By ALLISON HORE
From council meetings to contemporary culture, the Marrickville Town Hall was set to begin a new life as a live music venue.
But those plans have been halted after some councillors had second thoughts about the idea.
In September last year, the Inner West Council moved to transform the building into a live music and performing arts venue. Inner West music venue operators were then invited to put a business plan forward for consideration.
But following a council meeting last week, the plans to transform the space into a live music venue will go back to the drawing board. In the meeting, councillors voted to refer the September motion back to a “relevant local democracy committee” for advice.
Inner West Mayor Darcy Byrne expressed disappointment towards the decision.
“The longstanding project to convert Marrickville Town Hall into a multicultural music and arts venue has been derailed with Greens, Liberals and independent Councillors voting not to proceed with the plan,” Byrne said.
“This plan has had overwhelming support from the Councillors previously as well as from the local community and the music sector.”
Criticism of the motion
The heritage-listed Marrickville Town Hall opened on the 11th of February 1922 for the Marrickville Council Diamond Jubilee. It is the oldest civil building in Marrickville and the fourth oldest Town Hall in Sydney.
The plan was for the building to be transformed into a venue for concerts, performances and cultural events. Council hoped alongside the new Marrickville Library, which opened on the corner of Marrickville and Livingstone roads in 2019, the Town Hall’s transformation would birth a wider cultural precinct on Marrickville Road.
However the move was not without criticism. Greens member for Balmain, Jamie Parker, called it a “property fire sale” and said it was “disappointing”. The venue is currently used by a number of local community groups to run events.
At last week’s meeting, council staff assured councillors current community uses for the building would be maintained and the live music venue would simply be an “additional use” for the space outside of business hours.
But councillor Victor Macri questioned the viability of community use of the space during working hours and said more work needs to be done on the proposal before it moves ahead.
“Community use from 9 to 5? Most of the community are working then, so that’s going to be a bit difficult, so that’s not really going to be for community use,” he said.
“I don’t think I can support this.”
Some councillors also expressed concern about the impact a “state-of-the-art” council venue would have on struggling local live music operators in a post-COVID economy.
“The last thing they would want is a council multi-million dollar investment competing against them,” said independent councillor John Stamolis.
After a heated exchange with Byrne, Stamolis seconded a foreshadowed motion put forward by Greens councillor Colin Hesse requesting the live music venue proposal be reworked. Their motion was carried with the support of respective Independent and Liberal councillors Pauline Lockie and Julie Passas.
Byrne said the rationale given by councillors who voted to delay the expressions of interest process was “nonsensical.” He voted alongside fellow Labor councillors against councillor Hesse’s motion.
“The reasons put forward for withdrawing support for this awesome idea were, with respect, quite nonsensical,” he said.
“They claimed, variously, that there was no demand for music venues, that the Town Hall would be an inappropriate location and that it would be bad for the Marrickville economy.”
Council staff will continue to investigate future uses of Marrickville Town Hall with advice from local entertainment bodies.