Saving Newcastle's live music scene

TASK FORCE: Representatives from Newcastle's live entertainment scene came together with representatives from all levels of government to take action to save the city's music scene.
TASK FORCE: Representatives from Newcastle's live entertainment scene came together with representatives from all levels of government to take action to save the city's music scene.

NEWCASTLE’s live music crisis was the subject of a Labor convened music round table held at The Edwards on February 2. 

Representatives from all levels of government came together with music industry stakeholders, including musicians and venue operators, and representatives from various music industry associations and tourism to discuss the city’s struggling live entertainment scene and to find ways forward. 

Grant Walmsley, formerly of The Screaming Jets, made an impassioned plea early in the proceedings.

“We know what the issue is, we don’t want to talk about it 25 times,” Walmsley said. “We just need to act.” 

The city’s all-ages music scene was represented and attention was given to the gap in venues for underage music lovers. All-ages music organisers Spencer Scott and Andrew Brassington described the void created after the closure of The Commons and The Loft.

Owner and licensee of the Lass O’Gowrie Hotel Ian Lobb expressed concern about a new apartment building to be constructed behind the hotel. The Lass has hosted live entertainment for emerging, local independent acts for 26 years. 

“There are 200 units going up on my back fence,” Mr Lobb said. “We have to look after our venues and put in place things to protect us.”

He expressed concerns about the potential for apartment occupants to make noise complaints. 

When things got down to business, the crowd of about 60, were divided into four groups and asked to come up with ideas about what could be done.

Top of the list was the creation of an all-ages music venue, proposed to be funded by all three levels of government. Elected local representatives in attendance, which included Mayor Nuatali Nelmes, Tim Crakanthorp, Sharon Claydon and Carol Duncan, appeared to be in strong agreement this was a priority. 

Also making the list was the establishment of a live music task force to continue to explore the issues, some of which are related to planning.

However, Cr Nelmes noted any changes to the Development Control Plan, to deal with venues and noise, would need to be matched by amendments to the Local Environment Plan at the level of State Government, in order to make it bullet proof and avoid legal proceedings over matters that may arise. 

All in attendance appeared to agree the music industry is in crisis and that action must be taken to fight to save it.  

Anyone concerned about the current state of live entertainment in Newcastle is urged to make a submission to the NSW Upper House inquiry into music and arts economy.