Updated: Aug 29, 2018
Wickham Park Hotel owner Marcus Wright, AHA Newcastle Hotels Representative Nikki Taylor, Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp and Screaming Jets founder Grant Walmsley
Live music venues have long been the lifeblood of Newcastle's night-time economy and at yesterday's Parliamentary Inquiry into Music and Arts Economy in NSW, it was clear that stakeholders within the local music industry will not go down without a fight.
"For decades the Palais Royale provided entertainment to my parents, my grandparents, and it was where I played a Number One hit song that I wrote with The Screaming Jets. Now it is the Southern Hemisphere's biggest KFC," Screaming Jets founder Grant Walmsley said.
"Then there's the Bel-Air. It was one of the best live music venues in NSW, now it's a McDonalds. Make no mistake, our industry is in crisis."
Musician Grant Walmsley and Wickham Park hotelier Marcus Wright address the Inquiry
"For decades the Palais Royale provided entertainment to my parents, my grandparents, and it was where I played a number one hit that I wrote with The Screaming Jets. Now it is the Southern Hemisphere's biggest KFC..."
Formed in March, the Parliamentary Inquiry committee has recently been on an east coast tour of its own, holding sessions in Sydney, Wollongong, Melbourne and Byron Bay before yesterday coming to Newcastle.
"There is a real crisis surrounding live music venues across NSW," Member of the Legislative Council and committee member John Graham said.
"We need to make sure there is a plan in place for the future."
The aim of the Inquiry is to review the state of live music and the arts across NSW, and to look at potential reform that would support a diverse and vibrant music and arts culture across the state.
Identification of additional funding and spaces for music and the arts, and the reduction of red tape around policy and legislation are also identified as key outcomes of the Inquiry.
Australian Hotels Association (AHA), Newcastle Hotels Representative Nikki Taylor attended the Inquiry, along with local AHA members Marcus Wright, owner the Wickham Park Hotel and Big Apachee, and Ian Lobb who has owned and operated the iconic Lass O' Gowrie Hotel for 26 years.
"This was a fantastic opportunity for some of our members to stand up, to be heard, and to really make it clear that current legislation around residential development in Newcastle is having a direct and dire impact on our live music venues, " Nikki said.
"Live music has long been a foundation of Newcastle's identity and culture. Our night-time economy is the second largest economic driver in the city and if we don't speak up now we are in real danger of losing it."
"This was a fantastic opportunity for some of our members to stand up, to be heard, and to really make it clear that current legislation around residential development in Newcastle is having a direct and dire impact on our live music venues..."
Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp, who has played an integral role in calling for action from all levels of government, described the Inquiry as an important opportunity for hoteliers, agents, musicians and other stakeholders to tell their stories about the challenges facing the sector and share their views and unique perspectives with committee members.
"Newcastle has a proud and long history of live music and it is important we have an opportunity to have our say in helping inform policy changes," he said.
"Newcastle has a proud and long history of live music and it is important we have an opportunity to have our say in helping inform policy changes..."
Speaking at the Inquiry, Ian Lobb, who considers his venue to be the 'cradle of Newcastle live music', said a collaborative approach between council, police, residents, and venue operators was key to sustaining the longevity of live music venues.
"Funding assistance for sound mitigation would be a great help because if there's something you can fix then you plug the hole right away, not wait to get hammered by noise complaints. Working in partnership with the police and having flexible relationships with neighbours is also important."