2 May 2020

Canberra Theatre upgrades fast-tracked while curtain is down

| Ian Bushnell
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Canberra Theatre Centre

Canberra Theatre Centre director Alex Budd: ”We’ve gone from welcoming thousands and thousands of people a week here to not being able to welcome anybody.” Photo: Region Media.

The show can’t go on for the Canberra Theatre Centre but it can get some essential work done during the COVID-19 shutdown.

It is one of several ACT Government-funded bodies to benefit from infrastructure funding being released as part of the Territory’s economic survival plan.

Security and bathroom upgrades brought forward at the CTC will provide work for six small local companies and a total of 29 people working across the site.

Canberra Theatre Centre director Alex Budd.

CTC director Alex Budd said it was a silver lining in the dark COVID-19 cloud for an organisation that was losing hundreds of thousands of dollars a month due to cancelled plays and concert and lost ticket sales.

”COVID-19 has had a terrible, terrible impact on Canberra Theatre Centre and also the arts in general around Australia,” Mr Budd said.

”It not just shuts down facilities but shuts down production companies, theatre companies, and the makers of the art that comes in performances. We’ve gone from welcoming thousands and thousands of people a week here to not being able to welcome anybody.”

Restarting would be a big challenge around Australia, and CTC would be guided by the advice from health officers and National Cabinet, but Mr Budd had no idea when that might be.

”It very much depends on what happens in various states. If we are unable to open Australian borders to international acts that will have a long-term impact, but we hope smaller-scale local productions will be able to happen here first.”

Long-term redevelopment plans for CTC and the precinct in general were on track with the business case completed and to be considered in the Budget process.

”I think the theatre and the redevelopment will be a major contributor to the ACT economy when it’s able to be built, but I am absolutely cognisant of the impact COVID-19 had not just on the industry but the Territory more broadly,” Mr Budd.

Other economic survival plan projects include café servery upgrades at the National Arboretum Canberra, a full internal repaint of the National Convention Centre, an office fit-out for the ACT Integrity Commission and an election results display system for the Electoral Commission.

In total, the projects involve 26 local firms and are estimated to create more than 80 jobs.

The fast-track program has focused on ‘screwdriver-ready’ works that can start immediately so local businesses can keep workers employed now. The works are scheduled to be completed by 30 June 2020.

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