Halcyon days could return

Toby HusseyAlbany Advertiser
Findlay MacNish in front of the town hall.
Camera IconFindlay MacNish in front of the town hall. Credit: Toby Hussey

A grassroots theatre director says he hopes for an activity revival at Albany’s historic town hall, after theatre hire fee revenue dropped more than 40 per cent in four years.

Findlay MacNish said he had loved hosting shows in the 131-year-old town hall from 1985 to 2012, and was saddened by the decline in events there in recent years.

Figures released this month showed hire fee revenue had decreased from nearly $15,000 in 2014 to about $8300 this year.

The hall was used less than once a week last year on average.

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Mr MacNish said he hoped the Albany Town Hall would not be forgotten, claiming a temporary ban on productions at the town hall when the Albany Entertainment Centre opened had impacted public perceptions of the venue.

Albany Choral Society on stage at the Albany Town Hall. in 1820.
Camera IconAlbany Choral Society on stage at the Albany Town Hall. in 1820. Credit: Albany History Collection

“It’s such a good venue, it’s in such a good position,” he said.

“People say ‘I thought they didn’t do (theatre at the town hall) anymore, I thought it wasn’t able to be used’.”

The hall has had a variety of uses since it was opened in 1888 — the same year as the Albany Advertiser was established — hosting plays, cinema, meetings and dances throughout the 20th century.

Mr MacNish said it was even used as the mess hall for Anzac soldiers ahead of their departure for World War I.

He hoped to see more theatre return to the hall.

People gather at the town hall to mark the end of the Boer War in 1902.
Camera IconPeople gather at the town hall to mark the end of the Boer War in 1902. Credit: Albany History Collection

The City of Albany is preparing for upgrades to the site, which Mayor Dennis Wellington said would return it to being a hub of activity in town.

Works were expected to begin last month, but appear to have been delayed.

Under the plan, the first floor would be renovated and turned into an artist retail space with bar and ticket facility.

An arch would be installed over the stage, and the entrance upgraded.

The Prince of Wales at the town hall in 1920.
Camera IconThe Prince of Wales at the town hall in 1920. Credit: Albany History Collection

They were upgrades the City previously said would return the hall “to its former glory of 1888”.

Mr Wellington said he hoped it would be used “considerably more than it was in the past” after the upgrades.

“Once the renovations are complete the Town Hall will be open every day except probably Christmas Day and Good Friday,” he said.

“It’s our most iconic building (and) it’s one we have to look after.”

Albany Town Hall in 1890.
Camera IconAlbany Town Hall in 1890. Credit: Albany History Collection

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