Space for performing arts debated

The call to action for the performing arts was unequivocal.

Candidates for mayor of Dunedin at a forum hosted by Stage South last night had differing visions on how best to help the city’s performing arts sector thrive, but they were pretty clear that that a waiting pattern should not continue.

Cr Carmen Houlahan wanted Dunedin City Council to make decisions on what should be done with the former Sammy’s and Fortune theater venues.

Mandy Mayhem-Bullock suggested Sammy’s might be what the city needs for a youth space.

Cr Lee Vandervis lobbied for the redevelopment of the Mayfair Theater in South Dunedin.

He also advocated for the council and the University of Otago to use their joint influence to foster a large-scale performing arts industry.

Cr Sophie Barker wanted the board to implement the strategies she had written.

Cr Jules Radich said there was a disconnect between the council and the performing arts sector.

Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins called on the community to continue to reject the austerity policy, to allow investment to happen where it was needed.

Pamela Taylor has lobbied for the development of a theater on the waterfront.

Money could be diverted for this cause from spending on cycle lanes, she said.

The Sammy’s building in Crawford St was purchased in 2017.

The Fortune Professional Theater on Stuart St closed in 2018 and Stage South was established that year to foster and promote the sustainability of professional theater in Otago and Southland.

Humidity has been a problem at the old Fortune Theater and issues at Sammy’s include asbestos and a need for seismic reinforcement.

Richard Seager was one of the contestants who said the old Fortune Theater was going to be wasted. He suggested selling Sammy’s.

Both venues stood empty while the council held discussions and engaged with consultants on options for developing a mid-size theatre.

The value the city got from its $300,000 bill to consultancy Charcoalblue was mostly lamented by the candidates, although Mr Hawkins said valuable insights were obtained.

He disagreed with Charcoalblue’s findings and argued that different solutions might be needed for live music and the performing arts.

Bill Acklin said Sammy’s was a fantastic place to perform, but the board needed to figure out what he was trying to accomplish.

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