Getting your creative on in Newcastle

Aisling Philippa explores Newcastle’s creative industries.

Left brain, or right brain?
Left brain, or right brain?

Australian scholar Terry Flew identifies the creative industries as:

  • “Advertising, graphic design and marketing
  • Architecture, visual arts and design
  • Film, television and entertainment software
  • Music composition and publishing
  • Performing arts
  • Writing, publishing and print media” (2011)

But why on earth do we care about some stuffy scholar and his theories? Like, we already know that working in these areas means you’ve got to have some ounce of creativity in your bones, right?

The reason is because Newcastle’s currently undergoing a shift: the City of Newcastle promotes that “from its blue-collar industrial past, Newcastle has evolved into a sophisticated, world-class city of opportunity”. Some would dismiss that statement as merely spin: after all, simply saying that we have ‘sophistication’ doesn’t change the fact Newcastle was recently recognised for having the two most violent pubs in the state. What right does Newcastle have to position itself as a ‘creative city’?

Commentary would state otherwise. “More than half a million Australians work in the creative industries, with employment growing by a steady 2.8 per cent each year from 2006 to 2011 . . . in Newcastle . . . it is estimated that the local industry employs about 12,000 people” (Hart 2013). In fact, one of Newcastle’s biggest creative resources is its tertiary education sector – that’s right, our very own university is a part of Newcastle’s creative industry.

For those of us looking to start a ‘real’ career after breaking our backs over a degree – and there are quite a lot of us – it would almost seem counter-intuitive to seek a job in Newcastle. Sydney’s the place to be, right? Well, not entirely so.

While it already speaks for Newcastle that it’s definitely a more affordable place to live – with rent costing an average $270 a week over Sydney’s weekly $351 hit to the budget – it also has hidden niches for its creatively-inclined citizens. A lot of us will already be familiar with the entertainment facets in the city, such as the Newcastle MuseumNewcastle Art Gallery, and the Civic Theatre.

However, the introduction of Renew Newcastle has also seen an investment in the creative community. Aimed at aspiring creative professionals, the program provides financial support for startups so they can get on their feet.

The Roost Creative also follows a similar idea, where furnished rooms can be rented out for a time, alongside other creative professionals from the Newcastle area. It’s a way for the budding creative entrepreneurs to simultaneously build a support network, while also being able to move out on their own.

Novocastrian businesses such as EnigmaThe Village of UsefulThe Brand PoolGraphikaHeadjam and Eclipse are responsible for branding initiatives in the Newcastle area – encompassing public relations, graphic design, photography, advertising and web design.

On top of that, Newcastle also hosts a number of creative festivals throughout the year. While the last couple of weeks have seen the National Young Writers Festival and This is Not Art (TiNA), we will see the Design + Interactive + Green-Tech (DiG) Festival in about a week’s time, on 16 and 17 October. We also have the Newcastle Writers Festival to look forward to in March next year.

Media outlets such as Newcastle Mirage2NURFMNewcastle HeraldNBN and yours truly at Yak also come under the heading of the creative industries.

In all honesty, while the above seems lengthy, they are not exhaustive lists of everything that occurs in Newcastle’s creative industry. It’s not uncommon to find the pubs dotted around Newcastle hosting musical performances from local and international talent, or even independent exhibitions and performances hosted around the city.

Nonetheless, there is still one missing piece. Two weekends ago I attended the Young Journalist Symposium held during the National Young Writers Festival – and asides from my two colleagues, in amongst a mix of about other fifty students, we were the only representatives from the local area. Was it due to a lack of awareness in the community, or something more sinister: disinterest? Either way, the reality is that a city cannot truly become a creative city until its community fully embraces it as part of a fully integrated identity.

Image: Libby Levy

Honestly, I didn’t make these sources up.

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2011). Newcastle. Available: http://www.censusdata.abs.gov.au/census_services/getproduct/census/2011/quickstat/UCL102004?opendocument&navpos=220. Last accessed 1 October 2014.

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2011). Greater Sydney. Available: http://www.censusdata.abs.gov.au/census_services/getproduct/census/2011/quickstat/1GSYD?opendocument&navpos=220. Last accessed 1 October 2014.

City of Newcastle. (n.d.). Home. Available: http://seechange.visitnewcastle.com.au. Last accessed 7 October 2014.

Flew, T. (2011). Culture and Creative Industries in Australia. Available: http://engage.newcastle.edu.au. Last accessed 22 September 2014.

Hart, G. (2013). OPINION: Valued creative resource. Available: http://www.theherald.com.au/story/1627548/opinion-valued-creative-resource/. Last accessed 1 October 2014.

Newcastle Herald. (2012). Hunter pubs top most violent list. Available: http://www.theherald.com.au/story/116624/hunter-pubs-top-most-violent-list/. Last accessed 7 October 2014.