Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and the arts

In Parliament - Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Mr DULUK (Davenport) (15:25:40): On Saturday 13 February, the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra had their opening night of the 2016 year, which was also the beginning of their 80th birthday celebrations. That night, the orchestra was under the baton of Nicholas Carter, a young 30 year old and the first Australian to be appointed as head of a major city orchestra since Stuart Challender was chief conductor of the SSO back in 1987.

The ASO is a vital part of our state's artistic repertoire. In addition to their own hectic program every year, they routinely provide orchestral support for the State Opera and The Australian Ballet. These important support roles are in addition to them headlining the Adelaide Festival year after year, as well as performing their regular season. In recent years, our Symphony Orchestra has performed in Carnegie Hall in New York but, unfortunately, it does not have a place to call its own. There is that old-fashioned saying that great cities have great orchestras. Indeed, we do have a great orchestra, but we have a great orchestra that does not have a home.Last week, Adelaide city councillor, Sandy Verschoor, tabled a motion in the city council to explore the option of the Adelaide Town Hall becoming the permanent venue for the ASO. Further to that, the ASO managing director wrote in an op-ed recently that many issues would need to be considered in any exploration of the viability of the Adelaide Town Hall becoming a permanent venue. However, he noted that it would be the Holy Grail for the ASO if it were to acquire a dedicated, purpose-built concert hall.

The Adelaide Town Hall does provide a wonderful location for a permanent home but, in my view, we must and we should do a lot better than just this. In the quest to find a new home, I would like to delve a bit into the history of the ASO and its homes. The ASO had its first rehearsal at the ABC's Hindmarsh studios in 1936, and it has called 91 Hindley Street home since 2002, a time when many shared a vision that this section of Adelaide's most notorious strip would be transformed into a cultural boulevard of sorts.

Arts South Australia, the Adelaide Festival of Arts and the Adelaide Fringe have all moved out of this Hindley Street location, leaving the ASO as the only main artistic organisation in Hindley Street. The ASO would love to have its own dedicated, purpose-built concert hall, with state-of-the-art box office, foyers, bars, lifts, backstage facilities and parking. The Sydney Symphony Orchestra has a home in the Opera House, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra has Hamer Hall and the Arts Centre Melbourne, the Queensland Symphony Orchestra has QPAC in South Bank, the West Australian Symphony Orchestra has the Perth Concert Hall and, even in Hobart, the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra has a beautiful 1,000-seat auditorium overlooking Constitution Dock.

I believe we can and must do better here in South Australia. What better opportunity than to make the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site a cultural precinct for this state and home to the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra? Acoustics permitting, perhaps we could build a glass auditorium overlooking the Botanic Gardens. This is a much better option than having property developers selling apartments and retail space on our Parklands, which are meant to be held in public trust.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to see the old RAH site become a cultural hub for the arts and North Terrace being a cultural and academic boulevard from the Botanic Gardens to the Casino? We keep hearing the buzz word about vibrancy from this old, tired Labor government. Well, here is an opportunity. After sitting on the old RAH site for seven years now, there is an opportunity for them to come to the public with a beautiful home for our ASO; and I do not know how anyone could disagree.

It is not just the ASO who need a new home and new love, it is also the whole art sector that needs love. This government yesterday announced—and it was not denied by the minister—that it is going to cut $1 million from the Adelaide Festival of Arts—$1 million cut, put on the table in the week of the launch of the Adelaide Festival. It is an absolute shame.

We saw some typical spin from the Minister for Art's former chief of staff, now Executive Director of Arts South Australia, Peter Louca, who said, 'Yes, there is funding for this year, but for the following year it is a different matter.' It is an absolute disgrace that this government wants to cut our funding when we know that art and our cultural centres are such an important part of South Australia. The arts community does not need spin from our pollies: it needs secure and reliable funding, and our ASO needs a home.