Arts sector pushes for bigger venue

Headshot of Sarah Ison
Sarah IsonBusselton Dunsborough Times
Supplied photo of local musicians Shane Walsh, Noah Shilkin and Mat Lewis.
Camera IconSupplied photo of local musicians Shane Walsh, Noah Shilkin and Mat Lewis.

The arts community has pressed the urgent need of a performing arts centre in Busselton after a busy weekend of live performances brought back into focus the potential for increased facilities to foster the region’s growing events calendar.

While pressing the importance of the continued use of intimate venues for performances at Jazz by the Bay, festival director Cindy Wiese said the lack of a performing arts centre made it difficult to procure significant acts of all kinds to the region, especially during the winter months.

“To get a significant act down, the event needs to pay for itself and sell hundreds of tickets,” she said.

“That’s no problem at something like the Leeuwin Concert, but that’s at the right time of year.”

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Ms Wiese said the establishment of a performing arts centre was a “no-brainer”, because there was nowhere else to house a significant number of people for major acts.

Saxophone player and Jazz by the Bay performer Serge Le Goueff said while some venues had been incredible to play in over the weekend, such as Ngilgi Cave, others were “sub-par” and stressed the need for a proper performing arts facility.

“Every single professional ar tist would agree with me —we need at least one performing arts centre to reassure this community we have not forgotten about the arts,” he said. “We’re supposedly the events capital of the State without a facility with a live performance capacity of much more than 100 and we’re never going to attract proper shows if all we have to offer is that.”

Along with the growth of Jazz by the Bay, the region’s other major off-peak event, CinefestOZ, has experienced a 42 per cent increase in attendance over the past three years and chief executive Malinda Nixon said the organisation would welcome the arrival of a performing arts centre to foster continued growth.

“High attendance at all events is the goal, and there is room for growth,” she said. “CinefestOZ recognises that such a facility, combined with the advent of interstate flights from Busselton Airport, would allow for new opportunities and growth for the festival.”

City of Busselton community and commercial services director Cliff Frewing confirmed the City had recently lodged an expression of interest under the Regional Growth Fund and the centre would progress subject to the Federal Government’s contribution.

“The City is hopeful that if the application is successful the project could commence within two years,” he said.

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