Plans to save The Commons shared at community meeting; Deputy Mayor reveals councillors are eager to join future discussions

COMMUNITY SOUL: The Commons committee is searching for ways to keep the "spirit of community" alive. Picture: Isaac McIntyre
COMMUNITY SOUL: The Commons committee is searching for ways to keep the "spirit of community" alive. Picture: Isaac McIntyre

It might not be in the same shape or form but the message at a community meeting to discuss The Commons’ future was clear – it must be saved.

The Commons Cafe, currently based in Fellowship House, has closed their doors after a council inspection revealed “no consent” to operate as a ‘commercial grade’ cafe, and an all-age music venue.

The consensus at the 35 person meeting was that “a joint effort must be undertaken to save the idea of The Commons”, which was “more than just four walls”.

“This space is important to so many people,” co-founder Tim Evans said at the meeting. “We have to find a solution here, or in a new space for the future.”

The meeting, which also touched on the history of The Commons in the past five years, focused on what the space brings to the Newcastle community and its overall importance.

It was clear once the meeting attendees shared their uses for the space that the Fellowship House-based operation provided a home for all walks of life in the city, and co-founder Caitlin O'Reilly agreed that they wanted to welcome everyone, from “people with $50 in their pockets, to people with 50 cents in their pockets”.

The future of a space like The Commons is something that Deputy Mayor Declan Clausen has also said is high on the agenda of many of Newcastle’s councillors.

“I’ve requested that council take a position on ensuring the creation of a basic space [for community] and work with providers to make a ‘playbook style guide’ to have that space work,” Cr Clausen said. “It’s unlikely that we’ll return to a ‘Loft’ style space like we once had, but we can work to find a new home.”

“I would like a vibrant scene. In the short term current council facilities may be appropriate alternatives so that we don’t lose out on the richness of the art scene of Newcastle.”

Cr Clausen also wants the council to be more involved in the discussions for The Commons going forward, and believes that other members of council would be interested in similar involvement.

“There may be ways that council can help, or there are a range of other state government grants that could provide some financial assistance to address issues (at Fellowship House),” he said.

Cr Clausen believes that a conversation being started between all parties would be important going forward if “all-age music, and community spaces, are going to continue in the city”.

“Both myself and John Mackenzie raised this issue at the last council meeting, and the Lord Mayor has offered to host a ‘round table’ to talk about issues. We want to start the discussion.”

Representatives for the Hamilton Uniting Church were also in attendance at the meeting, and confirmed that they “support The Commons wherever they want to go. Whatever [they] want to do, that’s okay with us.”

The Uniting Church currently have a development application underway to improve Fellowship House facilities, including the ‘commercial grade’ kitchen that is currently used by The Commons Cafe.