This week Ruby Slipper are very proud to feature Marcus Westbury of Renew Newcastle as our Business Ninja. Marcus is a well-respected author, festival director and creator of unusal and delightful projects which challenge and inspire. He is best known for Renew Newcastle, a revolutionary DIY urban renewal scheme which brokered access to vacant commercial spaces for artists and creatives, reinvigorating a delapidated area into a thriving arts hub. This is a concept close to the heart of Ruby Slipper’s ethos of making property useful, loved and exciting its potential as a ‘space for change’. Here’s Marcus!
1. What makes your project magical, setting you apart from other community projects?
Well, Renew Newcastle has managed to achieve a lot with very little – although i wouldn’t say that sets us totally apart. We’ve launched more than 70 new creative projects – businesses, community projects, galleries, studios, fashion labels, photographers, media makers, musicians and artist and creative projects of all kinds [you can see profiles of them at www.renewnewcastle.org/projects] – in what were once empty spaces in Newcastle over the last few years. I guess we literally make something from nothingness – using empty and discarded spaces as our raw ingredient. There’s something useful in that.
2. What are your maddest ‘ninja skillz’?
Persistence. There’s not a lot more to it than that. Oh, and not repeating mistakes. If you’re persistant and dont repeat your mistakes you eventually get quite good at a lot of things.
3. How did your lightbulb moment in creating your project come about?
I don’t really believe in lightbulb moments. Ideas for me tend to be more evolutionary than revolutionary. Renew Newcastle is a variation of an idea that has been in my head for the best part of 15 years and in those 15 years lots of small conversations, experimental sidetracks, stupid mistakes, and fortuitous meetings and connections have all contributed to it becoming a success. For me the best ideas are like that – they never arrive in a flash or fully formed they kind of creep up on me.
4. What is your earliest memory?
I think i remember my second birthday party but it’s a pretty faint echo of a memory and i may just be making it up or piecing it together from old photos.
5. What would your last meal be?
If i knew that i’d avoid it.
6. What is your best tip for choosing business partners?
Not sure i choose business partners so much as work with people who gravitate towards the same projects and ideas. A common basis of interest and sense of opportunity is pretty important. I also like people who are straight up and down – i don’t really have the time or energy to play stupid games or deal with people who cant be up front about what’s happening.
7. What is your favourite sound?
My son. He’s 11 months old and not quite talking yet. Coolest. Thing. Ever.
8. Who would you like to invite to dinner?
I’m not much of a cook but i’m usually up for a beer with anyone who can hold up one end of an interesting conversation.
9. What is something unexpected that has come from Renew Australia?
Well, Renew Australia is the unexpected thing really. When i started Renew Newcastle is was short term side project – basically a hobby that gradually got out of control. A few years later there are “renew” projects in Townsville, Adelaide, the Gold Coast and Renew inspired projects from Cairns to Queenstown and dozens of places in between. I had totally expected that it would be something i’d be involved with for a few months and three years later it’s growing beyond anything i could have imagined.