In the movie ANTZ there’s a great scene where the ants are goaded to ‘be the ball’, to pull in the same direction to make something big happen, something that couldn’t be done by one. It was, in fact, a wrecking ball, but that’s a side issue here. There was one lone voice, of course, who questioned the worth of the ‘something big’. He was told, “you think too much”. But in the end, as in many such satisfying movies, he turned from dissident to hero, saved his tribe and won his princess.
In 1886 businessmen met in Newcastle’s Great Northern Hotel to do some thinking. As a result, they formed a Chamber of Commerce to lobby for better infrastructure and policy to energise the local economy. Last week, 130 years later, we saw that chamber still lobbying hard. We also heard from HunterNet, still slogging away to keep our industry sector strong since the mammoths of steel-making left.
On another level, we saw proud families celebrating graduation week – something we take for granted as we forget the university is here because of community activism in the 1940s.
TINA and the National Young Writers Festival celebrated their 20th anniversary; the Lunaticks Society hosted its 5th NEWi Awards for digital creativity and entries in the first Tip Jar songwriting competition topped 150. What a week.
It doesn’t stop there. NIMA is still hosting its Tuesday music nights; the Newcastle Institute is still challenging us with new ideas; the Jazz, Writing, Animation and Real Film Festival organisers are planning their next events; Renew Newcastle still supports ambitious creators; 1804 and 376 are mentoring smart technology start-ups, the Volunteer Centre is matching willing hands with organisations that need help, and Business Improvement Associations like Newcastle Now are doing their best to generate business activity in their local area.
The common theme here is the commitment freely given by people who care and are prepared to work hard to solve a problem and make a difference. To do some good. These groups all began because people thought about problems or opportunities or simply about something that mattered to them. They decided to get involved and do something about it.
Newcastle is in the grip of a radical shift. It’s hard to imagine what the city will be like in 10 years and even harder to look ahead for a century. The people who worked hard for the organisations mentioned could not have imagined what their efforts could achieve over time because important things don’t happen overnight and organisations change with circumstances.
But, as in the past, real change, the sort that makes a difference to our well-being and the health of our community in its cohesion, prosperity, security and good will, happens because of the passion of people to do good. We aren’t all leaders, but we can all help to shape change by volunteering our energy and expertise. There is no clear vision yet for what our city might be in 100 years. It’s a time when our energies can help make good things happen because it takes people with a long view to make it so.
Armchair referees don’t score tries, teams do. So, if like the antsy ant, people tell you that you ‘think too much’ maybe it’s a good time to follow your cause, join with others to help ‘be the ball’ and make sure that whatever that ball might be, it’s not a wrecking ball. We’ve got a good thing going and tomorrow’s city needs all of us to get involved now.