Many of our local groups can’t afford to rent BMCC’s $10 million Hub theatre at Springwood. It is running at a massive loss of around half a million dollars a year and only attracts 4-5 shows a month. All at a time when BMCC is putting up rates. The Hub never had a hope of competing with the Dame Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre and the Panthers’ Evan Theatre in Penrith, both only a 20 minute drive away from Springwood.
We need clever ideas for the failed Hub Theatre . My suggestion would be to turn it into an education centre for the dramatic, musical and visual arts. We could invite reputable acting, drama, musical, film and television colleges to set up satellite campuses there. The theatre would still be available for all the scheduled shows and the students could help run it as part of their studies. The colleges could contribute to the running costs. This would create local jobs, local education opportunities and inject money into Springwood. It would also provide a cheap environment for our local groups to perform.
The only way a commercial theatre in the Mountains could possibly be viable is in a location where tourists can access it. “Bums on seats” is the name of the game so Katoomba is the only option. If we had a Council with any sort of vision we could have had a world class theatre on top of the Coles Cultural Centre. Below is an impression I designed of what we missed out on. We can still try to work towards something like this but in the meantime there is a possibility of using the old Katoomba library as a temporary theatre space until we can get something really top notch happening.
What an opportunity lost! A spectacular theatre in a spectacular World Heritage Area! It would easily attract world class acts, create heaps of employment and could be self financing.
Traditionally Katoomba was a fantastic theatre scene. It was THE place to stay and catch a show. The Embassy Theatre (now the Rivers Store) was an 800 seat theatre and at the top of Katoomba Street the Savoy has a 500 seat theatre which is now empty due to Council restrictions. Katoomba was a very elegant place to visit.
I believe the old Embassy Theatre is owned by a private equity investor. Maybe they would be interested in getting it operating again. This needs more research.
As a result of the short sighted approach of BMCC, it is looking like the only option left for a theatre in Katoomba may be the now vacant old Katoomba Library in Civic Place. This seems like the best short term option until we can build a world class theatre on top of the cultural Centre. Then, the old library could then be used for a number of ancillary purposes… rehearsal area, kids theatre, film studio, tourist shows and activities etc.
It will need a lot lot of work and smart funding ideas to turn this precinct into a real theatre zone. We will need lots of community involvement and advice from experts on how to fund it.
The Council should be working as hard as possible with the local groups and stakeholders to get a viable theatre happening which will help revitalise a pretty sad looking Katoomba.
Last time I was in Civic Place, it had vacant shops, smelled like urine, there were cigarette buts everywhere and graffiti. Local kids were there throwing rocks at tourists. We can do better.
Right now, we just rely on the views for our major tourist attraction. It is sad to see the tourists desperately trying to fill in time on a foggy day.
Local artists must be consulted, helped and supported.
Arts in the Mountains
In 2008 the University of Western Sydney withdrew from it’s contemporary arts courses. TAFE NSW has also made significant cuts to courses. There is now very limited access for Blue Mountains residents to visual and performing arts training. Over recent years these losses have reduced the numbers of teachers and professionals in these fields.
Our claim of being the “City of the Arts” is under strain and we need to encourage new and upcoming artists
We need to develop pathways for artists, musicians, filmakers, performers to gain access to rehearsal and performance spaces, education, exposure to talent scouts and record companies through festivals and other brokered opportunities.
The Way Forward.
The University of Western Sydney and Liverpool Council undertook an arts study titled “Ways to Grow in South Western Sydney” which looked at innovation, skills and employment strategies in that region. I intend to have a good look at this report in conjunction with local artists and see what aspects are relevant here. It would be great to conduct such a study in the Mountains but with the poor state of the BMCC finances we may not be able to be able to afford it for a while.
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