Petition gathers momentum

Published 1:15pm 16 May 2023

Petition gathers momentum
Words by Kylie Knight

Community pressure is mounting on Moreton Bay Regional Council to find Mousetrap Theatre Company a new home after it determined the building the theatre has called home for more than 60 years needs to be demolished.

Supporters started an online petition last week following an open meeting council had with Mousetrap Theatre Company members and the public to explain why the building cannot be saved.

The petition has already garnered 972 signatures and aims to show councillors ‘what Mousetrap Theatre means to our local community’.

Serious structural issues were discovered in July 2022 after a Council inspection of the building.

It decided further assessment was needed to determine if it could be repaired and how much it would cost. This has now been completed.

In the interim, the theatre company has been using other buildings including the Redcliffe Senior Citizens Centre and John Naumann Hall, Deception Bay to stage productions.

Mousetrap Theatre President Karen Matthews said disruption to their operations since mid-last year had limited the shows they could stage and their income.

It has also cause distress to long-term members who had a deep connection with the theatre’s long-term base at Redcliffe Showgrounds.

“Also, our audiences are necessarily finding us (at the other locations),” she said.

She said it had been fortunate they had been able to continue using the foyer and outside area for youth classes on a Saturday.

Karen said council’s decision that the building cannot be saved is ‘very sad’ but not a ‘complete shock’.

“It is an old building and parts of the building are very old. The original part of the building is actually 1907 … and it’s a patchwork. People have added pieces of it over the years,” she explained.

She also understands the serious nature of the structural issues.

“It’s sad and some people have taken a long time to process that, and some people still aren’t willing to accept it,” Karen said.

At this stage she does not know where a new facility would be built and when, and what the theatre company’s options are in the meantime.

Karen says remaining a ‘travelling circus’ is not a viable long-term option for the theatre company and her preference is for a building they can move into soon and retrofit.

|“We need to be somewhere now. Building a new building is a long-term five, six or however many years project with council. If we could get a building now, we can make another theatre,” she said.|

“If council could find us somewhere to be, we could make it into a home again.”

Karen says there has already been a high level of support from within the community and further afield.

Her message to council is simple: “We’ve got a 70-year history. We’d like another 70 years, please. We need a home base to do that”.

“Travelling shows – it’s hard, it’s expensive, it’s exhausting.

“Who we are is small, intimate, affordable theatre that’s accessible to the general public and accessible to our members. We need a home and we need it as quickly as possible.”

To sign the petition, head to the website

Petition gathers momentum

What council says …

We put the following questions to Moreton Bay Regional Councillor Karl Winchester (Div 6).

What is happening with the building?

Rather than paying for a Band-Aid interim solution, we’re opting to invest in a detailed feasibility study to holistically consider Mousetrap’s future. That will include the development of an operating model, business case, site identification and assessment, as well as a concept design for a new building. At a minimum, rectification works would cost $750,000 for immediate repairs but at least $2.1 million would be needed to remediate structural deficiencies, and further works would still be required after about five years to bring the building into line with current codes and make it fit-for-purpose by modern standards.

What did investigations of the building’s structural integrity reveal?

This building was constructed back in the 1960s and had some additions in the 1980s, before eventually being acquired by Council in 2009. The report reveals that there are fundamental structural issues relating to the way the building was originally constructed and original structural elements, the problems with which have been exacerbated by subsidence in the ground. Significant and costly remediation works would be needed for this building to be fit for purpose longer-term.

What are the next steps?

Personally, I think there’s a strong need for a community performing arts facility on the Redcliffe Peninsula. So, the first step will be finding Mousetrap a suitable temporary home, the next step will be determining where and how we can build a new performance space that will deliver the best outcome not only for Redcliffe but Moreton Bay.

Is council looking for alternative premises for the theatre company?

Yes. A number of venues were suggestions by Mousetrap Theatre group members, which will be looked at. I believe the Sutton Centre or the Redcliffe Chambers in the Administration Building could be used and have also asked Council staff to look into the viability of these. We’ve heard loud and clear that group members want to ensure that their base remains in Redcliffe and that they have a dedicated space to use. So, we will work to accommodate those requirements. The logistical difficulty for any temporary space will be finding somewhere to store items like props and costumes until a permanent solution is found. I’m hopeful that a solid concept will attract state and federal funding to create a more significant arts precinct for our region.

How quickly will you be able to find new premises?

This is our priority, to ensure that Mousetrap has a temporary home ASAP.

What does council have planned for the site?

TBC

Could council have done more earlier to protect the building’s integrity?

The issues Council’s identified with the building were part of a comprehensive building audit. Minor works over the past six decades have held the building together but it no longer meets modern design standards. The difficult decision we face is whether to spend $750,000 to help the building to continue limping along for another five years, or save ratepayers that expense and start working on a permanent long-term solution. The building is not compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act, and that must also be addresses to ensure our facilities are accessible. Council has decided to make a difficult decision in the short-term, that will deliver a better long-term outcome for ratepayers.

Does council have a policy and budget for ‘cultural precincts’? No, our ‘Maximising Potential Cultural Strategy’ expired in 2018 and has been replaced by our Vibrant Communities Strategy. I’d like to see a much stronger emphasis on creating dedicated entertainment precincts and cultural precincts to bring more energy and entertainment to our neighbourhoods. This is also reflected in what residents have told us in our Moreton Says Survey. However one of the more expensive legacy issues from amalgamations in 2008, is that Moreton Bay is now responsible for managing a network of six galleries and museums which are dispersed all across our region. This is great in terms of convenience for locals, but maintaining and operating all of these different buildings is expensive and means that we don’t have more condensed, co-located arts precincts. I definitely support this suggestion, and believe we should be making more strategic investments. Who knows, maybe we could even experiment with more interesting architecture and design?

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