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Renew Newcastle (ABC Sunday Arts)

5 July 2009 | Posted in: Media

Sundayarts

What becomes of a once-mighty centre of industry when the businesses fail or move away, and the jobs evaporate?

In this era of industrial decline, it is a question being asked of many places around the world. In the former steel town of Newcastle, there were over a hundred vacant shops and offices on the main shopping strip. But, six months ago television presenter and writer, Marcus Westbury set about changing the atmosphere in Newcastle’s city centre by inviting artists and designers to inhabit the empty buildings.

By having artists occupy these spaces he hoped to prevent the city turning into a ghost town and falling prey to crime. The Renew Newcastle project has been an incredible success in a short amount of time: there are already 27 different artist groups occupying the empty spaces in the city. Even Marcus is surprised by how quickly his plan to rejuvenate the city has been taken up, both to assist the business community in the area while and simultaneously give a boost to local artists and designers. Fenella Kernebone went along for a look.