EASTLAND Community Trust has approved a grant of $3 million — the biggest in its 20-year history — for the War Memorial Theatre upgrade.
Just months after it was formed, the group charged with fundraising for the redevelopment of Gisborne’s largest theatre has already rocketed past the halfway mark to its multimillion-dollar target.
ECT general manager Leighton Evans said there was a good reason for the grant.
“In going through a very robust procedure to get to this stage, the seven trust members all saw the theatre as a core piece of community infrastructure that will help tie the community together.
“Together, we all came to the agreement that the renovated theatre will not only allow existing arts and cultural enterprise to grow, but will also encourage new development in this sector.”
An upgraded theatre would offer modern, up-to-date facilities for audiences and performers, and would attract a wider range of touring performances, concerts and events,” Mr Evans said.
“This facility will be a significant asset for our community. We will all be proud of it.”
Chaired by Gisborne district councillor Pat Seymour, the WMTT was tasked with raising $5.35m to add to the $2.15m the council had included in its draft 2012-2022 plan for the upgrade of the 55-year-old, 420-seat theatre.
“We cannot express how absolutely delighted we are to have been approved for such a huge grant for this very important project,” Mrs Seymour said.
“It is recognition that our War Memorial Theatre is a central part of the infrastructure of our community . . . one that is used by people of all ages for all manner of cultural events and performances.”
The grant represented more than a big shot of cash, she said.
It also put the WMTT in a stronger position to apply for further funding, especially from the Lotteries Board — which required applicants to have themselves raised one-third of a project’s cost.
WMTT was in talks with the Lotteries Board to see whether they could throw their hats in for the latest funding round, for which applications had closed, Mrs Seymour said.
Trust members had not been sitting on their laurels waiting for the big bucks. Through a combination of fundraising events and the support of platinum ($15,000) and gold ($10,000) sponsors, they had already raised more than $120,000.
“The input of those sponsors will be permanently recognised in the foyer of the theatre and to date we have had local businesses like BDO Gisborne and Graham and Dobson — as well as a number of private individuals — come on board,” Mrs Seymour said.
There had also been input from supporters including soprano Claire Egan (whose concert raised $12,000) and the Poverty Bay Women’s Institute, which raised $1200 with a luncheon.
“We think seat sales, too, are going to be immensely popular,” said Mrs Seymour.
“With those, people pay $250 to sponsor a place and their name is right there on the seat.”
That still left more than $2m to be raised through efforts like the canvassing of potential sponsors. A youth concert tomorrow night promised to further boost the coffers.
ECT members were excited about the project’s potential and hoped the rest of the community would follow their lead, Mr Evans said.
“Trust members have for some time signalled that they wanted to see projects move ahead, to see stuff get done. This was one very useful way for them to put their money where their mouths are.”
The ECT grant was a big boost for the fundraising effort and its impact would be broader than simply paying for bricks and mortar, Pat Seymour said.
“This project is for the social and cultural benefit of everybody in the region, so it is a boost for the entire community.”
• An animated virtual “walk-through” of the War Memorial Theatre redevelopment can be viewed on-line at tinyurl.com/8m8bhsr.
THE $3 million grant approved for the War Memorial Theatre Trust will be the largest made by Eastland Community Trust but general manager Leighton Evans says it will not break the bank.
“Before this year we had about $2.7m available from underspending our project funding in previous allocations,” he said.
“Putting this with the $2.6m we had allocated for this year meant we had a total of $5.3m in the kitty, enabling us to make a substantial grant to this important project.”
The large grant meant the trust’s ability to make big donations would obviously be affected in the short term, he said.
“But we will absolutely continue to support other projects and have a number under consideration, with results due to be announced within the next few weeks.”