A concert hall and cultural complex one block away from the new Townsville Super Stadium is a step closer to reality, after a feasibility study was presented to Townsville City Council this morning.
Jennifer Bott, Chair of the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), was engaged by the Council to provide recommendations focusing on the need, capacity, and best location to place a purpose-built concert hall.
“I was asked to review three spaces: the Townsville Civic Theatre, Central Park [on the Palmer Street side of Victoria Bridge] and Queen’s Hotel [the Hive project],” Jennifer said.
“My recommendation was that the Queen’s Hotel site and Central Park would both be suitable, but in considering my report, Council made the decision that it should be at Central Park. My reason for recommending the two is that this is also part of a plan to revitalise the CBD. On that basis it should be in the city at a place where people can walk to, close to restaurants, and somewhere people don’t need a car or taxi to get to.
“The current cultural facilities in Townsville were really designed for a city less than half the size that it is now, so the simplest answer for needing this concert hall is this is now a much bigger place – and Townsville has an unusually active arts and music community, with nearly 200 cultural organisations. We are home to the incredibly successful Dancenorth and the Australian Festival of Chamber Music, which is the largest chamber music festival in the Southern Hemisphere,” said Jennifer.
“One of the issues with the Civic Theatre is it’s booked out two years in advance, 70 per cent of which is by community groups. In simply having another significant cultural complex, it means the community groups will have more than just the Civic Theatre they can go to, and will mean many more touring groups are able to come here. It will mean new acts, new productions, and there hasn’t been the capacity for locally-produced touring shows to tour through regional venues, so offers a whole range of exciting new opportunities, breathing new life into the Civic Theatre too.
“A concert hall differs dramatically from a theatre: in general, you don’t have a fly tower, carpet, curtains and that sort of thing – so this is about a concert hall which will have raked seating with about 1,000 seats, small space around the stage, and specifically designed to be ideal for music and the voice. It’s about natural acoustics that aren’t absorbed: music is generally best when it’s not mic’ed and is a natural sound – and you have an extraordinary number of music organisations in Townsville between the orchestra, school music programs who will benefit,” Jennifer said.
“There’s potential for large commercial usage too, because of a shortage of those sorts of venues here: there aren’t the big hotel complexes usually used for conferences, so one of my recommendations was that there be large foyer spaces as well as accompanying spaces that can be used for everything from weddings and functions to conferences and recitals. In order to be viable, most halls need at least 25 per cent of their usage to be commercial. It’s not only the money that goes into the building of the complex, but the money needed to run it too. That’s why the importance of having a successful venue rather than a drain on public money is so important.”
Following Jennifer’s recommendations, Townsville City Council is progressing with stage two of the process towards the new concert hall, which involves assessing construction and architecture requirements and sourcing funding. If stage two is successful, stage three will call for architectural tenders, before stage four – the actual construction of a venue.