The Open House Project is a three-year (2012-2015) cultural partnership between Port Macquarie’s Glasshouse and the Sydney Opera House. The partnership is the first of its kind in Australia and will bring untold economic, educational and cultural benefits to the area. Glasshouse Venue Manager Joe Conneely and Executive Producer from the Sydney Opera House, Jonathan Bielski, are both excited to be involved with the project …
What exactly is the Open House Project?
The Glasshouse in Port Macquarie has entered into a three-year multi-level partnership with the Sydney Opera House, with the joint objective of enhancing cultural, education and entertainment experiences for people of Port Macquarie and, equally importantly, regional areas of the Mid North Coast. We’re collaborating on multiple levels: tourism, education, performance and training. This basically means we’re working side by side with the Sydney Opera House on all levels.
What will this project mean to Port Macquarie in terms of benefits?
What we will get is regional access to the Sydney Opera House experience. We are exclusive – the pilot of this project – so shows will be shown at the Glasshouse and the Sydney Opera House. The project strongly supports the local economy and cultural development, which is one of the mandates that the Glasshouse stands for. It will also provide employment opportunities and training in education, theatre, visual arts, heritage and technical disciplines in a way that we’ve never had before in the region. This is a major coup. We’re now developing a digital link between the Glasshouse and the Opera House, which will provide us with the ability to do teacher training, master classes, one-on-one performances, lectures and debates. We’re sending some people down to talk about how we can promote Port Macquarie at the Opera House. We’re looking at product placement, conferencing and special performances from students on the Opera House stage. This project has a very strong economic driver as well. It will bring people into the area and with the expansion over the next three years of the airport and the freeway, it’s going to make this a great weekend destination. I believe this project will have a very strong impact on the economy. We’re looking at building community vitality – and that link to the Opera House certainly provides a great platform to do this. I think where it’s going to help as well, is it will ignite the creative potential of the area, create future career pathways and hopefully stimulate our creative industries for all ages, from seniors through to children.
When will the project actually commence?
It starts in January 2012 with Angelina Ballerina, which is a performance by the Royal New Zealand Ballet. This is fantastic for us, and it will be the star of Summerfest – the summer festival we’ve created here in Port Macquarie. The ballet will be a great support for the festival and a wonderful way to kick off the New Year.
Is it too early for you to give us a sneak preview of what other acts may be visiting us as a part of the Open House Project?
It’s too early yet, but we’re working on another major announcement to be made around December. That will be our Christmas present to the community!
How would you describe the Open House Project?
The Open House Project came from a really simple idea, which is that New South Wales, purely by a very pleasant happenstance, has ended up with one of the greatest buildings in the world being its arts centre – the Sydney Opera House. It’s a magnificent thing – it generates a lot of money for the state and it’s a wonderful cultural asset in the middle of Sydney. But everybody paid for it and everybody continues to pay for it, and there’s a very high level of love and respect for the symbolism of the Opera House and what it means to Sydney, NSW and Australia generally. So we asked ourselves the question, “What kind of relationship can you have with the Opera House if you live outside of Sydney?” Obviously we can’t take the Opera House on the road … but what we can do is take the performing arts, the element that is very special to the Opera House and doesn’t go anywhere else, and take that out. It a sense, we can become the catalyst or the exporter of the particular types of performing arts we have at the Opera House and take them around the state.
In practical terms, how is this project going to work?
We will have an ongoing dialogue with the team at the Glasshouse and discuss the sorts of events they desire to have. Many of the things which happen at the Opera House are already happening at the Glasshouse. The Australian Chamber Orchestra tours there for example … so we don’t want to duplicate any of that, because it’s already happening very successfully. We want to work out what we can add … When we brought out the members of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra … it’s acts like these that basically don’t get to anywhere other than Sydney – we’re renegotiating with these kinds of artists and informing them about our sister venue an hour’s flight north of Sydney, and saying we’d like them to go and do a performance there as well.
Apart from the cultural side, what other kinds of benefits do you see this project ultimately producing?
Between the Glasshouse team and ourselves, what we’re intending is there will be some economic benefit, by bringing in artists who would not normally do regional touring and go to the Glasshouse. We also want to create a unique event in Port Macquarie that we can try and market to Sydney-siders. The Sydney Opera House has a huge marketing machine, so it gives us a big opportunity to encourage people to get out of Sydney and up to Port Macquarie. I think there’s also a role we can play in helping showcase the Mid North Coast in Sydney, whether that’s through products and produce from the region, or weekend getaways – we’ve had dozens of ideas. Another strand to all this is education. We’re taking some of our education shows out of Sydney and bringing them to Port Macquarie. We’re working with the Mid North Coast region’s school team to devise some programs specifically for the region. We’ll also be looking into digital excursions, video conferencing and planned lessons.
Can you see this kind of relationship extending to other regional centres?
That’s our vision. This project is a pilot, to prove the theory. The kind of relationship we’re building with the Glasshouse is relatively unique – there have been plenty of examples of arts and culture going on the road, but in terms of an ongoing relationship, we understand this is fairly new. This is a kind of experiment – we know the Sydney market very well, and the Glasshouse understands the Port Macquarie market well, but together can we extend the artistic offerings and over time grow new awareness of performing arts? Depending upon funding we may receive from government and other sources, it would be great for us to create more partnerships and have shows travelling round the state all the time. That would be ideal.
Interviews by Jo Atkins.