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Art and music are key to renewal

Marcus Westbury of Renew Australia and Gympie Chamber of Commerce president Ben Ellingsen take a look at the state of Mary St.
Marcus Westbury of Renew Australia and Gympie Chamber of Commerce president Ben Ellingsen take a look at the state of Mary St. Renee Pilcher

FILL the empty spaces with interesting things and people will come.

Wise words from Marcus Westbury, the man responsible for some of the most innovative, unconventional and successful projects revitalising regional Australia.

Mr Westbury, founder of not-for-profit organisations Renew Australia and Renew Newcastle, was the keynote speaker at yesterday's inaugural Gympie Region Innovation Summit held at the Australian Institute of Country Music.

The Renew project is a proven model that works with shop landlords and councils to put arts, crafts and music into empty stores.

Mr Westbury gave insight into the development and implementation of practical strategies which have already had a profound impact on metropolitan and regional places in Australia.

He said Gympie was nowhere near as bad as other regional towns he had visited - that "practically had tumbleweeds rolling down the main streets".

The town would benefit from a proactive approach by implementing these strategies now rather than later when would be harder to bounce back, he added.

"Start filling the empty shops with interesting things that make people want to come here," he said yesterday, after a quick browse up and down Mary St.

"It can get a bit tricky when you are dealing with totally disengaged landlords. The project needs some to take leadership and the others will follow."

Forum attendees were a mix of people from the business sector; creative, manufacturing, agriculture and retail industries, as well as representatives from the council, Creative Unlimited, Gympie Chamber of Commerce and the community.

It can get a bit tricky when you are dealing with totally disengaged landlords. The project needs some to take leadership and the others will follow.

Topics:  art business economy music

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