The results of community collaboration and timely planning are coming to the fore at Riverlea Theatre. A collaboration with Wintec design students has resulted in a branding refresh. “I love how the students captured the essence of the Riverlea Theatre community” says project coordinator Lee Owens of Riverlea Theatre board. Here’s what winning student Lesley Hall framed up in her design planning. “Storytelling is frequently described as the social act of sharing stories which can be told in many different forms. Riverlea Theatre is a teller of stories shown through collaborative performances, people and history. Stories from people who come from different genres in life. An infinite loop of stories and people.”
The first nuts and bolts work on the redevelopment at the facility has begun. In 2019, funding secured from The DV Bryant Trust, The Lion Foundation and The Glenice and John Gallagher Foundation enabled construction of a new accessibility toilet to be carried out. Riverlea Theatre, as the only seated theatre venue in Hamilton where guest and auditorium entry is at ground level, now houses a fully accessible bathroom facility in close range. Riverlea Theatre is a unique facility with no mobility or accessibility challenges for the community. “The new accessibility toilet has enhanced the venue facilities and benefited the visitor experience for all our guests, contributing to positive social outcomes for the disabled. “, says newly appointed Riverlea board Chair David Waine.
This week work begins again, this time deconstructing the existing public toilets to make way for a very much anticipated refresh. The men’s bathroom is the first to be revamped, followed by the women’s. Work is due to be completed mid-September, in time for the Stagecraft performing arts school annual showcase 23-25th September 2020.
Following the successful purchase of the land and buildings that encompass Riverlea Theatre from Hamilton City Council in 2015, plans are underway to redevelop the site to better accommodate the use of the facilities. The venue is 100% community owned and run, with a staggering 7900 community members participating in the theatre activities each year.
Operating for over 36 years, the theatre includes a performing arts training school unique to the Waikato region where 125 students annually receive training in drama and all aspects of the performing arts. As the training ground for the likes of Kimbra, Jessie Mulligan, and former Creative Waikato CEO Sarah Nathan, the theatre is recognised for its role in the development of the performing arts in Hamilton. Sarah says of the theatre “We have seen this service as a seeding ground for creative community engagement and skill development, which is utterly invaluable.”
After the recent AGM, the theatre was delighted to announce the newly appointed Chair of Riverlea Theatre, David Waine. A chartered accountant in public practice and owner of a number of regional businesses, David also actively serves in a governance capacity across a number of community and small organisation boards in the Waikato and further afield.
From the arts perspective, David has been involved with Waikato Youth Music Association, New Zealand Concert Band Association, and more recently was the Chair of Arts Waikato when it merged with Creative Hamilton to become Creative Waikato. “I look forward to moving Riverlea Theatre on in the next steps towards having a sustainable venue that befits the quality of the productions that are showcased at Riverlea”, says David.
As Riverlea Theatre moves forward with facility redevelopment plans, they’re simultaneously looking at their place of community and weaving the DNA of the theatre for a sustainable future.