Controversy has erupted over The National Trust’s decision to end not-for-profit group Fly By Night’s lease of the Artillery Drill Hall in Fremantle.
The Council of the National Trust of Australia (WA) announced yesterday that it had resolved to enter into lease negotiations with Sunset Events for the property - leaving the Fly By Night organisation without a home.
The trust said the decision was the only way to ensure the Artillery Drill Hall would continue as a live performance and cultural venue available to local community groups which currently use the hall.
“Sunset Events had offered significant capital expenditure on heritage conservation and refurbishment on commencement of the new lease,” trust chairman John Cowdell said.
“The trust also looked to a model that would involve a far greater utilisation of all of the areas of the building, offering a greater range of benefits to arts related groups, as well as an imaginative use of bar and coffee shop facilities which would be open to the public.”
However the decision has drawn concern from the Fremantle community and prompted a 7,500-strong petition calling on Premier Colin Barnett to step in.
WA Labor member for Fremantle Simone McGurk and WA Labor leader Mark McGowan have spearheaded the petition, which was tabled in parliament this afternoon and calls on the state government to support the organisation in its current form.
According to its website, the Fly By Night club is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to ‘provide a world-class venue that creates a healthy community through music’.
It has had the Artillery Drill Hall as its venue since launching in 1986.
It claims to have been a launchpad for many Western Australian bands including the John Butler Trio, Eskimo Joe and San Sisco.
Ms McGurk said it was a mistake to let the space to a commercial operation such as Sunset Events, which runs popular music festival West Coast Blues ‘n’ Roots and Southbound.
“We need venues that will give access to emerging musicians if we are serious about nurturing home grown talent. I seriously doubt the capacity of a purely commercial venue to deliver on that front,” she said.
Sunset Events recently received approval to develop another Fremantle venue at the J-Shed area at Arthur Head despite community opposition. Managing director David Chitty told Business News Sunset Events would be developing both sites and it was still negotiating a lease at J-Shed with the City of Fremantle.
The company said it was willing to commit to a 21-year lease of the Artillery Drill Hall and develop it into a multi-purpose venue while retaining a dedication to emerging artists.
It also plans to use an adjoining two-storey brick building for food and beverage, while the upstairs area would be dedicated to an artist-in-residence space for creative and community organisations.
Sunset Events said it had attempted to enter a joint submission for the lease with the Fly by Night organisation, and was disappointed the organisation opted not to go down that route.
It said it would negotiate with Fly By Night over the end of the lease.
The Fly By Night has already been given a six-month extension to its lease so it can explore the potential for a new location.