Home for Katoomba Theatre hangs on council review

The prospect of a permanent new home for theatre in Katoomba hinges on a review of 14 applications by parties interested in the town’s old library space.

Council voted last week to reopen the refurbished hall for use by the general public and community groups but it will not take any long-term bookings.

A final decision on whether to undertake a full theatrical fit-out, with a stage and tiered seating, and on who will manage the space will be made at this month’s meeting (on April 29).

Katoomba Theatre Company (KTC) has been lobbying hard to win the management role and has received endorsement from well-known actor Michael Caton. 

Mr Caton, star of The Castle, was in Katoomba on Friday with fellow cast members for a special screening of the movie. He visited the new hall and expressed his enthusiasm for KTC’s proposal, praising the group’s professionalism and expertise.

But at the council meeting the previous Tuesday, Clr Brendan Luchetti stressed that “to date no resolution has been made by this council to the Katoomba Theatre Company or any other group [and] no decision by this council has committed a nominated sum to the fit-out”.

Clr Luchetti also said one of the reasons he had spoken was because “I was very disappointed to hear one of my colleagues has been attacked publicly on several occasions by those who have a view different to what I have outlined tonight”.

It is believed Clr Luchetti was referring to Clr Don McGregor, who faced questioning about his views on the theatre at a recent dinner at the Cultural Centre.

Belle Buttrose, from the KTC, said she had asked Clr McGregor whether he supported a theatre and whether he supported KTC to manage it. She described a “line-up” of people wanting to talk to him about the venture.

“I was doing nothing more than what a constituent is expected to do, which is asking questions about what is important in our community,” Ms Buttrose said. She rejected suggestions any discussion had become heated.

Clr McGregor said it appeared “the Labor councillors were being characterised as blocking or withholding money from the project and that’s simply not true”.

He had not made up his mind about the hall and wouldn’t do so until he saw the final report from the Premises Review Panel which has been reviewing the 14 expressions of interest received.

He said while the process “may seem tedious and boring”, it guaranteed the job was done properly.

The mayor, Mark Greenhill, also emphasised the need to follow the normal processes.

“This is a community-owned space in one of the most visited parts of the Blue Mountains. It’s obvious that you have to be particularly careful not to depart or be seen to depart from the appropriate procedure for determining these things.

“With a number of expressions of interest, everyone needs to feel confident that they are being treated equally,” he said.

At the council meeting Clr Geordie Williamson said in “my experience the KTC folk have been consummately professional [and] are asking for an opportunity”.

But he was warned by the mayor about expressing a preference for one group over another, which could mean he would be unable to vote on the issue later.

KTC chairman, Stephen Measday, said the hall provided a golden opportunity for the town — “let’s not let it slip by”.

“We are just asking the councillors and the community to express its support for this theatre so that it goes through, so we can mount a professional theatre company.

“This is a multi-use venue. It is not exclusively for the Katoomba Theatre Company to use. It’s for the whole community to use.

“It could also host conferences and seminars.” 

He said the Carrington Hotel wanted to run conferences “and a venue with 250 seats nearby would be invaluable”.

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