Case Study: Beverley Station Arts

Station Gallery and Platform Theatre

The Beverley Station Arts Gallery and Amphitheatre                                                                                  

Beverley Station Arts Inc. is a dedicated group of 12 volunteers with a keen interest in all forms of art and its inherent socialisation. The group has refurbished the disused 1886 Beverley Railway Station in to the Beverley Station Gallery with the adjoining two-storey station master’s building becoming a residence for visiting artists. The surrounding area has been transformed into an amphitheatre with a stage for outdoor performing arts and the grounds developed into beautiful gardens and a safe, useable space for a diversified range of community events. The Beverley Station Gallery and Platform Theatre is the jewel in the centre of town.

The Beverley Platform Theatre, officially opened in 2011, was built with funds from a federal government grant matched dollar for dollar by the Shire of Beverley and numerous volunteer hours. It is well worth experiencing the ambience of this outdoor theatre right in the heart of the wheat-belt town of Beverley – just 130km east of Perth. The mood triumphs as soon as you approach the old railway station complex and walk under the heritage styled clock arch into the picturesque garden surrounds of the Station Gallery and Platform Theatre.

An experience at the Platform Theatre begins with the friendly faces of the Beverley Station Arts committee checking tickets and offering both merchandise and raffle tickets for sale, before you enter the amphitheatre – an open space which is flexible, functional and family-friendly. Managed by Beverley Station Arts Inc., the usual format for events is table and chair seating for up to 300 on the three-tiered seating area. Row seating could house 450 patrons. The iron roofed wooden stage measures 8mx4m, is elevated 90cm and extends out from the old railway station platform. Sliding doors the length of the stage open into the iron clad backstage area which measures 10mx5m and sits on the old platform itself. Adjacent to the backstage are the old station ‘latrines’ which have been transformed into performers’ green room and change rooms with disabled facilities. There is truck access to the platform/backstage. Within the complex are public toilets, the old guard’s cottage converted to a kitchen/kiosk and a movable bar for events.

Being an outdoor venue, events are limited to the summer season beginning in September with the annual afternoon Choir Bash presented by Voice Moves, followed by monthly evening productions through to April (excluding January as the town goes into holiday mode). The most recent event, Bobby Fox’s 4 SEASONS IN 1 NIGHT, was offered to Beverley Station Arts when the organisation was in the throes of joining CircuitWest. This was towards the end of 2015 but not confirmed until February which meant only two months of advertising through the local papers of surrounding towns (from Narrogin in the south and beyond Northam in the north), local radio stations, Curtin FM and of course emails and social media.

Beverley Station Arts decided to present 4 Seasons in 1 Night at the Platform Theatre in hope of attracting the numbers evident a few years previous with the likes of Darryl Braithwaite and Pete Rowsthorn, and tribute bands such as Neil Diamond and Queen where 300 patrons were the benchmark. As Bobby Fox had played Frankie Valli in over 850 performances of Jersey Boys it was considered his young band would attract a wider audience. The show did indeed entice some of the younger crowd but realistically 1960s music is still pitched at the older generation. That being said, 300 revellers came through the gates and it was a fabulous night by all accounts, with the band embracing the outdoor atmosphere and the willingness of the audience to get out of their seats to dance.

Staff mostly set up the amphitheatre cabaret style with outdoor tables and chairs which meets the needs of customers as it provides a space for drinks (bar sales only) and food (either brought by themselves or purchased from the onsite kiosk), and also encourages community engagement during and after the show. Depending on the cost of the show they ticket accordingly – usually between $30 and $50, with $5 discounts for concessions. So far Beverly Stations Arts has been self-sufficient in financing all events, however this is only because the venue is run by volunteers. This may have to change in the near future.

Feedback from customers is generally very positive. The population of Beverley is only 1800 (600 in the actual town), however Beverly Station Arts considers itself a regional venue with many patrons travelling regularly from as far south as Narrogin, beyond Northam to the north and from outer metro and eastern Wheatbelt communities. The free Christmas concert which is subsidised by at least one event each season scheduled to attract a 300 strong audience is popular with local families and the under 40 age group. Broadly speaking, an audience of 300 could be divided into 100 who would attend every show, 100 who would attend selected events and 100 who would attend as a first time patron from the wider region.

Beverley Station Arts attempts to manage a balanced, relevant programme that delivers and responds to audience demand. A typical season includes a classical event (opera and or ballet) popular music and or tribute show, comedy, circus and/or drama.

Sustainability is the key challenge for Beverley Station Arts. Undertaking strategic planning, diversifying its programme and engaging further with the local community are considered by the organisation as essential to achieving financial sustainability and to reinforcing the vitality of the Beverley Station Arts. The staff are currently planning an all-embracing community engagement event for 2017.

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The picture below was taken by Joel McGuinness when visiting Beverley in May 2016…. ” The committee are such an amazing bunch of people. They love their venue, are so passionate about arts and culture in their venue AND made my awesome scones for morning tea.” said Joel about his recent visit to the Centre.