Public outcry helps protect arts initiative

THE state government will restore its usual level of funding for Renew Newcastle, overturning cuts that threatened the future of the successful arts initiative that has helped foster activity in the city centre.

Newcastle MP Tim Owen said yesterday annual funding of $50,000 would again be provided through Arts NSW, after Arts minister George Souris agreed the government should re-examine a recent decision to reduce it to $30,000.

Mr Owen also said Arts NSW would convene a meeting with key arts stakeholders in the city in early 2013 to ‘‘discuss strategic priorities for arts and culture”.

It followed public criticism of the decision by an independent panel that assessed Renew Newcastle’s application and recommended the financial support be reduced, as part of its annual funding program.

The decision was revealed in the  Newcastle Herald on Saturday.

It is understood the panel found the program did not compare as strongly to some other applications on certain artistic assessment criteria. 

Renew Newcastle encourages artists, cultural projects, budding entrepreneurs and community groups to set up in vacant buildings in the city centre.

Founder Marcus Westbury had warned $30,000 would be too little to run the program and jeopardised the progress it had made with bringing activity back to the city centre.

Mr Westbury said yesterday that the government’s

 change of heart was a relief.

‘‘I’d have to thank Tim for pushing our case and it would be great to get an opportunity to meet with the minister,’’ Mr Westbury said.

‘‘I’d like to talk about the criteria and make sure this doesn’t become a problem again.’’

He said it was difficult for Renew Newcastle to detail its proposed artistic program to the panel as it did not know in advance all of the artists that would be involved. 

The previous government had not been concerned with that, Mr Westbury said.

The amount is still short of the $70,000 Renew Newcastle applied for, but Mr Westbury said the not-for-profit organisation had planned on the basis that its funding would not be increased.

Mr Owen said other organisations in the city to receive funding this year were Octopod ($130,431), the National Young Writers Festival ($24,112), Tantrum Theatre  ($65,000), and the Loft Youth Arts and Culture ($41,502).

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