Marcus Westbury is the founder of Renew Newcastle and Renew Australia. His background is a broadcaster, writer, media maker and festival director who has been responsible for some of Australia’s more innovative, unconventional and successful cultural projects and events. He has also worked across a range of media as a writer, producer, director and presenter covering fields as diverse as culture, art, media, urban planning, sport and politics.
In 2008 Marcus founded Renew Newcastle with his own funds and energy. It’s a low budget, not for profit, DIY urban renewal scheme that has brokered access to more than 30 empty buildings for more than 60 creative enterprises, artists and cultural projects in his home town of Newcastle, NSW.
Renew Newcastle is unique scheme that has attracted interest from around the world. It has been described as “a clever partial solution” (Time.com), “a smart, inspired way to deal with unused spaces that might otherwise be left to ruin” (Inside Out), “the transformation of the city centre” (The Newcastle Herald), “an incredible success …. both to assist the business community in the area while simultaneously [giving] a boost to local artists and designers” (ABC TV), “overwhelmingly positive, with the CBD finally starting to re-emerge” (Jetstar in-flight magazine), “There is genius in this … wow!”(wired.com) and“reviving the city” (Daily Telegraph) and led to Newcastle being named one of the top 10 cities in the world to visit in 2011 by Lonely Planet.
In 2007 and 2008 Marcus was the writer and presenter of Not Quite Art on ABC1. Over two three part series Not Quite Art was variously been described as “the kick up the arse Australia’s TV arts needed” (Arts Hub), “the freshest, most illuminating, thoughtful and funny locally made arts program in years” (The Age), “a delightful, witty and above all intelligent journey” (Stilgherian), “informative, provocative and mind-blowing. Everything the ABC should be proud to be about” (Margaret Pomeranz) and proof that “coverage of the arts can be arresting, provocative and relevant” (The Age). The series was awarded the “Best Arts Show of the Year” in 2008 and short listed as of the best documentaries of 2009 by The Sydney Morning Herald. Marcus has also appeared as panellist on ABC TV programs including QandA, Vulture, Critical Mass and Recovery.
Marcus has also appeared regularly on ABC Local radio. This has included hosting and co-hosting programs on 1233 ABC Newcastle and 774 ABC Melbourne and taking on on-air projects such as choosing which AFL team to support by going to games with fans of all 16 clubs or trying his hand at 8 Olympic sports. In the past he has also had regular roles on ABC 702 Sydney (as a culture and technology commentator) and has appeared often on Radio National and Triple J.
Marcus has worked on a range of pioneering projects in online media. In 2007 he created and project managed the howshouldivote.com.au website with GetUp! and Yahoo7 – the site produced personalised how to vote cards for 150,000 Australians (more than one percent of eligible voters) in the lead up to the 2007 Federal Election. In the past he worked as a project manager for ABC Online and Radio National, developing the online models of forums, interactive programming and audio downloads that are now common on that network and in the 1990s he was the manager of the Australia Council’s LOUD and Noise media festivals responsible for projects described by The Sydney Morning Herald as “as good as anything achieved on the web in Australia, and probably better.”
As a festival director Marcus was a founder of Newcastle’s This Is Not Art festival. This Is Not Art is now Newcastle’s largest annual tourism event and one the largest media arts events in the world. From 2002 to 2006 Marcus was the Artistic Director of Melbourne’s Next Wave Festival and was a director of Festival Melbourne 2006, the Cultural Program of the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games. He also co-founded Free Play, Australia’s largest independent computer games developers’ conference.
Marcus has worked with the The ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation and is a fellow of The Centre for Policy Development (a public interest think tank dedicated to promoting alternative voices in Australia’s public debate). He currently writes a regular column for The Age newspaper and has co-written an arts guidebook for the Australia Council, a love-hate tourist guide to Newcastle and his writing about media, culture and politics has been published inGriffith REVIEW, Meanjin, Crikey, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, several anthologies, journals, and countless web sites. In 2010 Arts Hub named Marcus one the top 10 leaders in the Australian art world, while Australian Art Collector named him as one of 10 leading “Agenda setters” in Australia.
Marcus was a member of the Rudd Governments’ Creative Australia Advisory Panel. He has sat on Committees of The Australia Council, Arts Victoria, NSW Ministry for the Arts, The Australian Film Commission and numerous agencies and was a delegate to Australia’s 2020 Summit. Marcus is currently based in Melbourne and working on projects in Brisbane, Sydney and Newcastle including the development of Renew Australia.