City Hub

Drama abounds as community theatre and council clash

A petition of 795 signatures is part of the large community campaign to save a Glebe theatre and art studio.

City of Sydney Council has plans to replace the theatre with a skate park.

The skate park is part of the Johnstons Creek Parklands Master Plan, and was allegedly conceived following community consultation in late 2012.

According to a City of Sydney spokesperson, the master plan was drawn up before the theatre was operating and the theatre was only offered a short term lease in the interim.

But that is not how the community sees it, with nearly 800 rallying in support over the past two months.

Archway 1 Art Studio co-founder Stefan von Reiche told City Hub that there had been a lack of consultation about their impending removal.

“As part of the masterplan for the area, eventually we would have to go. But we were quite disappointed with the fact that we weren’t involved in the plan at all, given the community involvement we have had over the years,” he told City Hub.

“We’re representing the community’s genuine need for theatre and cultural space really. We use the space for photography, art exhibitions, art classes, acting classes. It’s more like a multi-use training facility.”

Alongside the petition, numerous letters have been sent to City of Sydney between 2012 and the present time supporting the art theatre.

Sydney University Architectural Design Tutor Sarah Breen Lovett wrote a letter during initial community consultation, praising the theatre on its positive impact on the art community.

“Their current tenancy at Archway 1 supports Sydney’s grass roots arts scene, in exactly the same way that City of Sydney Council aims to cultivate with its Arts Planning Policies,” Ms Breen Lovett wrote.

She also said that the space provides “the arts community, and broader Sydney community with a unique space to network, exhibit and create within the arts”.

In another letter, local resident Jennifer A. likened the theatre to efforts made in New York and Paris which she said encouraged tourism in those cities.

“Where is the vision and creative thought of our politicians?

The Archway is a unique and wonderful venue for our performing arts and should, without question, be preserved,” she wrote.
Mr von Reiche said residents and light rail commuters loved having a theatre in the community and a place to get coffee in the café-barren local area.

The art studio was founded in 2005 as a community arts centre by Mr von Reiche.

The attached theatre and coffee shop opened in 2012 with the assistance of artistic director and founder Rachel Jordan.

Ms Jordan and Mr von Reiche said in an open letter to the Glebe community that the removal will “eliminate what is a unique space, that nowhere else in Sydney and I dare say in Australia has, which is a theatre situated beneath an historical, landmark viaduct!”

City Hub understands that the petition is intended to be sent to City of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore and CEO Monica Barone, with a meeting between the council and the theatre managers to occur in the next few weeks.

Ms Jordan said that the meeting had been arranged because the theatre group want to work with council.

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