Theatre’s time warp

Townsville Bulletin - - OPINION -

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,


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