Tim Crakanthorp’s announcement of $3m pledged to the renovation of the Vic is a ground-breaking and game changing move:
It unlocks a valuable cultural facility that is also a much-loved heritage item and one of the few remaining heritage theatre buildings in the country available for reinvigoration;
It gives further credibility to the already overwhelming and universal desire to see the Vic returned as a working heritage theatre;
It unlocks the power, economy and value of a collaboration between government and a specialist and successful private sector operator in Century Venues. Century has a strong cultural conscience and a demonstrated ability and passion for heritage theatre buildings;
The pledge is a third of the money needed to get the Victoria Theatre up and running again. Even if the whole amount were pledged, $9.5M would create a working theatre in a prime location that would cost from scratch $60M to $80M;
The funding is a one-off capital investment that does NOT require recurrent government funding. The future operation will be self-sustaining. Government is great at providing assets: it does not need to be encumbered by having to run them and sustain them into the future;
Century is prepared to “gift” the theatre into a non-profit trust that would have a public purpose to hold and maintain the Victoria building in perpetuity as a working heritage theatre. Rent from the operations to the Trust would secure maintenance costs into the future;
There are models overseas where this type of initiative, relationship and governance structure exist. The Regal Theatre Perth parallels this trust model.
With a one off capital injection from government to help restore the Victoria Theatre, Century pledges to place the Mighty Vic into a Trust to safeguard it as a live performance venue in perpetuity for the people of Newcastle.
Member for Newcastle, Tim Crakanthorp has announced that a Daley Labor Government will provide $3 million towards restoring the historic Victoria Theatre.
The state contribution of $3 million will go towards the $9.5 million plan to revive the Victoria Theatre as a new 1,000 seat theatre in Newcastle.
The investment would assist in reactivating the venue which hasn’t been used as a live performance venue since 1966 and was originally completed in 1891.
The Victoria Theatre was bought by Century Venues in 2015 and has been working to restore it to its former glory as a live working heritage theatre.
Century Venues has a track record of restoring and successfully running venues in Sydney like the Enmore Theatre. The company also runs the Metro Theatre, The Factory Theatre and the Sydney Comedy Store.
The contribution will be given to the theatre in a one- off grant to a public trust. This not for profit trust will hold the land and building, in perpetuity, and will be charged with returning the Victoria Theatre as a live performance and event facility for use by the people of Newcastle and the Hunter – not unlike the revived Capitol Theatre in Haymarket Sydney.
Labor believes the arts and music should be for all of NSW – and Newcastle and the Hunter should not miss out.
“With the revival of the Victoria Theatre and the proposed redevelopment of the Newcastle Art Gallery, Newcastle’s creative community is finally getting the funding that they deserve.” Tim Crakanthorp, Member for Newcastle
With humble thanks to Bruce Brown who uncovered these treasures and the University of Newcastle's Archive team, the complete Minute Books and a selection of other records relating to the Victoria Theatre have now been uploaded to the Hunter Living Histories site. These records have been digitised by the University of Newcastle and include hundreds and hundreds of historical pages.
They provide the wider community with an unbroken chain of internal records of the activities of The Victoria Theatre Company Limited and its shareholders from 1886-1982. Delve in and enjoy…
Using the latest virtual reality technology developed by the University of Newcastle, the oldest theatre in NSW is being brought back to life two generations after the Victoria closed. Be transported into the opulent and exotic interior of the late-19th century Victoria Theatre. Participants can meander through the foyers and three levels of stalls, circle and gallery before viewing the stage as it was nearly 130 years ago.
You have entered a genie’s bottle – an Aladdin’s cave.
Please join us to experience the Victoria Theatre as it would have been in 1891 but in it's present day state. Century is working hard to clean out the debris and to bring the Victoria Theatre back to life. Entry is by ticket only. There are numerous 30 minute sessions running throughout the day on Wednesday 14th and Thursday 15th November. Each session is for a maximum of 4 participants. To secure your tickets, visit https://www.trybooking.com/ZHDO
The University of Newcastle's IT Innovation Team undertook a site visit at the Victoria Theatre on 9 July 2018 as part of the research for their 3D Virtual Reality Reconstruction of the historic theatre. Gaute Rasmussen and Vendela Pento from the UON's IT Innovation Team, doing the reconstruction, were joined by Stepanie Holm (UON Victoria Theatre Researcher), Gionni Di Gravio (University Archivist) and representatives of Century Theatres including Greg Khoury and Daniel Ballantyne.
The Victoria Theatre was built before electricity, so for the first 50 years the performances would have been lit by limelight. Theatre technicians with very long poles with a wick on the end would come to the edge of the gallery with their lighting cue, put it into the lamp, and ignite the chemical compound in the lamp. The lamp would then glow onto the performance below. Different chemicals in the lamps would create slightly different colours. This lighting technique is the basis for the phrase “take the limelight”.
There have been four Victoria Theatres on three different sites in Newcastle! The first in 1857 was a timber and iron construction on the corner of Watt and Hunter Streets that soon burnt down. The second Victoria was on Market Street and it too only lasted for just a few years, 1870-72. On the current Perkins Street site the third Victoria was built in just nine weeks and opened in 1876. Described as a "wretched apology for a theatre" this building was superseded, thankfully, by the beautiful Victoria we see today when building works commenced in 1890. The Newcastle Herald said at the time, "no expense has been spared in making the theatre the most complete, comfortable, and handsome structure of its size and description in Australia…". This Victoria Theatre then underwent a major refurbishment in 1921 to ready it for motion pictures and that was when the current spectacular dress circle was extended.
This year Century Venues secured approval from the NSW Government to undertake the careful removal of waste and non-historic instrusions to enable a close inspection of the underlying historic fabric of the building. Tons of waste and 1980's partitioning have now been taken away revealing beautiful detail on the Dress Circle Juliet Balcony.
While more needs to be removed, engineer, acoustic and fire safety experts have been able to inspect the building. Preliminary reports are in and are promising. While much of the building will need upgrading, so far, no major obstacles have been identified that would prevent the Victoria from being revived as a live performance venue.