An injection of energy

AS news spread about the major transformation of Newcastle's city centre - from terminal decline to now being full of commercial tenants - Gympie councillors agreed the strategies used could easily be applied to this region.

The project, Renew Newcastle, is the brainchild of proud Novocastrian Marcus Westbury, who has created some of Australia's most innovative, unconventional and successful cultural projects and events.

Thanks to this unique inner city regeneration scheme, dozens of disused city centre buildings are now occupied by photographers, fashion designers, digital artists and more, or being filled by commercial tenants following the foot traffic.

Renew Newcastle has been a low-budget win-win project that has won a stack of awards locally and nationally across the arts, business and community sectors.

Gympie Council was fortunate to secure Marcus as the keynote speaker for its upcoming Regional Innovation Summit on October 11, with a focus on growing business.

"It's become apparent that our strategies have applications elsewhere. There are thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of lost opportunities in the form of empty buildings that are gradually morphing into self-perpetuating problems across Australia," Marcus said.

"Scores of grassroots groups and cities have contacted us with interest in emulating the cheap, rapid and simple successes of Renew Newcastle."

Marcus founded Renew Newcastle and Renew Australia with his own funds and energy in late 2008.

Renew Newcastle is a multi-award winning, low-budget, not-for-profit, DIY urban renewal scheme that has brokered access to more than 30 empty buildings for more than 70 creative enterprises, artists and cultural projects.

Prior to founding Renew Newcastle, Marcus' background was as a broadcaster, writer, media maker and festival director.

In 2007 and 2008 Marcus was the writer and presenter of Not Quite Art on ABC1 - awarded the Best Arts Show of the Year in 2008 - and has appeared as panellist or regular presenter on ABC TV programs including QandA, Art Nation, Vulture, Critical Mass and Recovery.

As a festival director, Marcus was a founder of Newcastle's This Is Not Art festival, now Newcastle's largest annual tourism event. He was artistic director and co-CEO of Melbourne's Next Wave Festival and was a director of the cultural program of the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games.

Marcus writes regularly for The Age newspaper and is widely published. In 2010 Arts Hub named Marcus one of the top 10 leaders in the Australian art world, while Australian Art Collector named him as one of 10 leading "agenda setters" in the arts in Australia.

As a member of the Rudd government's Creative Australia Advisory Panel, he has sat on committees of The Australia Council, Arts Victoria, NSW Ministry for the Arts and The Australian Film Commission.

Gympie Times

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