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Renew Newcastle brings transitional buildings in Newcastle to life again. Property owners license (for a nominal sum) their buildings to Renew Newcastle while they have no tenants or are awaiting development.

Renew Newcastle manages the short term use of the buildings, we pay Public Liability and other necessary insurances, will take over basic maintenance (a fresh coat of paint, a clean, and fixing up the broken windows) and cover basic insurances while the buildings are in Renew Newcastle’s care.

Renew Newcastle supports the property owner to the maximum extent possible to ensure that their involvement is tax effective and their contribution is seen a positive contribution to the community. Renew Newcastle then finds “custodians” who use the buildings for cultural, creative and community purposes until the owner finds a permanent tenant or a redevelopment is ready to proceed.

We believe that activity is the single most important factor in turning around vandalism and decay.


Renew Newcastle is an initiative proposed by Marcus Westbury in 2008. It is backed by supporters from Local, State and Federal Government, and the local business community.

Marcus is a cultural project manager, festival director and media maker born in Newcastle and was the founder of the annual This Is Not Art festival which he ran from 1998 until 2002. While working as a Director of the Cultural Festival of the Melbourne Commonwealth Games, Marcus travelled to other industrial cities all over the world and explored the way they were using cultural activity to create renewal.

In 2007, Marcus made this episode of his ABC TV series Not Quite Art that compared Newcastle and Glasgow that led to establishing Renew Newcastle to implement some practical strategies.

For the full the full list people involved in Renew Newcastle see the People section of this web site.


No. For the first six months of Renew Newcastle’s life the organisation operated on the smell of an oily rag and without any major sources of funding.

Three and a half years on, in late 2012, the organisation has the funding support of NSW Government through Arts NSW and Department of Trade & Investment’s Enterprising Regions Program; City of Newcastle; Hunter Development Corporation; and Newcastle Now. This funding allows Renew Newcastle to deliver an enhanced service and an extended program of activities. We also have generous in-kind support from property partners and local service providers. See our Partners for details of these relationships. However the core operational costs of this solution are very low, and the program overall provides excellent value for money.

A report published by SGS Economics & Planning in December 2011 identified a return on investment with a benefit/cost ratio of more than 10:1. That is, for every dollar invested in the program through grants and philanthropy, the Renew Newcastle program of activity generates an impressive ten-times that in economic benefit to the city.

Renew Newcastle has succeeded by creating incentives for the business and creative community to act, and not by throwing money at the city’s problems. Renew Newcastle is designed from the ground up to focus the community’s energy in a way that is as efficient as possible – making life easier and not harder for property owners, and using the energy and “sweat equity” of the local creative community to clean up and fix up the run down parts of Newcastle’s CBD.

Renew Newcastle can assist artists and organisations to seek money for new projects from philanthropic sources, charitable foundations and all levels of government but does not require a lot of overheads to run.