North West Theatre Company and Gwydir Shire Council – working together

June 3, 2016

The success of a string of North West Theatre Company productions in recent years has shone the spotlight on the excellent public/private partnership that has been developed between the theatre company and Gwydir Shire Council over the 14 years since NWTC launched its first play, “Educating Rita”, in 2003.

A string of hits over the past 4 years – “Pygmalion”, “The Curious Savage”, “Gosforth’s Fete”, “Murdered to Death”, “Lipstick Dreams”, “The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and the recently completed season of “ Blithe Spirit” has seen NWTC reach great heights for an amateur company.  (See galleries of previous productions.)

The partnership between North West Theatre Company and Gwydir Shire Council has had much to do with such an impressive list of productions even being possible.

As a major user of the Roxy Theatre, NWTC has recognized the merit in making significant contributions towards the Roxy through capital donations of equipment and a cost sharing arrangement.

According to NWTC President John Wearne, this arrangement must surely represent an almost perfect model for a community organization working with its local council.

“Over the years we have sought to really pay our way”, he told the Advocate. “The aim we share with Council is to make the Roxy a viable arts facility, and to have the Roxy maximize its ability to cost-recover.

The Roxy is the number one tourist attraction in the shire, and around seven thousand people visit the art deco treasure each year. To be able to stage high quality theatre makes the Roxy so much more than a museum, as does the building’s role as a civic centre and host of any event imaginable”, he added.

North West Theatre Company contributes a base amount to Council each year to cover hire and power costs, plus five percent of all door takings including those of the very successful Film Club.

Even more important has been the equipment provided by NWTC to the Roxy, such as lighting. Recently NWTC has donated almost $6,000 towards half the cost of a new DVD projector, carpet squares for the stage and the soon to be installed new seat numbers.

Altogether, the contribution of the theatre company to the Roxy since its formation now exceeds $30,000.

On top of this, NWTC has taken on responsibility for some maintenance, and last year completely recovered the bottom of all the theatre seats.

Their members have also offered to assist in erecting stages for council run shows.

“Our aim is to help maintain the Roxy within our small budget” said John Wearne. “We are proud to be able to do this rather than go cap in hand to Council asking for financial assistance”, he added.

Gwydir Shire Council Mayor Cr. John Coulton had much praise for both the NWTC and the Roxy itself.

‘The Roxy theatre is the iconic centre of the Gwydir shire”, he said.

“We have been blessed with various government grants over the years to enable the restoration of the theatre and the café. It is very satisfying for the council to co-operate with the NWTC to enable the group to stage quality theatre productions in such a special venue. The Roxy theatre is for all the community to enjoy and I congratulate the NWTC team for bringing live theatre to our shire”, he concluded.

General Manager Max Eastcott told the Advocate, “Having performed in one of the past plays I know first hand how professional this amateur group is in the way the productions are planned, budgeted and performed. Gwydir is indeed lucky to have such a dedicated and committed group that wants to value add onto the investment made by the council on behalf of this community”.

Planning for the rest of 2016 and the first production for 2017 are now underway. Under consideration for November is a pair of one-act plays – one a production designed to develop the skills of young people, the other a traditional work for older actors.

“We cannot afford to rest on our laurels”, says John Wearne. “The fact that the bar has been raised so high with recent productions only sweetens the challenge. The company is also very grateful for the support we get from the community through our audiences – without you, we are nothing”.