A major Ballarat organisation is again filled with optimism following the news Her Majesty’s Theatre renovations will be completed by July.
It has been a nervous wait for the Royal South Street Society, but they’re now confident they’ll be back in the grand old theatre before their first major event in mid-August, following assurances from City of Ballarat and Nicholson Construction
Brett Macdonald, Royal South Street Society’s chief executive officer, said the society operated at a $200,000 loss last year due to the closure of Her Maj.
He said the prospect of the theatre reopening before the national band championships was “really exciting”.
Her Majesty’s Theatre has been closed since December 2017, due to significant structural problems with the stage and cracked support beams in the roof.
Overall competition figures were down 18 per cent in 2018, with many high-level metro and interstate ballet and calisthenics clubs just not making the trek.
“Without the theatre, South Street in some disciplines really struggled. The entries fell away and the audiences fell away, which hurt us,” Mr Macdonald said.
“What really hurt was those packed houses we normally get get, especially for the championship calisthenics. People who follow the elite in the sport are very passionate, and without them filling our theatres and enjoying high end competition, it made a big difference.
“To have that theatre reopened so we can rebuild in 2019 is super important .. clubs have said if the theatre is open, they’ll be back.”
Council contributed $5.3 million to the first series of renovations, with a $2 million grant coming from Heritage Victoria.
But the fight to fully enliven the space is not over. While Labor promised $10 million towards accessibility upgrades last year, another $5 million is needed to make Her Maj the ‘country’s best historic regional theatre’.
A change.org petition to secure the funding from the federal government now has more than 1,500 signatures.
FedUni hosted the society’s major events in Founders Hall last year, but that meant the competition’s usual economic impact of more than $8 million was not felt by the city’s hospitality industry.
While the theatre closure has been “financially and reputationally” detrimental to the society, according to Mr Macdonald, there has been an unintended silver lining.
With the walls of Her Majesty’s stripped bare for all manner of renovations, he said they can make sure “they have communication lines and lights right” and better technology for streaming.
With a federal grant still being considered, Ballarat mayor Samantha McIntosh previously told The Courier the project “means so much to us, when you look at the individuals who have responded … we can’t ignore this and we can’t ignore the opportunity and future created if we do the right thing.”
“To have council and Nicholson Construction on the same page and working towards having it open is really, really pleasing,” Mr Macdonald said.