Letters of Support

To: The Mayor
Townsville City Council
PO Box 1268
Townsville 4810

Re: Support for Townsville Performing Arts Centre
The Music Centre North Queensland (MCNQ), originally the Townsville Community Music Centre, was one of the 12 music centres established in Australia in the early 1980s by the Australia Council, and has the distinction of being the only one still active. The MCNQ has had a long record of supporting local, inter and intrastate musicians in their artistic endeavours. It facilitates concert giving, tours, workshops, provides an essential musical resource for the general public, and has now begun a major, dynamic reshaping of the role it can play as a strategic arts organisation in North Queensland.
Throughout its 22 year history one of the Centre’s most important partners has been the Townsville City Council (TCC).
The MCNQ has long argued the necessity of having a small performing arts centre in Townsville. The major performing venues - the Entertainment Centre and the Civic Theatre - are far too large and priced beyond the reach of local arts organisations while the realistically sized School of Arts Theatre, occupied by Dance North and the Extensions Youth Dance Company, is (owing to the company’s rehearsal and teaching schedule) well utilised and only occasionally available.

A city the size of Townsville, with an overall growth rate of 5% and expected inner city growth rate many times that, desperately requires a small to medium sized performing arts complex.

The new Performing Arts Centre envisaged by TCC will meet this requirement. It is to be sited in the centre of the city, immediately beside Umbrella Gallery – the city’s artist’s own gallery - surrounded by a range of new residential complexes. It will house two performing arts companies and eight other arts organisations, of which the MCNQ hopes to be one.

The central appeal for our organisation of being housed in this arts precinct is the immediate access to a professionally run performing arts space and its associated rehearsal spaces. Another no less exciting prospect is the opportunity for collaborative activities that we have to this point only dreamed of. Theatre companies such as Tropic Sun and the Little Theatre Company, and music organisations such as the Australian Festival of Chamber Music and the Barrier Reef Orchestra are intended to be housed in this precinct. This can only lead to further collaborative projects that will grow from access to the planned three rehearsal and one performing space and artists, directors and arts administrators who will work in them.

Access of this kind provides extraordinary opportunities to develop synergies between the various companies that can only lead to more exciting projects in the future. Further, the profile of each organisation housed in this precinct will be raised immensely, therefore the MCNQ is keen to offer the TCC its full support in accessing the financial support essential to this building.

I would be happy to discuss this matter further, should the need arise.

Yours sincerely

Dr Michael Whiticker

To: Councillor Jack Wilson,
Chair of Lifestyle and Community Development Committee

Townsville City Council
PO Box 1268,
Townsville 4810

Dear Jack,
Following the Music Centre’s meeting with Richard Stuart - Council’s consultant for the new Arts Hub, we would like to note some concerns and air some thoughts on where music is heading in the city.
1. The Music Centre hopes a grand piano will be permanently housed in the new Arts Hub. Aside from the Music Centre, the AFCM, Concerto and Vocal Competition and Barrier Reef Orchestra all require a piano.
2. It appears that there is only one permanent performing theatre planned for the Arts Hub, with 3 other large rooms being planned as rehearsal venues – one public rehearsal room and two resident company rehearsal rooms. As Tropic Sun and Dance North will be expected to make regular use of this performance theatre it limits opportunity for the Music Centre and other organisations. Council may not be aware that organisations such as ourselves often have no choice of dates for performing groups who wish to come to Townsville. We are often given a date and must then find a venue. There will likely be clashes with the resident companies as the season in Townsville only extends for 6 to 8 months.
3. According to Richard the public rehearsal room in the new centre will likely be viewed as a second performing room, however as the Extensions dance group and possibly others have, and will ask for permanent bookings in the public rehearsal room, its use as a performance room appears limited.
4. At the moment we have two performing venues in the city in the Old Magistrate’s Court and the School of Arts Theatre. There is concern voiced that with the building of the Arts Hub we might lose access to these venues for the arts. We propose that at least one of these venues is kept open as a rehearsal and performance venue to cope with the overflow from the new centre.
5. The Music Centre requires a big room (seating up to 300) perhaps only three or four times a year. It requires a small room, seating up to 100, about 40 times a year. The Music Centre is typical of many small performing organisations in having very limited budget to give to venue hire. We are however rich in invention and are able to make do with basic facilities. We propose that the Arts Hub has a permanent second, small performance theatre (seating up to 120) available at a nominal rent - so it is competitive. It does not require lighting or PA as we, and other groups in a similar position, can supply our own. We propose that this second performance venue is not made available for evening rehearsals, as it would dramatically limit its availability for performance.
6. A further, and better alternative would be retaining the School of Arts Theatre as a reasonably priced performance and rehearsal venue. It might also retain its office space for lease to local performing arts organisations who either cannot fit or do not choose to move to the new Arts Hub. This building has huge potential as a small performing, rehearsal and teaching facility for the arts. Given the stopping of tertiary instrumental teaching in Music at the university there is an even greater need for Council to look to ways of encouraging music (and theatre) education in the city. Perhaps viewing the School of Arts as an academy for groups committed to performing arts education would be a great way forward. Why not a School of Performing Arts for the city!
7. The Board of the Music Centre has heartily endorsed the Music Centre’s new Musician Residency program, beginning with
40 Days in the Tropics in 2007, as the backbone of our commitment to the development of music in Townsville. Bringing outstanding musicians to Townsville for week to 10 day long residencies, is a positive way to counter the dearth of music teaching at the highest level that we now face in the city. A School of Performing Arts venue, giving these artists somewhere to teach and perform while here would be a major support of our initiative.
8. As the new Arts Hub is committed to the presence of resident companies representing theatre and dance, perhaps the retaining of the School of Arts Theatre as primarily a music building would make a lot of sense. Aside from the Music Centre, the AFCM, Concerto and Vocal Competition and Barrier Reef Orchestra could make great use of such a facility. The recently formed North Queensland Academy of Strings which held its inaugural “Strings in September for 10 days in 2006, will now continue this event every September school holidays. It might also welcome such a facility, as would any number of jazz, choral and concert band organisations.
It does not require a great deal of imagination to see that the present School of Arts could easily add music practice/rehearsal rooms to the old stage and add a few more elsewhere in the building. Without a lot of effort, a building committed to music performance (requiring a small to medium venue) and music development, could appear in the city.
We would be happy to further discuss any of the above thoughts with yourself and other Council staff.
Yours sincerely,
Dr Michael Whiticker