privately worked through an idea I’d been sitting on for more than a decade before that.
Those first few months — actually the first couple of years — were frantic. Shuttling back and forth between Melbourne and Newcastle. Public meetings. Private negotiations. The slow realisation that I had gotten myself into something that I couldn’t quite get out of. At some point momentum took over and carried me with it. I made about fifty return trips averaging about one a fortnight as I watched an idea that I’d long believed in — that Newcastle’s creative community had the resourcefulness, imagination and resilience to seed a transformation if given the right opportunity — go from improbable, to possible to unstoppable.
If you’d told me back then that Renew Newcastle would go on to fix up and reopen eight properties and support 25 projects in the next decade I would have happily taken it. It’s hard to believe we’ve been involved in 10 times that number: more than 80 properties and 250 projects. Renew has been a catalyst for new businesses, new narratives and a transformation way beyond what I would have thought possible. It has also become a model that has been picked up in dozens of cities and towns around the world.
Over time my role at Renew Newcastle has gradually receded from initiator and driver in those early days; to figurehead, advocate and advisor in the middle years; to the old guy who is occasionally wheeled in or out to help with the odd problem, proposal or project. It’s not a bad thing. As Renew Newcastle has needed me less and less more immediate responsibilities — like 2 kids and a full time day job — have needed me more.
It has been an absolute privilege to be part of this. Renew has been and remains an incredible collaborative effort: Renew Newcastle board members both past and present, the team on the ground that has brought it into being over the years, and most importantly the property owners and participants that have made all this possible.
It’s been an honour to play a small part in helping so many enthusiastic, talented and creative people put their efforts into realising their dreams. It is extraordinary to see what can happen when people band together and start change from the ground up. To go shop by shop, block by block to clean, reopen and transform so much of the city. It is a great legacy to see scores of enduring businesses and careers that have been seeded or supported by Renew.
Ten years seems like a good round number to end my formal roles with Renew. Of course I will remain an enthusiastic supporter, my brain is permanently available to be picked if useful, and I will continue to help if and when I can. Renew is entering an exciting new phase with the coming transformation of The Station. It’s a journey I look forward to experiencing from the other side.
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