Theatre’s time warp
THE recent announcement of a $ 150 million upgrade and extension of the Queensland Performing Arts Centre ( QPAC) is a stark reminder that we in Townsville are still awaiting ours.
The Civic Theatre is Stage I of Townsville’s Performing Arts Centre ( TPAC) opened in 1978.
Stage II was supposed to happen in five years ( ie, 1983) but we are still waiting, stuck in a 1970s time warp with totally inadequate theatre facilities.
In the ’ 70s the Townsville City Council quite correctly decided that we would need a range of theatre facilities both in size and type and that the only practical and affordable way of doing this was a TPAC.
The most central, suitable site was set to one side and Stage I built.
Such a centre requires a very large site for parking and buildings, including future growth along with good arterial road access.
The Civic site is outstanding and, frankly, would be the envy of almost any regional city in Australia. To the excellent size and access of the site can now be added the great connectivity that will come with the promised waterside promenade along Ross Creek with connecting pedestrian bridges to the CBD.
This promenade will also fill in the missing link in the Pallarenda to the Dam Parkway which will ultimately be recog- nised as one of Townsville’s greatest assets.
But, back to the theatre, we are now in the parlous state of missing out entirely on a great many events and performances ( probably somewhere between 150 and 300 per year) simply because we don’t have the facilities.
Townsville desperately needs a small theatre ( say 200 seats), a medium sized theatre ( 500- 600 seats), an outdoor theatre ( ie, an amphitheatre) and at least one venue with the right acoustics for live music and voice.
A performing arts centre is the only way of providing these at a reasonable capital and operational cost.
We already have Stage I, which is itself an excellent large theatre. We do not, however, have formal recognition from council even of the need, let alone a solution, for the facilities we lack.
Instead the Bulletin reported this week that council was considering building “a concert hall” in association with a multistorey carpark at Dean Park.
This is neither the facility we need nor a practical location for it.
It is, however, no doubt seen as a location with some presumed flow- on benefit to the CBD, though it is hard to see this adding up to much.
We are letting ourselves down badly. Cairns has a amphitheatre, opened last year, and by the end of this year will open its new Performing Arts Centre ( CPAC).
Mackay has had a PAC for 30 years.
A PAC is a powerful catalyst for improving entertainment and events offerings and for creating employment, training and education options.
A PAC is also a venue which can attract festivals to the city and generate local ones. This all has economic flow- on benefits to the inner city.
We are being held back by tunnel vision, a profound lack of leadership and apparently a failure to understand the importance of the performing arts facilities in the declining liveability of our city. SIMON MCCONNELL,