Hectic month planned as Arts Margaret River celebrates 50th anniversary

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Heather Locke with Ian Smith and Dr Annie Horner.
Camera IconHeather Locke with Ian Smith and Dr Annie Horner. Credit: Warren Hately/Augusta-Margaret River Times

The region’s peak arts body is gearing up for a calendar of events to celebrate its 50th birthday.

Arts Margaret River has a major party planned to capture the occasion, which coincides with the release of a new book examining the group’s evolution from a grassroots collective of artists and their supporters back in 1974.

The group started as the humble Augusta-Margaret River Arts Council, incubating other groups and then moving into the Cultural Centre which it ran from 2014 to 2020 before the site was redeveloped.

The Shire of Augusta-Margaret River sought to run the new Heart centre itself but strong community kickback led to a new management agreement with the group in January 2023.

Former president Heather Locke, awarded an Order of Australia medal for her services to the arts, has co-ordinated the history project during the past several years with the help of Dr Annie Horner.

The finished product called Arts Connecting Margaret River launches on June 23.

“Researching the history of Arts Margaret River over the last 2½ years, recalling the characters and putting their stories back on stage for this book, has been fun, full of surprises, sometimes sad, but immensely satisfying,” she told the Times.

“This much-anticipated book helps shine a spotlight on our small rural arts organisation that, for 50 years, has been a well-loved part of the Margaret River community.”

The launch coincides with the start of birthday season that includes an art exhibition, 1970s-themed birthday bash on July 6, and movie screenings.

July 27 will see a special screening of Australian classic The Dish — the first movie screened at the old Cultural Centre in 2001 — while the school holiday program will operate alongside visits to town from comedian Joel Creasey on July 5 and a University of WA classical guitar concert fundraiser for Just Home on July 17.

Arts Margaret River president David Shelton said the half-century mark was a wonderful chance to thank the volunteers who have made it all happen.

He said since the group returned to manage the Margaret River Heart/Nala Bardip Mia under general manager Michelle Wright, the trajectory for the volunteer-led organisation was on the up.

“The focus on building community connection is at the forefront of our thinking and operations,” he said.

Volunteer co-ordinator Ian Smith said the 50th birthday was a chance to reflect also on his long involvement with the Margaret River Theatre Group which was one of the key organisations benefiting from Arts Margaret River’s support.

“I cherish the lessons of teamwork and camaraderie it has instilled,” he said.

“Beyond the spotlight, the dedication of countless volunteers brings productions to life, forging bonds that endure like family.

“As we look to the future, I am grateful for the enduring magic of theatre and the community it creates.”

Ms Wright told the Times said the arts group was buzzing with plans for the celebration.

“We, as all organisations, have had significant challenges over those decades, but we are immensely proud of what we have achieved, and importantly, what we are achieving,” she said.

“We have no intention to rest on these golden laurels though.

“We look forward to launching new initiatives over the coming months that further expand the significant impact we aspire to when it comes to community development.”

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