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Curtain calls

By BELINDA SCOTT

THE Jetty Theatre, rebuilt by Coffs Harbour City Council at a cost of $1.6 million, has never been busier.

The footlights are burning brightly as professional production follows amateur show follows musical group.

So why has Jenny Cullen, who has been working as the manager of the Jetty Theatre for the past six months, resigned from the position?

And why did a group of members from the Jetty Theatre Advisory Committee meet on Monday to draft a letter to the council outlining a reported 12 serious concerns about the theatre?

Last August the committee threatened to resign over problems at the Jetty theatre, including the lack of consultation by the council, the costs and structure of fees and charges for the theatre and the lack of a permanently-appointed person to manage the theatre, then being managed by Mr Tim Freed, an agency worker employed as an interim officer by council.

At that time the director of city services, Steve Sawtell, said the council would be advertising for a permanent manager of the theatre in the near future.

Ms Cullen, who will leave on April 15, is also employed by an agency. No permanent position has yet been advertised.

Neither Ms Cullen nor the president of the Jetty Theatre Advisory Committee, Jean Newman, wanted to comment yesterday.

But there are persistent rumours that the theatre's entrepreneurial program is under threat.

Members of amateur theatre groups said yesterday they expected prices for hiring the council's proposed Brelsford Park entertainment centre venue would make it too expensive for their shows.

In recent months organisers of professional touring shows have said the Jetty Theatre is too small to be a profitable venue and organisers of concerts events have criticised the theatre management for putting on competing events.

On Tuesday evening, opening the Bald Archy's exhibition at the Bunker Cartoon Gallery, Coffs Harbour mayor, Cr Keith Rhoades, commented on the colour of the exhibition and the big crowd assembled for the opening.

"This indicates the way the council can work with the city of Coffs Harbour to make life more pleasurable and rewarding," said the mayor, who is better known for his sporting interests.

"This is the time of year when council sits down and looks at the funding dollars to bring arts and culture to the forefront."

The Jetty Theatre's operating budget for the year is $110,000, compared to the City Gallery's budget of $129,000.

Coffs Harbour City Council staff are already working on the budget documents for next year, which will come before the council in May.

Meanwhile, at 11am today, the Jetty Theatre is hosting a matinee of The Railway Street Theatre Company's production of The Shoehorn Sonata, starring Maggie Kirkpatrick and Belinda Giblin, with tickets $26 ($20 concession).

On April 2 Noeline Brown and Doug Scroope will star in Wallflowering, with performances at 2pm and 8pm. On April 9 the theatre will host The Breath of Life, starring Helen Morse and Kirsty Child at 8pm. Tickets for both these show are $36, $30 concession.

These shows feature plays and actors of national renown and while the prices are above those charged for most local amateur shows, they are well below capital city prices.

The evidence suggests that the Jetty Theatre and its management and advisers are being squeezed between tight budgets and unrealistic expectations.



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