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Arts Upper Hunter

Arts Upper Hunter
Shop 11 30- 34
Muswellbrook NSW 2333 Australia
PO Box 114
Muswellbrook NSW 2333

RADO Directors

Ivan Skaines
Co- opted Member
Vice Chair
Robert Booth
Dungog Shire Council
Kim Manwarring
Muswellbrook Shire Council
Peter Carlin
Co-opted Member
Danny Thompson
Singleton Council
Jaccqui Bakewell
Upper Hunter Shire Council
Georgia Pascoe
Co-opted Member

Regional Snapshot


The LGAs in Arts Upper Hunter’s territory region are Dungog, Muswellbrook, Singleton and Upper Hunter. They cover an area of 18,657 square kilometres with a total population of approximately 62,160. The Gloucester LGA was part of Arts Upper Hunter’s territory until May 2016 when Gloucester Council amalgamated with Great Lakes Council and Greater Taree Council to form the new Mid Coast Council.

Main Economic Drivers

Driver Ranking Singleton Muswellbrook Upper Hunter Dungog
1 Coal mining Coal mining Equine Agribusiness
2 Mining support Power Generation Agribusiness Retail
3 Power generation Mining support Retail Health and aged care
4 Retail Equine Tourism Education
5 Agribusiness Wine Education
6 Defence Agribusiness
7 Wine Retail
8 Tourism Tourism
9 Education Education

Economic Issues
With the future of coal mining and coal fired power stations becoming an increasingly hot political issue, the economies of the Singleton and Muswellbrook LGAs have a great deal to lose or gain.

Lines between the Upper and Lower Hunter can be blurred but what all 11 Hunter LGAs, Upper or Lower, have in common is the Hunter River and the tributaries which feed it – the Hunter Water Catchment. The Upper Hunter part of the catchment supports a diversity of landscapes, from high mountain ranges to broad fertile floodplains and extensive estuarine areas. There are large areas of wilderness and national park including the Barrington Tops World Heritage Site from which the Hunter River emanates.

Visual Arts

  • Strong culture of painting, exhibition and prizes throughout the region.
  • Strong culture of textile art, in particular quilting, and exhibition throughout the region.
  • A number of artists making ceramics, sculpture, jewellery, photography and furniture.
  • Art societies/groups in each LGA.


  • Muswellbrook Amateur Theatre Society (annual musical or play).
  • Singleton Amateur Theatre Society (annual musical).
  • Scone Community Amateur Dramatic Society (usually one production per year).
  • Broken Leg Theatre (youth theatre group based at Singleton Youth Venue)


  • Commercial dance schools in bigger towns (vary in size from single person operation to a few part-time staff).


  • Warrah Writers (Warrah Creek)
  • Poets’ Corner (Murrurundi)
  • Singleton Writers Group
  • Bridge to Brook Writers Group (Muswellbrook)
  • Singleton Bush Poets


  • Upper Hunter Conservatorium of Music hosts concerts by its students and visiting musicians.
  • James Theatre in Dungog hosts visiting musicians from time to time.
  • Sacred Spaces in Singleton hosts regular visits by visiting musicians.
  • A few local and visiting musicians playing in pubs and clubs (mainly solo and duos).


  • A handful of filmmakers throughout the region who work on intermittent projects.

Arts Focused Festivals

  • Scone Literary Long Weekend Writers Festival (annual)
  • Singleton Festival (art, wine, food: biennial with a mini event annually)
  • Dungog Festival (art, film, food, wine: biennial)

Professionally run

  • Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre (Muswellbrook Shire Council).
  • Upper Hunter Conservatorium of Music (based in Muswellbrook).
  • A number of small commercial art studios/galleries/shops (estimated 15)
  • Council libraries across the region (often include arts activities in their programs).
  • Singleton Youth Venue (includes medium-sized auditorium with full three phase lighting).
  • Singleton Civic Centre (large, well-equipped hall used for annual musical and annual Singleton Arts Prize).
  • Old Court Theatre (small, old theatre in Scone now owned by Upper Hunter Shire Council in the process of being renovated).
  • Sacred Spaces (convent owned by the Sisters of Mercy, used for music concerts with an events and marketing coordinator).

Volunteer run

  • Scone Arts and Crafts Society (sizeable, well-equipped gallery).
  • Historical museums (seven in total, housed in historical buildings).
  • James Theatre (owned by Dungog Shire Council, hosts film and performance).
  • The Pothouse (small pottery workshop in Muswellbrook).
  • Dungog Arts Society (has a small workshop/gallery space).
  • Mechanics Institute (workshop space for arts and crafts groups owned by Singleton Council).

Muswellbrook Council is currently planning a theatre/convention space.

Coal contributes money to the arts/culture (among other things). It supports some Aboriginal arts activity, often via NAIDOC Week, and provides money for several art prizes. It has subsidized some bricks and mortar infrastructure that could be described as cultural (e.g. Singleton Youth Venue). It also supports various festivals and events across the region. With coal’s future in doubt, this could impact on arts and cultural activity in the region.


  • Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre.
  • Upper Hunter Conservatorium of Music.
  • Libraries.
  • Singleton Youth Venue.
  • Arts focused festivals.
  • Small but steady growth in creative industries.
  • Coal companies spend money on the arts or culture.


  • No tertiary arts education.
  • Very little touring theatre product.
  • Negligible locally written or devised performance work.
  • Shortage of arts opportunities for young people (apart from school and dance).


  • Relative proximity of Newcastle.
  • Including arts and cultural activity in non-arts festivals.
  • NBN and information technology.


  • Volunteer arts organisations have difficulty recruiting new members and filling office bearer roles.
  • Possible downturn in coal mining and coal fired power generation.

Aboriginal Arts

Aboriginal Population and Language Groups

  • Just over 3,000 Aboriginal people live in the region (approximately 3.3% of the general area population)
  • Highest concentration of Aboriginal people live in Muswellbrook Shire (twice the national average at 4%)
  • Muswellbrook is home to the Wanaruah Local Aboriginal Land Council and the Hunter Valley Aboriginal Corporation
  • Traditionally the lands of the Upper Hunter were where the Kamilaroi, Wanaruah and Wiradjuri people’s lands met. Today the area is predominately Wanaruah.

Aboriginal Arts Organisations