THE Fly by Night is ready to talk to Fremantle council about a new home in the city.
The Fly’s board met Wednesday evening for the first time since hearing the National Trust wasn’t renewing its lease on the old artillery drill hall on Parry Street.
The Trust announced Monday it would instead sign a 21-year deal with commercial concert promoter Sunset Events, which has promised to spend more than $1 million renovating the hall.
Fly manager John Reid said it was a hard and emotional board meeting but, apart from not being able to shake the “delusion” there was still a chance to get the Trust’s decision reversed, by the end there was optimism.
“There was a lot of anger, but we got through that in the first two hours,” he told the Herald.
The board is convinced the Trust used the expressions-of-interest process to simply orchestrate the Fly’s ousting and Mr Reid says it’ll be asking lawyers to look over everything.
The next step will be to meet with mayor Brad Pettitt to take him up on his offer to help the club move “seamlessly” into another Fremantle venue. Dr Pettitt has flagged Victoria Hall or Kulcha’s old digs on South Terrace as possible new homes, although the latter made Mr Reid cringe as he recalled the problems that led to the multicultural organisation’s demise. He says Victoria Hall is a potential venue, and had even been considered as a home for the Fly when it was first formed in 1986.
“But if Sunset live up to what they’ve promised to do in running community events at the hall, you kind of wonder what’ll be left for us, don’t you,” he said.
“I can’t imagine groups ringing us up and asking to book events in the [drill] hall. I just can’t get my head around that.”
Mr Reid says the board will hold a strategic planning meeting then open up a conversation with the community to get input on how the organisation should proceed.
Fremantle Labor MP Simone McGurk presented a petition to parliament Tuesday calling on premier Colin Barnett to intervene and reinstate the Fly’s lease. But she appears to have conceded it’s a hopeless case.
“[The Fly’s] a community, and I’ll give them whatever support I can to make sure that community continues, whatever building they operate from,” she told the Herald.
She says it’s hardly surprising the commercial Sunset is able to offer more lucrative terms than the not-for-profit Fly.
National Trust chairman John Cowdell, a former Labor upper house MP, says concerns about the Fly’s long-term viability lay behind the decision. Mr Reid says that’s bull: the club had survived the withdrawal of government grants, was running well and paying its rent.
by STEVE GRANT