Theatre Trust leads big changes
Duncan Ord has flagged major changes for Perth’s arts sector as he works to deliver infrastructure for the future.
The director general of the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries told Business News the Perth Theatre Trust, of which he is general manager, was integral to these changes.
Initially an entity set up to manage His Majesty’s Theatre, the trust now additionally manages the State Theatre Centre of Western Australia, Perth Concert Hall, Subiaco Arts Centre, Albany Entertainment Centre and, most recently, the Perth Cultural Centre.
Mr Ord said the trust was planning to adopt a model it had trialled at the Concert Hall, where the WA Symphony Orchestra was supported to manage the venue (in contrast to a direct management arrangement).
He said the model was beneficial for the trust, which reduced its expenditure, and for WASO, which gained the flexibility to align its seasons with those of external companies.
“Under the traditional model, the trust tended to look after itself; that is, maximise its revenue,” Mr Ord told Business News.
“But that meant the resident companies tended to be sub-optimal in terms of what they could get out of partnerships.
“So we looked at the model that would give the same sort of outcomes we had at the Concert Hall.”
Mr Ord said the trust board was keen to create a community where “every boat floats”, and venues could house diverse and non-competitive performances.
“We’ve brought these matters to government and they’ve agreed in principle,” he said.
“We’ve been working on all the numbers and transition arrangements to come back for a final decision, and I’m pretty optimistic we’ll get there in the next couple of months.”
The next stage would be to create a statutory authority to look after existing infrastructure and prioritise for future needs, Mr Ord said.
This issue has been resolved for sport with the creation of VenuesWest, which owns and manages WA’s major sporting venues on behalf of the state government.
“I felt there has to be an effective entity within government to do that, and so the journey began to look at having a similar partner body alongside VenuesWest,” Mr Ord said.
“It’s yet to be formed up in terms of what might go to parliament, but it would be a WA arts and cultural centres trust that would be like the (Perth Theatre) Trust but with a broader remit.”
Ideally, he hopes the structural changes of the Perth Theatre Trust and the creation of a new entity will allow arts companies to experience greater cross-pollination.
“If you run the venues on an entirely standalone basis, you don’t get the opportunities to match content with scale,” Mr Ord said.
“So I’m looking at a single entity that still keeps that unity model going, and hoping that over the next couple of years we’ll see, for example, Black Swan produce bigger scale works in the Maj.
“People will be expecting Perth to have a lyric theatre, and the bigger scale ballets and operas would perform in the lyric theatre.”
Perth Cultural Centre
Mr Ord told Business News the trust aimed to activate the Perth Cultural Centre space in preparation for the new museum, after taking over management from the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority.
Former Rottnest Island Authority chief executive Paolo Amaranti was now directing the space, and action had been taken to coordinate services such as energy supply, cleaning, and security.
“We now have a user group working with Paolo to make sure all these things synergise,” Mr Ord said.
“There will need to be night openings for the museum and gallery, not all the time but in sufficient rotation that the place is something where you feel safe, and you’re excited to go to for that remit.”
The Blue Room Theatre’s executive director, Julian Hobba, told Business News he welcomed the new management, as the Perth Theatre Trust had shown willingness to include his independent company in discussions, and was providing a curatorial vision rather than just space management.
“The cultural centre as it’s now envisaged is a place that should see more activation, and be more attractive to tourists,” Mr Hobba said.
“The government is very keen for cultural tourism to be more prominent in visitor experience to Perth.
“It’s really exciting to think that the government wants the cultural centre to show off the story of WA as much as possible, which is what we should be doing.”