New direction for board

December 02, 2016

BPACC’s board of management chair Alana Johnson last week presented Benalla Rural City Council’s Finance and Operations Committee meeting with the first professionally researched strategic plan.

Benalla’s Performing Arts and Convention Centre (BPACC) is to be revitalised with a proposal for a new community-based board and a venue co-ordinator to be appointed, so that a program more responsive to community needs can be implemented.

BPACC’s board of management chair Alana Johnson last week presented Benalla Rural City Council’s Finance and Operations Committee meeting with the first professionally researched strategic plan for BPACC since the centre opened in 2004.

‘‘The best way forward now for BPACC is (for it) to be run by the community,’’ Ms Johnson said.

‘‘So a new board structure will be proposed that’s based on community representation and it will probably be a skills-appointed board.’’

The board has been made up of two members of council, two from Goulburn Ovens Institute of TAFE, one from Friends of BPACC, and more recently with Ms Johnson as chair.

‘‘I think we’ll turn that around now as there are people out there in the community who have so much to offer — and we discovered this during our strategic planning process — keen people who want their arts and culture in Benalla to grow,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s actually been a very constructive process for council and council staff to work with members of the community in such a constructive way.

‘‘I really think we’ve set the benchmark now that, rather than dispute and be disappointed with each other and fight over things, that we actually come together and constructively create something.’’

The strategic plan was developed by Ms Johnson with consultancy business Essential Economics and involved Benalla residents in planning sessions.

The process received a phenomenal 750 survey returns, compared with just 120 returns from a similar review of a metropolitan performing arts centre servicing a similar population base.

BPACC this year lost its annual $55000 Victorian Government ‘‘Creative Victoria’’ funding.

Ms Johnson said the funding model ‘‘creates problems for performing arts centres the size of Benalla and disadvantages us.’’

At last week’s meeting Ms Johnson said the funding was subject to ‘‘quite stringent conditions’’.

‘‘For a performing arts centre the size of Benalla, we always lose money on their grant and having to meet their criteria,’’ she said.

‘‘I think there’s some real issue about fairness and equity that a very small theatre like Benalla still has to meet the same stringent criteria that other, bigger, performing arts centres do.

‘‘They (the Victorian Government) need to understand the reality of a community our size, our wish to have theatre, but they’ve put us in a really difficult position financially, so I think there’s some conversation we need to have with Creative Victoria and the Arts Minister around that.’’

For the past 13 years BPACC has been overseen by a Board of Management under an agreement between council and GoTAFE, with council managing the day-to-day activities.

That agreement expires at the end of this year, with the strategic plan recommending instead that a local board be appointed

‘‘I think there are three things that have come out of the planning process,’’ Ms Johnson said.

‘‘One is the people of Benalla and district absolutely appreciate BPACC being a part of their community arts culture and they want it to continue.

‘‘Secondly, people want more and more diverse programming at BPACC so that more and more people in the community will find something that suits them.

‘‘Thirdly, that we now have a very simple and agreed upon way forward to make the next 10 years of BPACC’s existence something that’s responsive to the community yet financially sustainable.

‘‘It never had a purpose or a mission statement before, so I think now that we’re all on the same page, the Benalla council, the community, the GoTAFE, that really is a fundamental foundation for now building upon.’’

— Benalla Ensign

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