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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

A platform for city’s renewal

A non-profit organisation that helped “people with creativity not capital” tick in Newcastle will cease to operate next month due to financial difficulties.

Renew Newcastle served as a major catalyst for change within the city over the past decade through the temporary activation of underutilised space.

However, it announced this week a “costly” investment in The Station as a venue had taken a toll.

General manager Christopher Saunders claimed all existing funding sources stopped shortly after the organisation won the tender to operate the former Newcastle station in late 2017.

“We have invested every last dollar and every ounce of ourselves to attract, support and promote new and existing events to establish The Station as a venue,” he said.
“But, at a time and a location that is yet to be on people’s list as a destination, it has been impossible to generate enough income to continue.”

Mr Saunders added that, with little income for the past 12 months and a costly path to opening The Station, the board was not prepared to risk financial ruin.

Renew stated it had worked with 25 individuals, local businesses and organisations to host almost 40 events since The Station opened in October 2018.

Activities included parkour, live art and yoga, as well as music and comedy skits.

Four indoor spaces have also hosted longer-term tenancies offering retail, hospitality, education and start-up innovation, while Renew also enabled the installation of free Wi-Fi on the platform.

However, low visitor numbers to the city made it difficult to attract enough foot traffic to cover event costs.

“As a new venue, in this location, negotiating commercial fees for hire has been almost impossible,” Mr Saunders said.
“As a community space, offering free events is an expectation.”

Despite the announcement, Mr Saunders believed Renew’s presence in the city for the past 10 years had shown that cultural participation led to a unique and vibrant city.

Some of the key benefits included the creation of jobs and skills development; volunteer engagement; and improved business confidence.

“It is regrettable that, as an organisation, we are not able to continue to support cultural activity as part of our developing city,” he said.
“Tribute must be given to everyone over the last 10 years who believed in the vision, who showed up to support, who rolled up their sleeves and participated to help Renew Newcastle.”

Mr Saunders added Renew was in discussions with the Hunter Central Coast Development Corporation and was prepared to work towards a smooth transition at The Station.

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