Brunswick Mechanics Institute

Meat Market studio residents Next Wave Festival are embarking on a new project to manage a physical space - an old Mechanics Institute and Lending Library in Brunswick, in collaboration with Moreland City Council. We spoke to Next Wave Director Georgie Meagher about the project, which launches on 8 September.


“Artists need dedicated space and time to create their work, and we hope to develop a model that allows us to provide robust support to artists, at a level that we haven’t been able to in the past” Georgie Meagher

Tell us a bit about your latest project in collaboration with Moreland Council – Brunswick Mechanics Institute:

It’s a new cultural enterprise with a focus on helping artists develop new work, and presenting high quality creative programming and events to the local community. The building itself is an old Mechanics Institute and Lending Library – it’s got really lovely heritage features in the two studio spaces, and a larger black box theatre that seats 110 people.

Next Wave festival is known for supporting emerging artists to explore creative risks – is this your first project setting up a physical space?

Yes it is! It will be the first time we’ve ever managed a venue year round, which is quite exciting.

You are also a current licensee at Meat Market Studios - how long have next wave been stationed at the Meat Market and what has it enabled you to do?

Next Wave HQ has been at Meat Market since 2006. It’s a great place to work - our office is light and airy, and a good size that allows us to grow our team during festival time. We also have some other incredible organisations sharing the building with us so it’s a pleasure to be in such fine company.

How did the Brunswick Mechanics Institute concept come about…and who is involved?

Moreland City Council held an open tender process that included an EOI, a more detailed proposal and an interview/presentation. We felt that there was incredible synergy between the direction that Moreland had articulated for the space, and our core business – supporting artists to create new work. We’re working with their Arts and Culture Manager and all kinds of new friends in Council to get the project off the ground.

Why do you feel there is a need for a resource such as Brunswick Mechanics Institute?

Brunswick is home to a big creative community and we are excited to find ourselves at the centre of that. Artists need dedicated space and time to create their work, and we hope to develop a model that allows us to provide robust support to artists, at a level that we haven’t been able to in the past.

Could you tell us about who you hope to attract to the space?

We want to work with partners across the creative industries – independent artists, our colleagues from professional arts companies, as well as music, film and fashion

What was required to secure the space. What were the costs?

Next Wave is in a lease and service agreement with Moreland City Council, we a receive an annual fee from Council to manage the venue. There are all kinds of costs associated with setting up the venue, but people and time is the main one. It takes time to work through the detailed processes, procedures and policies that are needed for a venue to function at a professional level. The hard costs certainly add up too… Design and branding, website development, cleaning, testing and tagging, sanitary services, paint, tea, milk, bar stock, liquor licensing, toilet paper and washing liquid are just a few of the expenses that have come up. I’m sure there will be more!

What were/are the obstacles and how did you overcome them?

It’s a big project, we’re a small team. Not having enough hours in the day is really our main challenge!

What were/are the risks?

Our brand and reputation is probably the biggest thing at risk, so that’s why it’s important that we work with the right partners to ensure the community understands what we’re trying to do, and rallies around that.

How do you foresee Brunswick Mechanics Institute evolving over time and what are your future plans?

We will be developing the project in a responsive way – we’ll be doing a lot of listening before we set our plans. But broadly we want the space to be locally loved and internationally engaged, and we have a lot of ideas about how we could get there.

What next for Next Wave Festival?

We have our heads down ahead of announcing our dates and full artist list in late September!

To keep up to date, head to the Brunswick Mechanics Institute website.