Roxy goes on show at Christmas Carnival

November 29, 2010

After months of meticulous restoration work, The Roxy Café Restoration Project is nearing completion.  Finally the time has come to open the doors and invite the community to view the works to date.

The Gwydir Shire Council is pleased to invite the community to view the cafe on Friday December 3 from 5:00pm to 6:00pm.

Work on the Roxy Café commenced in February after the Gwydir Shire became the recipient of a Federal Government grant of $750,000 from the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts.

Roxy Cafe Restoration
Builders working on the Roxy Cafe behind the counter bought from  Con Fardouli of Inverell, and in front of the display case, donated by Carly Rose.

Architectural firm Magoffin and Deakin from Armidale was appointed to ensure that the café be restored to its original splendour.   Dominico Blue Building from Inverell was awarded the building contract and have worked tirelessly to ensure the original look and feel of the café be maintained.

Roxy Manager, Sandy McNaughton explains “From the outset, our goal has been to capture the magic created by the magnificent art deco cafes that were operated by Greek families across rural Australia.  These cafés were simply a part of the way everyday Australians lived their lives” she said.

“Greek Cafes changed the course of Australia’s cultural history and left a significant legacy on our culinary and cultural landscape. 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” said Sandy.

Sandy continued “We have it on good authority that once complete, The Roxy may be the only cinema with adjoining café built and restored to its original plan, left in NSW, possibly in Australia.” 

“For this reason The Roxy will become a place of national significance that conserves and protects the important cultural associations between people and place.”

“The Roxy is a symbol that epitomizes the Greek migration experience:  one that made an outstanding contribution to the development of Australia.   This contribution will be acknowledged and celebrated through the museum that will be incorporated into the café.”

“A great deal of work and attention has gone into the restoration in an attempt to recreate the experience of entering the café and imagining it as it would have been in 1936” said Sandy.

Many people have assisted in ensuring that the project achieves its goals. Mr and Mrs Bob Kirk are to be congratulated on a number of levels.  Mr and Mrs Kirk had the foresight to store many of the original fixtures that were removed from the café in their shed.  Above all, they are to be commended for the benevolence they have demonstrated by donating a great many items to the project.

Without the Kirks’ invaluable contribution, the café would lack the authenticity that sets this project apart.   There is something quite extraordinary about being able to sit in the booths, or beside the wood paneling, that is original to the café.

The project has been fortunate to have benefitted from the donations of a number of contributors.  Carly Rose demonstrated her strong commitment to the community when, on relocating in Bingara several months ago, she bequeathed the shelving from her premises in Maitland St that once housed a café.  This is a spectacular piece that sits very comfortably in its new home.

An original café table spent many years in the shed of another long-time Bingara resident.  Mr Gordon Fletcher remembers purchasing the table that came out of The Roxy Café many decades ago. 

The table donated by Mr Fletcher will take pride of place at the front of the café.  It will be graced by the original chairs retained by Mr and Mrs Kirk.

We congratulate Mrs Joan Bull, not only for having recently celebrated her 93rd birthday, but for her extraordinary powers of memory.  Mrs Bull was 19 years old when The Roxy opened in 1936.  The teenager had been invited to attend the opening by a young man of impeccable taste whom she would later marry. 

Not only does Mrs Bull remember the first film ever screened at The Roxy on the opening night, she can still recall where she was sitting as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers burst onto the screen.

The first film ever shown was “Roberta” starring Irene Dunn and Randolph Scott, as well as well as the most famous dancing partners ever to grace the screen.    “The most pleasant moments in Roberta” Time reported “arrive when Astaire and Rogers turn the story upside down and dance on it.”

To commemorate the occasion of The Roxy Café opening its doors to the community, a free screening of “Roberta” will start at 3:30pm, prior to the opening at 5:00pm.  The community is invited to the screening to re-live that significant day from 1936 when The Roxy opened its door for the first time.

“We sincerely hope that the community will come to the screening and to see the Café” said Sandy.  “We hope that the restoration of the café is a project of which the community will be extremely proud” she said.