One of Adelaide’s most iconic music venues is reportedly at risk of demolition (Image Source: James Hersey)
By James Hersey | @James_Hersey
The future of Adelaide’s Thebarton Theatre has been called into question after a string of State Government announcements suggested its demolition in early July.
The initial announcement by Environment and Acting Transport Minister David Speirs on ABC Breakfast radio revealed that the Thebarton theatre could be one of 600-1000 buildings compulsorily acquired for the North-South Corridor road project.
This was quickly met with backlash, with an online petition gaining over 2500 signatures within hours of the announcement.
Further comments from the Premier of South Australia Steven Marshall, who took to Facebook to address the initial media reports, only fuelled speculation.
In his post, Mr Marshall stated that of two of the three options on the table for the road upgrade involve tunnelling, and “significant consideration is being given to all local and state heritage-listed properties along South Road”.
Despite the property being heritage listed, any development of a State Heritage Place, such as Thebarton Theatre, can be affected by future road or development plans.
The Thebarton Theatre, formally called the Thebarton Town Hall, was entered into the Register of State Heritage Items (now known as the South Australian Heritage Register) in 1982 for historical, architectural and environmental reasons, and for its level of integrity.
A spokesperson for the Minister of Environment and Water David Speirs confirmed on Tuesday that at this stage, there is no intention to modify or review the current state heritage listing for the Former Thebarton Council Chambers, Town Hall and Hall complex.
According to West Torrens Council Chief Executive Officer Terry Buss, the Council has not been officially informed by the State Government at this stage, but is aware of the project.
Among all the speculation, what has been made clear is the community’s appreciation for the theatre and the impact it has on local musicians.
Adelaide-based singer-songwriter Sean Kemp, 44, has performed at the Thebarton Theatre multiple times, opening for international acts such as Dionne Warwick and “Boney M”.
“To actually stand on stage at the Thebarton theatre is something that I think most Adelaide musicians dream of,” Mr Kemp said.
Mr Kemp grew up around the Torrensville area and has fond memories of seeing diverse, international headlining acts at the venue, which is why he recognises the intimate feeling “the Thebby” has.
“If you’re not getting that international recognition, playing the big theatre spots makes you feel like you’re still in the game,” he said.
Mr Kemp believes if any policies went through, the public would not allow it because the local support is there.
“Thousands and thousands of people have been through those doors and they’re not going to let anything affect that venue for a road,” he said.
The recent demolition of Port Adelaide’s much-loved boatshed “Shed 26” days before the initial Thebarton Theatre announcement by Mr Speirs may have also contributed to the public’s adverse reaction.
While the Thebarton Theatre is registered in the SA Heritage Register, “Shed 26” was only provisionally listed last year.
This meant that the Minister responsible for the Heritage Places Act 1993 could intervene by directing the SA Heritage Council to remove a “provisional” entry.
In the case of Thebarton Theatre, any development of a State Heritage Place will require a development application to the relevant planning authority, which could be the local Council or a State Commission Assessment Panel.
According to the spokesperson for the Minister of Environment and Water, this application must then be referred to Mr Speirs for advice on what impact the development will have on the heritage values of the affected State Heritage Place.
“I acknowledge there are a lot of people in South Australia who have an affection for that building and others along that route,” Mr Speirs said in his original announcement on ABC radio.
Mr Buss outlined the mechanism through which any development process would have to go through.
“There are different consenting processes for Crown development, such as the South Road project, and any demolition associated with [the] South Road project is likely to be assessed by the State Commission Assessment Panel, not the City of West Torrens,” Mr Buss said.
The West Torrens Council has surveys from the public which document the heritage value of heritage-listed places along South Road, and these surveys could be used for Thebarton Theatre listings in a development plan.
The spokesperson for the Minister of Environment and Water also stated that the design of the South Road redevelopment is in its infancy, and no decisions have been made at this stage about the design.
It is expected the State Government will know the proposed design for this portion of South Road by late 2019 to early 2020.