Roxy Café on track for exciting future

February 20, 2010

The Roxy Café Restoration Project is underway, and is on course to meet the June 30 deadline for completion. 

The Gwydir Shire Council is pleased with the progress to date for the $750,000 project.  In 2009, the Council was the recipient of the funds through the Department of Heritage, Environment, Water and the Arts under the Australian Government Jobs Fund.  The grant ensures that the project will not require an additional financial contribution from the Council and will therefore come at no cost to ratepayers.

The staged project is multi-faceted and includes: 

• the restoration of the Greek art deco café to its original splendour
• a medium scale conference facility upstairs above the café
• a museum that celebrates the story of immigration and acknowledges the significance of the Greek Café
• the relocation of the Tourist Information Centre

Stage 2 will see the incorporation of a Trade Training Centre offering Certificate III Level Hospitality Training run in conjunction with the Gwydir Learning Region, the Department of Education and Training and TAFE NSW.  This Training Facility will be funded by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.

The incorporation of the Trade Training Centre will offer students the opportunity to carry out the practical hours of training required as a necessary component of their course, as well as providing potential future employment opportunities.

It has become apparent that the Tourist Information Centre has outgrown its current location.  It is fundamental that the Centre remain within the Roxy complex, with the site occupied by the Vet currently proposed.  Council is mindful of the important service provided by the Vet and negotiations are continuing to determine a suitable outcome that will not impact on the community in this regard.    

Sandy McNaughton & Mr Poulos

A Roxy Café Restoration Project Management Committee has been formed and has met on two occasions.  The Committee is made up of Councillors, staff from the Gwydir Shire, and representatives from the community including Ben Gardiner, Veterinarian; Rick Hutton, Vision 2020; Peter Jones, Bingara and District Historical Society;  Nancy MacInnes and John Wearne, North West Theatre Company. 

Representatives from the Greek community include Peter Prineas, author and grandson of Roxy founder Peter Ferros. George Poulos, administrator and trustee of the Kytherian World Heritage Fund and Public Relations Officer of the Kytherian Association of Australia is also a Committee member.

Both Mr Prineas and Mr Poulos have travelled to Bingara to attend the Committee meetings and both have enthusiastically expressed the staunch support and commitment of the Kytherian community to this exciting project. 

Architectural firm Magoffin and Deakin from Armidale has been officially appointed.  Heritage Architect Anthony Deakin was responsible for the restoration of the Roxy Theatre and has willingly accepted the appointment.  Mr Deakin brings a sound knowledge, history and understanding of the building, as well as being a great supporter of the project.

The plans for the proposed restoration are currently on display in the windows of the Roxy Café.  The Gwydir Shire Council welcomes feedback and invites members of the community to provide comments on the plans.  All comments must be in writing and addressed to:  Max Eastcott, General Manager, Gwydir Shire Council, PO Box 5, Bingara, NSW 2404.  Comments must be received by February 26, 2010.  Those received after this date will not be considered. 

The “Greek Café” is broadly regarded as a quintessentially Australian phenomenon.  Greek Cafes changed the course of Australia’s cultural history and left a significant legacy on our culinary and cultural landscape. Over time, those remaining have been considerably modified, while the majority have been relegated to memory or oblivion.

The story of the Greek Café is a shared chapter in the histories of Greece and Australia, a chapter that is almost over.  Very few Greek cafes operate as they did 50 years ago.   Even fewer complexes that incorporate a functioning cinema and café remain. 

The Roxy Café will become a place of national significance that conserves and protects the important cultural associations between people and place.  It will provide opportunities for the celebration of Greek traditions that became embedded in Australia.  It was the Greek café that enabled generations of Greek immigrants to infiltrate the culture of their new land.  And it was the cafes that changed the way Australians think about themselves. 

The work carried out in the restoration will be undertaken to best protect the significant fabric of the place with minimal disturbance to ensure the culturally significant aspects of the place are respected, retained and preserved.

The restoration of the Café will include the re-instatement of original furniture of the period that has been acquired for the purpose, including a 35ft counter with original soda fountain, original tables and chairs currently in use in the meeting room at The Roxy, as well as custom-made display cabinets and shelving from 1936.

The Roxy currently attracts over 12,000 annually to the numerous events and activities held there.  The restoration project will guarantee the delivery of further economic benefits to the town through an increase in tourism, as well as the employment opportunities on offer.

The Roxy will become a place of great historical significance that exhibits local distinctiveness and a sense of place.  Its civic pride and confidence in its heritage, in its cultural facilities and collections is destined to attract people from all walks of life, all wanting to share this unique experience.