Under new management: rocking plans for Wollongong Town Hall

Simon Hinton, the CEO of Merrigong Theatre, which is taking over management of the town hall. Picture: GREG TOTMAN
Simon Hinton, the CEO of Merrigong Theatre, which is taking over management of the town hall. Picture: GREG TOTMAN

The Illawarra may soon be a major destination for touring bands, with Wollongong Town Hall's new managers looking to use the space for rock concerts.

The hall is to be managed by Merrigong Theatre Company, after Wollongong City Council decided in December it no longer required the services of previous operator, Sydney-based Pegasus Venue Management.

Merrigong, which runs Illawarra Performing Arts Centre, was confirmed as venue manager in mid-April and will take over the venue from June 1.

"It is about financial savings, but more importantly about synergies between the IPAC and town hall, and how we can integrate the venue into a precinct approach of delivering local culture," Merrigong chief executive and artistic director Simon Hinton said.

"We can work with event promoters and groups to bring events into the venue that wouldn't be able to come otherwise."

Mr Hinton said IPAC staff would work at both venues, with staff numbers to increase "marginally".

The council's draft cultural plan makes several references to the town hall's potential for revitalising local cultural offerings, and Merrigong plans to expand the venue's schedule.

"It is excellent for acoustic and classical music, but we will also explore its potential as a rock music venue," Mr Hinton said.

"We are interested in expanding music and ideas events, where people can give talks. It needs to play that civic role, as a place the community can come to meet and exchange ideas."

He said events slated for the town hall would not be affected by the change, and Merrigong would work with community groups to keep regular events in the hall.

Mr Hinton said the mid-size venue, with a maximum seating of over 800, could attract new productions to the region, but also encouraged locals to pitch ideas for use of the space.

"We want to bring things back to Wollongong that haven't come recently. The IPAC may be too small or unsuitable, the WIN Entertainment Centre may be too big," he said.

"We are also keen for the community to come and talk to us. They shouldn't assume it will be expensive or difficult to use. We want to make things happen, and make sure it doesn't stay empty."


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