Many would consider a theatre company and a pub renowned for its skimpy barmaids to be at opposite ends of the ‘artistic’ spectrum.
Yet theatre company Lyons Productions and North Fremantle’s Railway Hotel have proved that chalk and cheese can be a winning combination.
The hotel has won the best partnership by a small or medium-sized business at the State Arts Sponsorship Scheme Awards for its efforts in creating a performance space for Lyons Productions, in the process attracting a new audience to theatre.
Andrew Gill, who was a co-proprietor of the pub until it was sold last week, said he had actively sought an arts company to provide performances that would attract more punters to the hotel outside of its regular busy period.
“We had a hotel facility that wasn’t used all hours of the day and we wanted to maximise our return,” Mr Gill said.
“I wanted something that was complementary and not abrasive to the hotel, and something a bit bohemian.
“Our market is very blue-collar, known for its barmaids, and we still wanted them. They stayed in the main bar and we had the entrance out the back for the theatre. We changed the food and wine and it worked really well.”
Mr Gill contacted the City of Fremantle about looking for an arts sponsor.
Lyons Productions jumped at the chance to secure a free performing space and had a play, set in a pub, which was ready to perform.
The play, The Simple Truth, was a sell out two-week performing season.
Lyons Productions marketing manager Helen Budge said the sponsorship provided an invaluable contribution to the emerging organisation.
“We began in 2002, so we are new on the scene and things are very competitive in the arts industry, as it is with most industries,” Ms Budge said.
“It was risky. We had no idea what could happen.
“When I first walked into the pub I thought, oh my gosh, but then when you look around there are so many stories coming out of the walls, it’s an extraordinary place.
“CY O’Connor sat in the cigar lounge when he drew the plan for the ports.”
She said performing in the pub opened up a new audience to theatre and her production company gained support from other pubs to provide theatre work.
Two other arts organisations have since performed at the Railway Hotel.
“I was surprised by the support,” Mr Gill told WA Business News.
“It broke down the barriers for people going to the theatre and the costs involved with going,” he said.
Mr Gill said the performances extended the pub’s trade – busy in the afternoons but quieter in the evenings.
He said the theatre attracted a different audience to the pub, in addition to offering those familiar with the pub a different experience.
He said there was plenty of space for the skimpy barmaids and theatre productions.