Arts group looks for long-term role

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
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The Shire of Augusta-Margaret River and ousted Cultural Centre managers Arts Margaret River have settled an interim deal around the use of the redeveloped Heart venue, but the final cost to ratepayers remains unknown.

Arts Margaret River general manager Andrew Frith said meetings with the Shire had led to a temporary agreement until the end of 2019. Arts patrons remained worried the group’s paid staff could not be supported under the new model, in which the arts group’s offering would be much reduced following the Shire decision to take on management of the Heart.

“At this stage, we are all still employed to the end of December, with the exception of (technical manager) Phil Bebb, who is now employed by the Shire,” Mr Frith told the Times. “The Shire (is) honouring all of the existing bookings made by Arts Margaret River and are providing technical support during this period.

“We are in discussions with the Shire as to what part Arts Marg-aret River can play in the venue for next year and beyond, and will also be applying to the Shire’s new (community arts) fund to present an annual program of theatre and live events in the venue.”

During debate earlier this year about the management shake-up — set to add about $1 million to annual Shire running costs — the prospect of a “top-up payment” to the arts group was raised.

Shire chief executive Stephanie Addison-Brown said councillors would decide on any further action involving finances. “The Shire is in negotiations with Arts Margaret River regarding future support and this will be put to council for consideration soon,” she said.

“This may include a subsidy and/or in-kind support, but will be determined by (the) council.”

The Shire also recently advertised the venue manager’s job and called for a pool of casuals to help during peak times.

Shire president Ian Earl said despite the new cost pressures from the Heart, the Shire already subsidised loss-making services such as the aquatic centre and the library for the benefit of residents.

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