End of the Fly

• Fremantle MP Simone McGurk was one of those who stepped in to try and keep the Fly in the old Drill Hall. It was to no avail, with the National Trust signing up Sunset Events in August 2014 to open a new concert venue. Four years later, the venue’s doors are still closed.

THE Fly By Night Musicians Club is on the verge of being wound up after 32 years.

Treasurer Richard Skead confirmed to the Herald this week the club’s board is due to meet next week to vote on calling in liquidators.

“We are talking to the liquidator at the moment,” Mr Skead said.

“The finances are unsustainable, and if we didn’t call them in, the tax office would do it for us.”

Mr Skead said Fremantle council had recently given the Fly an extension of its Victoria Hall lease until the end of January, but with the short timeframe there was no opportunity to book acts and the club felt it couldn’t hang on until then.

It also couldn’t wait for the council to sell the hall, with St John’s Anglican church rector Patrick King previously floating a plan to buy the venue and have the Fly as an anchor tenant (“Saviour for Fly?” Herald, September 1, 2018).

Mr Skead said he was planning to contact Fr King this week to let him know of the looming wind-up.

The Fly’s woes prompted Fremantle Society president John Dowson to lament a local arts scene that “staggers from one catastrophe to another”.

“In the hands of mature people, the world famous heritage of Fremantle can be married with successful arts events and venues,” he said.

Numb

“But there appears to be no way to hold council to account.”

Mr Dowson said the council had bungled the Arthur Head arts hub, leaving “surviving artists numb and in shock”, while money spent on removing the yellow foil Arcs d’Ellipses from heritage buildings along High Street could have been used for restoration if the council hadn’t let the artwork stay there too long.

“The $2.2 million spent on the heritage restoration of Victoria Hall should have brought better results,” Mr Dowson said.

“The imminent sale by a cash-strapped council puts the future of Victoria Hall in peril.”

The author says the council’s percent for art scheme was well-intentioned, but had left a legacy of a “dismal array of junk cluttering buildings and streets”.

Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt said the Fly was a much-loved Fremantle institution.

“The City of Fremantle has done all it can to help keep the Fly alive, including giving them a home at Victoria Hall when the National Trust didn’t renew their lease on the Old Drill Hall back in 2014,” Dr Pettitt said.

“Our support to the Fly has included offering half price rent on Victoria Hall, spending more than $20,000 to improve the acoustics of the hall and giving them a $20,000 cash grant.

“In February the council also agreed to waive their outstanding debt, which was around $70,000, and we have provided them with free rent at the hall since then to give the Fly time to transition to a new home in Fremantle.”

The mayor says plenty of people disagree with Mr Dowson’s opinion about the city’s management of arts.

“Earlier this year WAM chief executive Mike Harris declared Fremantle was the live music capital of Australia,” Dr Pettitt said.

Partnership

“Last month the city was honoured for the second time in two years at the state government’s State Arts and Culture Partnership Honours. Local government community surveys last year revealed that Fremantle Arts Centre was the most loved community arts facility in WA, while Tourism WA research last year showed Fremantle was Perth’s most popular entertainment precinct.”

by STEVE GRANT

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