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ANU Arts Centre may face demolition

The ANU Arts Centre appears to be facing demolition. The building - home to two theatres as well as jazz venue The Gods Cafe & Bar and cabaret destination Teatro Vivaldi - would go as part of an extensive proposed redevelopment of Union Court and University Avenue at the Australian National University.

The draft plans include residential accommodation, shops, cafes and bars but no mention is made of replacing the two theatre spaces. It is understood the redevelopment will be discussed at a council meeting on April 1.

"Within the overall planning for Union Court, any proposal is likely to include the demolition of the Arts Centre," Chris Grange, the ANU executive director of administration and planning, said.

"What will replace it, and whether that will include theatre facilities, is still unclear."

In a written statement to Fairfax Media, Mr Grange said they are "close to finalising a proposal that refocuses the scope and cost of what we could do in Union Court" and they hope to put forward a plan for approval in the next three months.

With no confirmed plans, he said there has been "no decision or announcement regarding the ANU Theatre Centre [sic] and future theatre facilities for students".


Mr Grange confirmed the venue was not taking bookings for 2017, and the hold on bookings will continue "for the next two to three months" until the development plan is known. 

"[The hold] was put in place some time ago, out of caution," he said. "If we decide not to proceed with Union Court in 2017, we will then lift the block on bookings for that year."

He said future plans will take the theatre life of the campus into account.

"While the draft plan for Union Court involves replacing the old theatre centre, we are mindful that theatre is for many students part of their campus experience." 

Emma Tattam, vice-president of a long-time user of the venue, Supa Productions, said the company had already decided to move venues and its next production, Funny Girl, would be produced at the Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre later this year.

The co-owner of The Gods Cafe & Bar, Jay Min, said the business had a long history of supporting the arts - poetry readings, jazz and comedy. He said the recent uncertainty "has affected us massively - it's not very good news". With fewer productions coming into the theatre in whatever time remained there would be less business for The Gods at night, he said.

This week the ANU Student Representative Council unanimously passed a motion by a student-initiated Save the Arts campaign calling on the university council to replace the ANU Arts Centre with an equivalent theatre and rehearsal space as part of the redevelopment.

General secretary of the SRC Sam Duncan is part of the Save the Arts Campaign with one of its leaders, Kat Carrington, who is the 2016 National University Theatre Society artistic director.

Ms Carrington wrote an article published in student newspaper Woroni this week pointing out the effect the loss of an accessible, affordable campus theatre would have on university theatre life.

Mr Duncan said he was working with Ms Carrington and other members of the ANU arts community to organise a lobbying effort before the university council meeting.

"We are reaching out to current ANU students, alumni and the Canberra community for statements of support," he said.

"We are asking the university to recognise its responsibility to ANU students and the broader Canberra community and pledge support for the arts."

Mr Grange said students "will continue to be part of the conversation" about Union Court and any future options for theatre facilities.

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