Arts centre opens with star power

Alicia Perera and Sophia ConstantinePilbara News
DANCE FX dancers Jordi Perry, 11, Lily Kot, 12, and Lily O’Brien, 11, perform a Mary Poppins-themed tap dance.
Camera IconDANCE FX dancers Jordi Perry, 11, Lily Kot, 12, and Lily O’Brien, 11, perform a Mary Poppins-themed tap dance. Credit: Pilbara News, Alicia Perera

After seven years without a facility to call their own since the closure of the Walkington Theatre, Karratha’s local artists celebrated a homecoming at the grand opening of the Red Earth Arts Precinct at the weekend.

The doors of the $56 million arts and cultural hub were opened to the public on Saturday for a community open day that drew thousands of people to see what the facility had to offer and enjoy a wide array of local arts talent.

DANCE FX dancers (back) Shylah Neville, 8, Azra Rowland, 8, Shelby Johnston, 7, Lieushii Bampton, 7, and Scarlett Warren, 7; and (front) Lily Hornhardt, 6, Sophie McLoughlin, 7, and Emmerson Rothe, 7, were part of the Red Earth Arts Precinct celebrations.
Camera IconDANCE FX dancers (back) Shylah Neville, 8, Azra Rowland, 8, Shelby Johnston, 7, Lieushii Bampton, 7, and Scarlett Warren, 7; and (front) Lily Hornhardt, 6, Sophie McLoughlin, 7, and Emmerson Rothe, 7, were part of the Red Earth Arts Precinct celebrations. Credit: Pilbara News, Alicia Perera

In opening the precinct, City of Karratha Mayor Peter Long said REAP would be a “game-changing” facility for the arts.

“The Walkington Theatre, when it was built in 1986, was actually the best regional theatre in Western Australia, and of course it flooded out, and we didn’t know what we were going to do,” he said.

“It has been seven years in the making for this theatre.

“This will be a symbol of Karratha for decades to come, and we feel very fortunate that we’ve got this facility.

“It’s a facility for the arts, for theatre, for dance and, of course, it’s a wonderful library too.”

Children get a juggling lesson from Ricochet Circus at the REAP amphitheatre.
Camera IconChildren get a juggling lesson from Ricochet Circus at the REAP amphitheatre. Credit: Pilbara News, Alicia Perera

The long-awaited precinct was funded by the City of Karratha, the Federal and State governments, Lotterywest, Woodside and Rio Tinto.

Among the first arts acts to perform in the facility were local groups the IF Foundation, Terre Rouge Ballet, DANCEFX, Lea Cullen Performing Arts, singer duo Kym and Michelle, Colours of India and Karratha Senior High School musicians, as well as visiting acts Ricochet Circus, Jye Whitman and the Pierce Brothers.

Terre Rouge Ballet dancers Victoria Anderson, 30, Tane Wann, 13, and Janaya Walsh, 15.
Camera IconTerre Rouge Ballet dancers Victoria Anderson, 30, Tane Wann, 13, and Janaya Walsh, 15. Credit: Pilbara News, Sophia Constantine

Terre Rouge ballet dancer Victoria Anderson said the new facility was a fantastic opportunity to not only showcase local talent but also host quality performances.

“Its exciting that it’s such a professional level facility,” she said.

“Not only will we be able to perform in more professional-looking shows but also have other big-name acts come here to show what they’ve got and teach us.

“When WA Ballet come, they’ll be able to give a performance but also we’ll be able to learn from them in the rehearsal rooms.”

Karratha-raised actor and singer Joel Jackson returned for the REAP community open day.
Camera IconKarratha-raised actor and singer Joel Jackson returned for the REAP community open day. Credit: Pilbara News, Alicia Perera

Another performer on the day was former local musician turned successful actor Joel Jackson, who flew in from Sydney to be part of the facility’s launch.

The AACTA award-winning artist said the precinct’s opening was a special time for the community and one of which he wanted to be a part in acknowledgement of the place he started in the arts.

Jackson said the new venue seemed like a modern update on the Walkington and represented a “brand new horizon” for the Karratha cultural scene.

“(Aspiring artists) can walk on to that stage and it’s the size of or bigger than a lot of the stages in Sydney ... so these young kids are, in their heads, comfortable with walking out on to a stage that’s in front of 500 people,” he said.

“That’s why I think that I had no fear jumping into the things that I jumped into, because I grew up walking onto a 500-seat theatre stage. Your confidence levels are huge, so that when you do go to a bigger city, (it) doesn’t intimidate you to do performance and things like that because you’re used to the space.”

Karratha Senior High School students work on visual artworks in one of the rehearsal rooms.
Camera IconKarratha Senior High School students work on visual artworks in one of the rehearsal rooms. Credit: Pilbara News, Alicia Perera

Pilbara MLA Kevin Michel said the facility had “exceeded expectations” with its world-class facilities and had the potential to diversify the local economy and attract more people to the region.

“The precinct is an important milestone in the City of Karratha’s development, and it will be a contemporary hub for art and culture for the Pilbara region,” he said.

“Theatre companies touring, exhibitions, productions from all over the State and abroad will have no excuse not to come here.

“The facilities will provide an environment for local talent in the Pilbara to thrive and a space for the youth to be engaged with the creation and cultivation of the arts.”

Thirsty Merc performs at the End of Summer Party in the REAP amphitheatre.
Camera IconThirsty Merc performs at the End of Summer Party in the REAP amphitheatre. Credit: Marg Bertling/ Pilbara Site Pics

The launch celebrations continued on Sunday night with the End of Summer concert featuring Daryl Braithwaite, Thirsty Merc and local acts, organised by Onyx.

Hundreds packed the REAP amphitheatre to enjoy a picnic and dance the night away to music from the big-name acts.

Daryl Braithwaite shakes a young fan’s hand during his Karratha performance.
Camera IconDaryl Braithwaite shakes a young fan’s hand during his Karratha performance. Credit: Pilbara News, Alicia Perera

During his performance, Braithwaite told the crowd it was great to be back in Karratha and praised the quality of the new precinct.

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