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Mouthing off in Civic

Date

Noel Towell

There has been a legal challenge, an Assembly committee, thousands of column inches and untold heartache expended in the war for Kingston Foreshore's Fitters Workshop.

Now the dispute looks set to cause a political crisis going to the heart of the Self Government Act, the nearest thing the ACT has to a constitution.

The bitter dispute in Canberra's arts circles over the future of the workshop has been raging since the building was ''discovered'' to be a ''unique musical space'', when it was used for performances in the 2010 Canberra International Music Festival, despite a deal having already been agreed to move visual arts outfit Megalo into the building.

As choral music enthusiasts from around Canberra took to Civic Square outside the Legislative Assembly yesterday to warble out their discontent, inside, the territory's three political parties were moving closer to a showdown over the future of the building.

A multi-party Assembly committee has recommended, with Labor dissenting, that the shed be retained as a ''multi-use'' venue and the musical groups have the ACT Greens and the Canberra Liberals - a majority on the floor of the Assembly chamber - onside.

Yesterday the Liberals passed a motion with Greens support calling on Arts Minister Joy Burch to act on the findings of the committee, a move the two smaller parties believe is binding on the minister.

But the government has other ideas, and insisted last night that it was not bound by the motion, arguing that under the Self Government Act only a minister had the power to spend money that had been appropriated. With neither side likely to back down, the issue looks set to emerge again in the last few sitting weeks of the seventh Assembly, with a showdown between the powers of the executive and those of the parliament.

Meanwhile the choral music enthusiasts gathered outside the Assembly to stake their claim to the workshop and sent the minister a simple message: this fight has a long way to go.

The groups fighting for control of the workshop for use as a choral music venue believe that the tide has turned in their favour.

A legal challenge in the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal to the renovations necessary to move Megalo into the building had a win last week, with the tribunal brushing aside a government attempt to block the case from being heard.

Yesterday, after tuning up in one of the Assembly's committee rooms - not a ''unique musical space'' - the choristers, who came from several different choirs around the city, took to Civic Square and burst into song.

Organiser Helen Moore said the key message was: ''Not happy Joy.''

''I felt the tide was turning when they set up the inquiry and I was really hopeful,because that was the first time that actual arguments were allowed to be presented,'' Ms Moore said. ''The evidence was overwhelmingly in favour of making that space a multi-use space.''

5 comments

  • Just as when two spoilt children fight over a toy, neither willing to share; Neither of these two groups should have access to this old building. The bickering has gone on long enough. Someone in government needs to find a suitable tennant and leave these two bitter, immature groups to fend for them selves!

    Commenter
    Joe
    Location
    Franklin
    Date and time
    June 08, 2012, 7:44AM
    • "Two spoilt children" - hardly. The printmakers were offered the workshop, accepted in good fiath and made plans accordingly. The bickering and immature behaviour appears to be coming from the singing and music group, who can't seem to countenance not getting exactly what they want.

      Commenter
      Jay
      Date and time
      June 08, 2012, 8:38AM
  • C'mon drag racers, its all about making a noise, make a noise and get back what was yours.
    Not like this lot, you financed, built and managed the dragway.

    Commenter
    Nitro Gangster
    Location
    ACT
    Date and time
    June 08, 2012, 1:00PM
    • That's just the point, Joe. The music groups are saying the building should be shared as a multi-purpose performance and exhibition space, including by Megalo. The Glass Works desperately needs such a space. But Megalo say they don't wish to use it for exhibitions and it won't be usable for music once they've inserted offices, a meeting room, a workshop and a mezzaine floor inside the space (which is heritage listed). Megalo could have their own purpose built building. They won't fit inside the existing building and so they also need a second building to be constructed, which will give the Bus Depot Markets a 6 metre high metail wall blocking their northern light. The current decision to give Megalo sole tenancy will not only exclude others, it completelyy disrupts planning for the whole Kingston Arts Precinct.

      Commenter
      Helen Moore
      Location
      Bruce
      Date and time
      June 08, 2012, 2:51PM
      • This article rightly emphasizes, "discovered", pointing out that the deal had already been done to move Megalo from Watson, only to have the choral crowd wanting to take full possession of this "unique musical space". They compromised somewhat by suggesting a multi-use space. Could the Glass Works have been a multi-use space? You see, the choral crowd...well can muster a crowd as is evident by their recent “sing in”, whereas plainly the Megalo crowd can't. There are multi-use spaces already in Canberra and some like Tuggeranong will be expanding, especially in the areas of performing arts. The Belconnen Arts Centre also has very good facilities. Perhaps like the Judgment of Solomon, just tear the edifice down. That way nobody gets to use the building. In its place put up another (?) multi-use arts centre. Really how many should we have in Canberra, a town of just 365k – there’s Gorman, Ainslie, Watson, Manuka, Tuggeranong, Belconnen, etc. BTW, I’m not a member of Megalo. I attended a couple workshops 3-4 years ago but that’s all. So I have no vested interest in Megalo or the Choral Crowd. The whole affair has descended into farce.

        Commenter
        GB
        Location
        Gungahlin
        Date and time
        June 08, 2012, 4:46PM
        Comments are now closed

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