The Beagle Editor,
Mackay Park, or M’yPark as I will call it in this article, is presently under the spotlight. Its’ management plan and proposed Arts/Aquatic Centre concept plans are on public display for comment until Sunday 17th February.
PerfEx, the lobby group for a performance/exhibition facility in the Bay, in recognition of the (largely unseen) creative strand in the community, has campaigned for over a decade for a centre for the Arts, theatre and creative pursuits, for youth, for families, the arts community and visitors.
When the Bowling club was bought ‘for the community’ in 2016, our hopes were raised, especially when we, along with others, were asked what we wanted there. A massive amount of work and consultation went into two large and comprehensive submissions. A cultural centre on the site of a community icon was now a possibility, and our spirits lifted.
Then, suddenly, the possibility was gone. What had initially been a ‘sound’ building suddenly became ‘unsound’ and council changed its category out of community hands and into Council hands by making it ‘operational’. This made it saleable to all and sundry, local or not.
Once again PerfEx and many others put in thoughtful, comprehensive submissions for a Performing/Arts/Cultural Centre, this time on M’y Park itself, replacing the pool with a combined Aquatic/Arts centre. This combination was not popular from the beginning and, thankfully, two out of the three concept plans provided by the appointed architects, and now on display, separate the two facilities.
Now, the crunch: do the concept plans reflect all those submissions and years of community consultation? Do they look as if they will produce a complex the community, our 24hour/365days of the year community, will take to their hearts and use?
I have concerns about this. The pool people have also not been excited. I cannot speak for them, but they also want to see changes to the proposed concept plans, to better reflect their needs.
The proposed performance/arts facility appears to be a commercially, rather than community, focussed enterprise. Certainly we must have something that is financially sustainable, but can it be paid for by transient visitors over a 12-14 weeks tourist season?
We, and many others, had a vision for something vibrant and inspiring. It didn’t have to be huge – it just had to inspire and work.
Comparing what we are being offered and what we asked for does not stand up well to date. Cramped spaces; poor orientation to open and green and sky spaces; lack of a good catering kitchen; only one café and that embedded in the Aquatic centre; lack of meeting rooms and, once again, the danger of a ‘back-alley’ view from the highway.
Where are our indoor/outdoor spaces, for ambience and performance; our creative technology spaces; our flexible theatre spaces, our ease of loading, storage and flow? Where is an Arts café and ambient spaces? Where an easy approach for patrons of all capabilities?
These are core concepts. Sure there are lots of possibilities of making some changes in the ‘details’ stage, but unless we have ‘good bones’ to start off with, no gilding will solve some issues.
This place was to be, can still be, a catalyst for the creative strand (practitioners and appreciators) of the community. There are many instances world-wide of cities and towns made into thriving economies on the back of a vibrant arts scene – like Glasgow, Bristol, the Wye valley with its multitude of book fairs; our country dotted with painted silos; the Q in Queanbeyan; the back alleys of Melbourne’s street art scene.
We have tapped a seam with the Sculpture on the Clyde, the River of Art and the Bay Players and the various (but temporary) art exhibitions.
We have a great opportunity here to take a stand for our future and its move into a more visible creative personality for our town.
If we look at the bigger picture, the Council seems to have a plan to centre Art in Moruya (with the current passion and promotion of the BAS centre – undoubtedly a great asset in itself), and theatre (rather than Performance /Arts)) in the Bay, with a smaller, hands-on ‘do-and-display’ focus at the Botanic Gardens. Does this reflect our community needs?
Are we willing to lose the Community Centre (as is the plan) to get it?
Our vision is for a facility that complements the facilities we already have, not replace them (another gym?); to have, in our community, assets and reflections of practicality, creativity and community.
Do we want to be richer or poorer as a community when this centre is built? How would you use such a facility? Could you do without a general meeting place such as the Community Centre? Will you use (participate or be part of an audience) in Art and theatre in the Bay? Will you encourage our creative seam to invigorate the town? I hope so.
This Council was elected to represent and support the 24/365 community and visitors. In that we must remember which is most important: the core year-round community or commercial enticements for transients? What is the balance? Which is the tail and which the dog. Let’s not be confused about this.
Let’s make a fabulous facility we all love and use – fit for a long time.
Time is running out. Please send an email, write your thoughts, fill in the survey, have your say before 17th February. Dr Sue McKenzie Batemans Bay