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Testimonials

“Renew Newcastle is one of the most innovative and interesting urban projects to have emerged anywhere in the last decade or so – I use it constantly as a shining example of how to make cities work.” — Dan HillAssociate, Arup/ strategic design lead for Sitra, Helsinki Finland 

“When the city’s commercial and retail heart was at its lowest, Marcus stepped in to create a vehicle for change. With some 90 derelict buildings in the city, Marcus did what others only talked about- he brought life and colour to the heart of Newcastle by turning empty buildings into thriving places for art and culture, thereby creating an eclectic hub of activity. Not only is Marcus changing Newcastle, he is also changing the lives of scores of artists and creators who have been given spaces to incubate their businesses and hone their passions. In 2010, Marcus’ achievements were singled out as the reason why Newcastle was named by Lonely Planet as one of the top ten cities in the world to visit.” — Jodi McKay, Former Minister for Tourism, Science and Medical Research, Women and the Hunter region, NSW Government

“Renew Newcastle is the single most impressive piece of direct action I have ever seen. Marcus’ passion for the Renew concept and his ability to deliver on its promise day after day is a testament to his energy, commitment and abilities.” — James VidlerProject manager, Regional Development Australia Hunter

“As delegates listened to the transformation he helped initiate in Newcastle, one could see the collective envy in the room as rust belt cities from across North America saw how they too could work with their communities to turn around their downtowns. The work Marcus undertook in Newcastle is not just a local success anymore; it is a new model being actively pursued in North America cities.” — Terrence SooleyDirector, Conference Production and Research, Strategy Institute, Toronto Canada

“Marcus has single-handedly (almost) taken on one of the biggest challenges facing Australian (and not just Australian) cities – dealing with the dysfunctional nature of our over-heated or eviscerated city centres, where plain common sense is refuted at every step by the ‘logic’ or property-led development and international finance. Rather than wringing his hands he got out and did something; and showing that something can be done is a major achievement.” — Justin O’ConnorProfessor, Queensland University of Technology

“Renew Newcastle has demonstrated that grassroots, entrepreneurial and cultural solutions can be found to social and economic disadvantage through reactivating civic space. Very few people have Marcus’ determination and vision and the success of renew Newcastle and its sister projects is a testament to his leadership.” —  Cassandra WilkinsonPresident, FBi Radio 94.5

“Marcus Westbury is a leading international expert on place-based cultural renewal. [Renew Newcastle] has contributed significantly to revitalising that city’s centre and to cultural tourism development through creative reuse of empty shops. Marcus has also made a critical contribution to starting up many, similar projects in local government areas around Australia, including ‘Renew’ projects in Adelaide, Townsville and the Gold Coast, Pop Up Parramatta, Beautiful Art Spaces Cairns and Art in the Heart Lismore. Renew Australia will provide an important service for communities and local governments re-imagining the uses of space and property for renewal and development.” — Lisa AndersenManager, Empty Spaces Project, University of Technology Sydney. 

“I approached Marcus in 2009 … with a view to learning more about Renew Newcastle and its potential for replication in Parramatta …We now have Pop Up Parramatta in place and are seeing some cross-fertilisation between this program and the social enterprise program too. Marcus also provided a great presentation to a corporate partner, who has since become very active in this space. … Under-utilised assets have much potential to deliver social and cultural outcomes, and Marcus has been at the forefront of developing this agenda in Australia for many years – practically and conceptually.” — Joanne McNeillCommunity Capacity Building Officer Social Enterprise, Parramatta City Council

“With Renew Newcastle and related events and cultural-economic development initiatives, a unique vibrancy has entered the city and has become the foundation of a burgeoning mood of innovation that makes Newcastle (and the Hunter Region) one of the interesting (best) cities in the world.” —  Brendan BrooksEconomic Development Officer, Port Stephens Council

“We have funded Renew Newcastle for several years as a critical component of economic development within the City. The Program not only performs critical property and economic development roles, it also plays a key role in positioning and thus marketing a competitive brand for Newcastle. The galleries, shopfronts and events offer an authentic approach to arts that continually captures the attention of our travel media. Marcus, Marni and the RN Board are creative, passionate and business like in their approach – a winning combination earning them respect and further opportunity for expansion.” — Simon McArthur Manager Tourism and Economic Development at Newcastle City Council

“The partnership between Renew Newcastle and the GPT Group won the prestigious national Partnership of the Year at the AbaF Awards in Sydney in October 2010. This Award is highly competitive with nominations assessed by senior business leaders with expertise in the business and community benefits of partnerships between commercial enterprises and the arts. The judges declared that this partnership demonstrated a strong mutual relationship which delivered high impact, clear community outcomes and a model for sustainability.
They noted that the ground-breaking partnership demonstrates the power of arts as a revitalising and exciting force for urban renewal and provides a template that is already being ‘copied’.  Marcus Westbury’s impressive and persuasive articulation of the elements of success for this award winning project stimulated considerable interest in the business and creative sectors, encouraging further development of partnerships between cultural and corporate organisations and local and state governments.” — Jane HaleyCEO, Australia Business Arts Foundation

“the Renew Newcastle and now Renew Australia model [is] a means of fostering year-round, sustainable and diverse places, enlivened by creativity and community connectedness. … Still in its emergence, yet highly impactful and successful to date, Renew Australia will be adopted by planning authorities and local governments around the country as an important and effective way to stimulate economic and community development. The strength of the Renew model is in working within existing laws and regulations to release their potential, harnessing the known power of the arts to create and sustain places that are attractive for communities, businesses, developers, entrepreneurs and innovators. Renew Australia’s international recognition is testament to its significance, and its influence on urban and regional Australia will only grow.” — Esther AnatolitisCEO of Melbourne Fringe