Monday, 29 October 2012
Blair Electorate: Performing Arts Centres
It was my privilege and pleasure recently to open the new arts and cultural hub known as Studio 188, in the old Baptist Church at the Top of Town in the city of Ipswich, in the heart of the electorate of Blair. This was a great event for Ipswich. It marked the completion of a $1.5 million refurbishment transforming the old Baptist Church, a 135-year-old building, into a modern performing arts space. It is a fantastic addition to the region, with an emphasis on supporting young and emerging artists. The combination of modern stage and technical equipment with the natural atmosphere of this great heritage-listed building makes this a truly unique venue in the Top of Town part of Ipswich, which is being renovated into a very important part of the city of Ipswich.
The Ipswich Civic Centre is operating at full capacity, 100 per cent, all through the year, and Studio 188 will create a new stage on which young people, particularly locals, can perform and enjoy performing arts. Ipswich is one of the fastest-growing regions in South-East Queensland.
This funding is provided by the federal Labor government as part of a $3.3 million funding commitment that I secured under the Better Regions Program for Ipswich. The first two phases of the program were the renovation of the Ipswich Civic Centre and a feasibility study for an Ipswich performing arts centre. McDonalds Australia donated the building and land to the Ipswich City Council. That might sound strange, but the history of the building is fascinating.
The former Ipswich Baptist Church was built in 1877, originally a simple brick building on a large block of land. It is the oldest surviving church designed by Richard Gailey, who emigrated to Australia from Ireland in 1864 and became an influential and prolific architect in colonial Brisbane. Gailey's substantial body of work includes the Brisbane Girls' Grammar School, the Regatta Hotel in Toowong and Oddfellows Hall in Fortitude Valley. Refurbishments were done in 1938 and again in 1954, with the approaching centenary of the building and subsequently towards the end-use of its life. In 2008 the Baptists sold the church to McDonalds Australia and relocated out to Brassall. It is a large church and my wife and I are members of the congregation.
McDonalds Australia divided the land, built a fast-food outlet on some of it and gifted the heritage listed church to the Ipswich City Council. With its location in the CBD, the council recognised it as an ideal space for community and cultural development in the region. It took Ipswich about 150 years to achieve 150,000 and it has nearly 180,000 now. In the next 20 years it is going to double. The arts connects communities. Ipswich is a city but also has plenty of small country towns. It drives the arts, provides social cohesion, boosts economies in the local Ipswich and West Moreton region and sustains regional development.
The Ipswich Civic Centre is the largest cultural precinct in the Ipswich and West Moreton region and I am pleased that we secured money for that under the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program--$336,500 for the installation of a covered outdoor area and servery. That has been used wonderfully well, including for the recent Ipswich Chamber of Commerce awards night. The rest of the money went towards the refurbishment of the 1970s-built Ipswich Civic Centre, opened by the Whitlam government. It has been completely refurbished and is a wonderful facility but, with Studio 188, will see an additional arts and cultural hub in Ipswich and Top of Town.
In the future, we will need an IPAC, an Ipswich performing arts centre. Ipswich continues to grow and artists continue to bloom and flourish in drama, singing, performance and dance. We have some wonderful artists in the area. The regional landscape has been particularly driven by the facilities we have. Providing these facilities—Top of Town and Studio 188, for example—especially for young and emerging artists will make a big difference. Local artists can stay in Ipswich, learn their trade and flourish and prosper. The arts are great for Ipswich. This facility is great for Ipswich. It is a demonstration of the federal Labor government's commitment to Ipswich.