Gunning’s Coronation Theatre has brought life back to the village thanks to its custodians, actor Max Cullen and his partner artist Margarita Georgiadis. But now it needs your help.
The theatre, in the main street, is in need of urgent restoration – work that is likely to cost $500,000.
Since Max and Margarita moved in almost 20 years ago, they have brought the 1937 heritage theatre back to life, opening it up as the Gunning Arts Centre, a community space for everything from teaching to exhibiting. It has returned to being the hub of the community with a gallery, theatre, studio and the home for Creative Gunning.
Outside, they’ve established a large Australian native garden, landscaped to cater for outdoor performances, festivals, exhibitions and community events.
The couple has invested all their resources, time, money and passion into the building, but that’s left them exhausted and unable to do much more without significant financial help.
“We started to notice that the roof has become badly rusted, there’s also leakage in the building now,” Margarita said. “We just know that this kind of restoration work is simply beyond anything we can afford.
“We spoke to Upper Lachlan Shire Council and they told us that there was a grant available exactly for this kind of building. It’s perfectly suited to what we need because it’s designed for owners of ‘significant community buildings’.”
To be eligible for the grant, they must actively fundraise $10,000 to go towards the restoration process. This is already underway with a Go Fund Me page launched and more than $2000 already raised.
Local community support for the project is clear, judging by comments from some of the donors already.
“The Coronation Theatre represents the heart of Gunning. We are lucky to have Margarita and Max as custodians of such an historic and integral part of our community.”
“Thank you so much to Max and Margarita for working to preserve Gunning’s cultural heritage and restoring the Coronation Theatre building. It is such an important part of Gunning’s streetscape and history and wonderful that it still lives as an artistic and cultural venue.”
Margarita said she was well aware of the size of the task ahead but, with community support, she was confident the theatre would be saved for yet another generation to enjoy.
“We know it’s a huge project to restore a building like this,” Margarita said. “But we love it and the community has shown it loves it too.
“I remember the first day I saw it, about 19 years ago, with Max. I fell in love with it at first sight. Max said it looked like too much hard work,” she laughed.
Margarita said all she wanted to do, by successfully acquiring the grant, was to keep the Coronation going “for another 100 years”.
“We see it as a community building,” she said. “It has developed into one, becoming an arts centre in a natural, organic sort of way.
“When we first came here Gunning was pretty much a ghost town. Now it has been so lovely to see how it has developed.”
Margarita said if they were successful with the NSW Creative Capital Grant, it would be full steam ahead on restoring the Coronation to her former glory.
“It will be fantastic. We’ll redo the roof, line the walls – there’s no insulation – and restore her beautiful heritage architecture.
“Any donation will help, be it $5 or $500. We just received an anonymous donation of $1000 which was amazing.”
People who donate to help save the Coronation Theatre will also receive a variety of rewards, depending on the donation amount. They range from a personalised thank you on the website to original art prints by both Margarita and Max.
Other donor rewards include a dedicated seat in the theatre, patron naming rights, and a special preview of Max Cullen’s new one-show Ding, scheduled to take top billing at the Gunning Arts Festival later this year.
More information on how to help save the Coronation Theatre is available on the website.