Margaret River’s Cultural Centre precinct overhaul received a much needed shot in the arm last week with the announcement of $3.1 million of funding within the State budget.
While many Royalties For Regions projects fell during a cutthroat review by the McGowan government, the so-called HEART – Hub of Entertainment, Arts and Regional Tourism – project was given the green light, allowing all stages of the $9.2m project to progress.
Shire President Ian Earl said the outcome was “full vindication” for the project, which earlier in the year was under intense scrutiny and pressure to be scaled back.
“It is very pleasing to see that Minister MacTiernan has cast a fresh pair of eyes over the project under the intense scrutiny of a very tough State budget and has judged that it is worthy of funding,” Mr Earl said.
“It also goes to show that the business case stacks up compared to other projects which weren't funded."
Mr Earl said the modern facility would serve the community well over the next 30 years and beyond.
“This multi-venue, multi-purpose facility will help to attract events to our region and provide employment as well as providing a venue for local community functions and entertainment.”
“The great news for mums and dads is that the capacity of the main theatre will increase from 300 to 450 seats meaning that end of year school concerts won't have to turn away parents and relatives from seeing their kids perform.”
Arts Margaret River General Manager Andrew Frith said the upgrades will allow the group to deliver events and entertainment with a much larger capacity.
“Currently we try to accommodate everything for everybody in our community from cinema, school concerts, dance school productions, fundraisers, business functions, local theatre and foyer gallery exhibitions – all in the one venue space,” Mr Frith said.
“The expanded venue will allow for many more events that have not previously been possible. The main auditorium will have new comfortable fixed seating with climate control instead of the raked seating, cushions and blankets.”
Mr Frith said the extra seating will reduce congestion and disappointment during popular performances such as the Margaret River SHS presentations.
“The additional new venue area will be a multi-use space that can be adapted to accommodate functions, dance classes, seminars and more. We will also be capable of holding different events simultaneously by splitting the venue into two areas.”
The expanded foyer, courtyard and a new outdoor soundshell will also offer more opportunities for community groups seeking flexible spaces.
All potentially cancer-causing asbestos will be removed during the project works, which are expected to commence in March 2018, taking around 12 to 15 months to complete.
Project architects Bollig Design Group are completing documentation and designs with a view to seeking building tenders in the new year.
Mr Frith said productions and events would continue during the overhaul, with some creative approaches to the entertainment calendar.
“During all of this, Arts Margaret River will still be working hard to bring the best theatre and live events to Margaret River, just in innovative ways, and other places, while we wait for our new home,” he said.
South West MLC Adele Farina said the future of the HEART Project was not as secure as presumed earlier this year.
“Terry Redman has been reported as saying funding for the Margaret River Cultural Centre was in the forward estimates, this is simply not the case,” she said.
“The funding announcement was made by the former government in December 2016, no funding agreement was signed and it was not an item in the 2016/17 Budget forward estimates.
“After many months of public speculation and strong advocacy for the project, I am pleased the funding for the Cultural Centre has been confirmed.
“The Cultural Centre is very much the heart of the Margaret River community and the upgrade will deliver a vibrant hub for entertainment, arts and regional tourism for the town with benefits flowing on to local businesses.
“Confirmation of funding for the Main Street redevelopment will enable these important works to proceed as planned.”