Newcastle’s growing pains have created identity crisis ( admin posted on August 27th, 2018 )

METROPOLIS: Newcastle needs to abandon the persistent parochial association with a town and proudly and aggressively embrace its city status. Picture: Paul ScottOUR town. Our turf. Our team. How quaint and nostalgic is “our town”? Ever heard of a globally-emerging town or a smart town program? There’s been lots of “our town” palaver this past week. I’m down on town.

Like mutton chop facial hair or a bespoke butter churn, reference to Newcastle as a town makes me want to tie my high-horse to a pole and crochet a close-knit quilt for this close-knit community. It’s a nostalgic idea but it’s wrong for now.

Despite the fetishising of revitalisation and all things new by the development lobby and its various cheer squads, nostalgia still seems to matter around Newcastle. What else could possibly explain the numbers of Novocastrians who flock to trendy Maryville or the Newcastle City Farmers Markets at sparrow’s on weekend mornings to voluntarily queue in the rain – as if it’s 1932 in the Soviet Ukraine – to buy bread?

Surely the nostalgia is for the queuing rather than the bread. Because it’s hard to be nostalgic for low glycaemic seeded spelt brought to life by skilled artisans who have nurtured a special dough-blend fermentation from field to plate with the loving assistance of non-rhyming poetry and an intense mindfulness involving yoga whales. “That’ll be eight bucks in our town thanks love. Careful of your teeth.”

The insistence of the Knights utilising the Doug Parkinson Oz-rock belter with the lyric “this game is our game, this town is our town” doesn’t help the argument to insist Newcastle be called a city. There’s been a few other cracks at creating a matchday song for the Knights, but Doug remains the go-to tune for the man at the stadium with his finger on the button.

I think most of “We Built This City (On Rock and Roll)” is way better for a contemporary Newcastle anthem, as long as it is re-recorded by a supergroup comprising some members of Silverchair, The Screaming Jets and all of JPY.

Another influence for the longevity of ‘town’ – besides that provided by those in the media who can’t resist the rallying cry of “our town” whenever Newcastle teams drop the wooden spoon – was the Prime Television commercial from around 20 years ago that featured the Go-Betweens’ song “Streets Of Your Town”. While trumpeting the local sites – always referred to as icons by locals even if it’s the Jesmond roundabout – the advert chose to exclude Grant McLennan’s key lyric that “this town is full of battered wives”.

A combination of misplaced patriotism and predictable parochialism, “town” gifts the opportunity for convenient confusion to various state and Commonwealth funding opportunities. Whether either see Newcastle as regional or metropolitan varies between projects. The criteria determining metropolitan or regional status is as rubbery as a five-dollar counter lunch.

The Newcastle City Council – perhaps soon to be rebranded as Newcastle City without the bothersome council bit – has unanimously supported that Newcastle be regarded as a metropolitan area.

Bush pollies have long claimed NSW is a smokescreen acronym for the triumvirate of Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong. Keeping Newy and Wooly snouts from the trough available for regional projects leaves more for LGAs such as Lake Macquarie. But having to put in bids in the metro funding pot alongside Sydney leaves Newcastle (bugger Wollongong) in quite a spot.

Because when Newcastle gets into bed with Sydney, we all know who gets the blankets.

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