BY BENEDICT BRUNKER
Hundreds gathered at the Bondi Pavilion last Sunday for a free concert in protest against Waverley Council’s plans to redevelop the historic community centre, which locals fear will exclude the public from use of the site.
The “Save Bondi Pavilion” concert showcased the cream of Sydney’s local talent, including rock legends Hoodoo Gurus, Art vs. Science and famed stand-up comic Wil Andersen.
Sibo Bangoura, who treated the crowd to a set of traditional African drumming in support of the event, said she once used the pavilion for rehearsal.
“I used to use them a couple of years ago but now they don’t let us run the drum and dance class here anymore, not anywhere in Waverley. It’s unfair, it’s crazy,” Ms Bangoura said.
She is concerned the council’s plans to get rid of studios and rehearsal space on the ground floor will see other musicians meet the same fate she has.
“We have to keep fighting to win, to save Bondi Pavilion, because it’s a great place for everybody, not only the musicians. Let the locals use it – let the musicians use it. Music makes people happy. Don’t just sell it for money. Money is nothing. Happiness is more important than money,” Ms Bangoura said.
Comedian Wil Andersen has a similar history of involvement with the pavilion, and a similar attachment.
“I did my first ever Sydney shows in the pavilion, in the theatre up there. My girlfriend actually asked me on the way here, ‘Why are you doing this?’ I said, ‘You know how I used to complain that I loved Bondi more when there were houses around the beach and it felt more like a community? That’s why,’” Mr Andersen said.
The concert’s convener and Bondi local Kilty O’Brien shared similar feelings about the pavilion. Ms O’Brien has been leading the charge against the council’s redevelopment plans, ever since she heard that they would exclude her three daughters from their weekly dance classes on the Pavilion’s ground floor.
“Events like today unite the community and show the council that the community will act as one and that they value the importance of this pavilion. People always ask me at events like this, ‘why can’t the council put on these sorts of things?’ It makes us concerned as to why the council doesn’t do that. Is it that they want to run the place down? Is it that they want people to think that nothing goes on here? We don’t have another community centre. That’s why people feel so strongly about it. There’s a purposeful neglect that’s been going on for at least half a decade. There’s no support for it to be a vibrant cultural centre,” Ms O’Brien said.
Waverley Mayor Sally Betts has been at the forefront of redevelopment plans, and played down the concerns of the campaigners when asked for comment by CityHub.
“Anyone who is currently using the Pavilion’s facilities will be able to when the plans have been seen through. Bondi Pavilion is desperately in need of drastic renovation. The Pavilion in its current state is a national disgrace. Bondi is an iconic beach, it is the second most visited place in the country, and our facilities need to reflect that fact,” Ms Betts said.