Renew Newcastle plans live music, university technology lab for Newcastle Station

Live music, markets and a University of Newcastle creative technology “lab” will transform Newcastle Station when the historic landmark reopens to the public in September.

Renew Newcastle general manager Christopher Saunders told a Newcastle Tourism Industry Group meeting on Wednesday that the station’s restored buildings would also house a retail space for up to 100 producers of “high-end”, hand-made local goods, a cafe and a bar.

He said he would not announce the station’s tenants until later this month, but the not-for-profit organisation was determined to establish another live music and stand-up comedy venue in the east end.

“There’s very limited live music opportunities in the city now. We want to create a live space where music can be heard and seen,” he said.

Noise complaints have grown with the influx of new residents to the inner-city, but Mr Saunders said he wanted to use the Newcastle Station revamp to change people’s attitudes to inner-city living.  

NEW FUTURE: Christopher Saunders at Newcastle Station on Wednesday.

NEW FUTURE: Christopher Saunders at Newcastle Station on Wednesday.

“I talk about cultural change, cultural shift. We have to challenge as much the people who have a perception of what it is to live in a city,” he told the Newcastle Herald.

“There’s going to be buzz, there’s going to be noise.

“Our role, I think, is that we will try things there. We will respectfully try things there, but we will push the envelope, because the envelope needs to be pushed.”

The state government-owned Hunter Development Corporation said it wanted more night-time activity in the city when it called for tenders for leasing and managing the station last year.

The Labor party hosted a forum in February for Newcastle music industry representatives to voice their concerns about the declining number of live venues in the city.

The Herald reported in April that Queens Wharf Hotel had wound back its day-time music offerings on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays after complaints from residents.

“We know that music comes from this area [Newcastle], and if it doesn’t have a voice and an opportunity to try, then it can only go underground for so long,” Mr Saunders said.

“We have the support of HDC and we have the support of council.

“Obviously we need to take things into consideration – we’re not going to be difficult about it – but at the same time we need to gently push the boundaries.”

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Part of Renew Newcastle’s plan is to bring regular activity to the 3000 square metres of outdoor floor space on the station’s filled-in platforms.

This will include regular fresh produce markets, concerts and possibly outdoor cinema nights.

One section of the station complex along Hunter Street would be given over to a UoN School of Creative Industries “smart lab” highlighting the work of engineers, designers, computer scientists, virtual-reality experts and policy makers committed to addressing “real-world” issues.

“We’re looking at embracing this idea of Newcastle as a university town, which is very exciting with the $90 million shiny new building [NeW Space] that’s been put there, but I’m not sure people know how to respond to that,” Mr Saunders said.

The station could also host corporate functions and weddings and would have a room for community organisations to meet.

Renew Newcastle has a lease on the station which expires at the end of next year.

Mr Saunders said that time would allow for “consultation through collaboration” to establish desirable long-term uses for the station.