An open letter to the Perth Theatre Trust (and John Day MP)

Dear Minister Day and the Board of the Perth Theatre Trust

Now that the Perth Theatre Trust has received the report from Michael Chappell I feel it’s important that you keep in mind your important strategic role in supporting the performing arts in Western Australia. As a company that stages two major performances a year in professional venues we would like to address your commitment to the Government Desired Outcome of “A Creative, sustainable and accessible culture and the arts sector” through your arts industry support and venue management services.

A local and thriving culture and the arts sector has tremendous value to helping achieve the objectives of good government by creating ‘social profit’ – this is very different from financial profit, which drives the economy. Social profit is the glue that helps communities stay strong and healthy by providing opportunities for creative and communal activities and events, encouraging feelings of empathy, goodwill, life satisfaction and thoughtfulness about humanity and society. Without social profit there would be social breakdown, listlessness, communities that are segregated and suspicious of each other’s motives and desires, misunderstanding, tension and despair.

Theatres play a great role in society as engines of social profit, presenting performances and opportunities for communities to come together and share activities and stories that give them memorable and binding experiences. A good theatre is programming work with an understanding of the core community it seeks to reach out to, creating opportunities to challenge and encourage their understanding of good performance by giving them accessible, entertaining, thought-provoking work. A good theatre will be engaging strongly in the activity of audience development through reaching out to communities, providing links between the communities and the theatre building and developing a strong reputation for a particular style of performance.

Just like good health and good education, this activity requires a high degree of investment from government, philanthropic partners and sympathetic trusts.

Your chair Mr Peter Blaxell is quoted as saying

"We have a one-off opportunity to make probably the most important decision for the next decade or so for the performing arts venues and we have to make sure it is the right one. We are not going to skimp on the research and financial modelling that is required to make sure we make the right decision." Mr Blaxell has also expressed embarrassment about the $9 million subsidy needed to run His Majesty’s Theatre, the Perth Concert Hall, State Theatre Centre, Subiaco Arts Centre and Albany Entertainment Centre.

I hope Mr Blaxell is sufficiently embarrassed to press for more subsidy – $9 million isn’t nearly enough to support a creative, sustainable and accessible culture and the arts sector generating huge amounts of social profit helping to bind the communities of Western Australia together in a harmonious and mentally healthy society. The theatres of Perth and Albany need ambitious community development and education teams supporting great programming decisions. A strong investment now will see huge increases in the numbers of attenders and participants for generations.

This time, let’s get the venue management right and support the arts and the artists that can engage, provoke, entertain and enlighten the people of Western Australia. Otherwise these buildings will not be theatres in the future – they will be function centres and conference centres.

Adam Bennett
General Manager
The Western Australian Youth Theatre Company


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