Newcastle musicians fight to protect city's entertainment venues

Take a stand: Grant Walmsley, formerly of The Screaming Jets,  said responsibility for noise mitigation should fall to developers of new apartments, not established music venues. Picture: Craig Wilson, Swamphouse Photography.
Take a stand: Grant Walmsley, formerly of The Screaming Jets, said responsibility for noise mitigation should fall to developers of new apartments, not established music venues. Picture: Craig Wilson, Swamphouse Photography.

NEWCASTLE musicians and music fans have reached a “pivotal moment” in the push to preserve the city’s live entertainment venues – and been issued with a “call to arms” to join the voices demanding change.

Grant Walmsley, formerly of The Screaming Jets, said he had been “inundated with calls” since the Newcastle Herald reported his concerns about the incompatibility of new apartments with existing venues, including The Cambridge, The Lass O’Gowrie Hotel and The Wickham Park Hotel.

He called on Monday for Newcastle City Council to prioritise conversation about the city’s live music scene and look to how areas including Melbourne and Brisbane had planned to protect venues from noise complaints and the risk of being restricted or shut down.

“It’s quite overwhelming to see how many people are desperately trying to get something positive happening,” Walmsley said of the reaction to the story.

“This has been boiling under the surface for quite a while.

“Lots of people are concerned about the rapid change to this town and a lot feel they have no voice at all.

“There is a real fear I can’t overstate that live music will be gone.

“Not difficult to find in places, not anything less than gone from this town.

“That’s a seriously scary, sweeping statement. It’s dramatic. But it’s true.”

Councillor Carol Duncan asked Walmsley on Tuesday to present his concerns to councillors in coming weeks.

“We have a city that’s changing just about by the hour,” she said.

“But one of the foundations of Newcastle for so many generations has been live music.

“It’s vexed. There will be wins and losses, but how do we best mitigate that?”

Ms Duncan said chairman of the Labor Loves Live Music campaign, John Graham MLC, would attend a round-table on the matter at The Edwards on February 2.

She said the council had successfully applied for a NSW Live Music Office grant worth $15,100 to go towards a micro-festival on Darby Street, most likely in March.

Councillor John Mackenzie has also pushed for a task force to find solutions.

A council spokesman said live entertainment was highly valued and a “key component” of the Newcastle After Dark draft strategy, scheduled to be presented to councillors in March.

“The draft strategy contains a specific program of actions for Live Music and Performance. If the draft is endorsed, the document will then be placed on public exhibition.”

Walmsley said fans were instrumental to ensuring the city remained a “music mecca”. 

“This is a pivotal moment for this town.

“It’s a real shame that people like me have to put a call to arms out there.

“People are aware, now they need to be vocal.

“They need to go to their elected representatives, or it will be swept under the carpet.”