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Creating Spaces Conference

The pop-up phenomenon transformed Newcastle, can it change the creative landscape of regional towns too?


Lonely Planet tipped Newcastle as one of the Top 10 cities in the world for travellers to check out in 2011. The beloved, traveller’s bible attributed the vibrancy of this destination to the Renew Newcastle project and brainchild of Renew Australia founder, Marcus Westbury.

“Australia’s most underrated city” has transformed itself “from ‘steel city’ to creative hub.” She describes how post BHP Newcastle has seen “an explosion of artists…from acclaimed regional centres to independent, artist run spaces and dozens of disused city-centre buildings occupied by photographers, fashion designers, digital artists and more as part of the inner-city regeneration scheme, Renew Newcastle .”  (Lonely Planet, 2011)

Prompted to find creative ways to occupy the many abandoned properties in the main street of his hometown, Westbury’s non-profit venture has seen vitality injected into the district and a number of positive outcomes flow through the surrounding businesses.

Next week nearly a hundred regional leaders from across Australia will gather in Newcastle for the Creating Spaces Conference to share experience and learn more about how to revitalise the cultural and economic lifeblood of their own communities.

Renew Newcastle, which will form the backdrop to the conference, providing a best practice model for the roll out of nation-wide empty space renewal projects.  Marcus will be a keynote speaker.

“We have been contacted by people from dozens of communities across Australia wishing to find ways to transform thousands of empty shops and office spaces from liabilities to opportunities,” he says. “There are so many micro-enterprises who need space and so many empty regional centres hungry for cultural and economic rejuvenation.”

RANSW’s Communications Officer, Estelle Pigot, will be attending the conference thanks to the organisers and will live-tweeting from keynote speeches and workshops (follow @RegionalArtsNSW).

For a great insight into the transforming effect of Renew Newcatsle on the Hunter St precinct, watch this video from the organisers.



What: Creating Spaces Conference

Date: 12 -14 March 2013




Image credit (above): Marcus Westbury (2013) Photo by Narinda Reeders

Image credit (homepage): Spring City Walk (2011) Photo by Simone Sheridan