Fly in, Fly out?

THE Fly By Night Musicians Club may have to cut back on staff or even move because a rent subsidy is at risk.

Fly general manager John Reid is “under the impression” the club’s annual $23,868 rent assistance from the WA arts department will run out in November.

After that the Fly would have to try its luck in a pool of funding doled out through the DCA’s music grants program. But Mr Reid is pessimistic about pulling in decent money because often the Fly’s acts don’t “tick the box”.

“We love this building, but we will move if we have to,” he told the Herald after an emergency board meeting on Wednesday.

“I would like the DCA to come down here and tell us what grants we can apply for.”

Rent increase

The club’s landlord, the National Trust, is also looking at imposing a steep rent increase.

“If they keep putting up the rent and we go, what are they going to put in there?” a frustrated Mr Reid asked. “A shoe store?

“I don’t think they realise the value of this community organisation. They just think we are a night club.

“We hear about all the buildings that are empty in the city and without people in them they will fall down. Without us staying in here it would have been knocked down years ago.

But Trust boss Tom Perrigo countered that the club paid $35,000 rent a year, well below commercial rates.

As the Herald was interviewing Mr Perrigo, an email from Mr Reid popped unexpectedly into his inbox.

“I understand they have lost their triennial funding,” Mr Perrigo said as he read the email.

“I don’t know what all this funding talk means, but we can’t give them the building for free. We are not in the Fly business, if you know what I mean,” he said before adding: “It would be a tragic loss.”

Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt said his council would ensure the much-loved Fly stayed in the port city

“If this has come about through a loss of state funding then council will be making its concerns heard loud and clear with the department of culture and the arts as there are some very concerning funding trends for local arts and culture organisations at the moment,” he said.

“Expecting local councils to step and fund them instead is simply cost-shifting by the state.”

Mr Reid said another difficulty the club faced was that it was the “piggy in the middle” between the Trust and the department, which made getting much-needed repairs done a hard slog.

But he’s upbeat about the Fly’s future, saying that because it received no operational funding and relied on its wits to stay afloat, the loss of the subsidy would just be a blip in its 27-year history.

“We will have to tighten our belts and this is just another hurdle we will have to get over.”

Mr Reid said the Fly pulled in 20,000 punters each year to the old military drill hall, and made enough from headline acts to support a myriad of uncommercial, local projects.

At first the arts department denied that the Fly was losing any funding, before DCA director general Allanah Lucas acknowledged the club’s rent assistance expired late this year. She said the Fly could submit an application for future funding.

by BRENDAN FOSTER

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