IT HAS been a big year in central Victoria for arts and entertainment.
On the stage, new theatre companies arrived, old theatre companies moved to town and youth theatre companies showcased their talents.
In the arts world, the Castlemaine Arts Museum looked set to shut up shop until a last minute donation saved the day.
Muscially, Bendigo excelled again with an Echuca-Moama singer taking on Eurovision, an iconic local band reuniting and a young band catching a break at Groovin the Moo.
Last-minute donation saves Castlemaine Art Museum
When funding for the Castlemaine Art Museum dried up, it seemed destined for closure. But in less than a week an anonymous donation of $250,000 ensure the gallery would stay open for at least two more years.
In between the closure being announced and an anonymous couple saving the day, the Australian art world’s voice was heard loud and clear as messages of support and outrage at the potential loss of the 104-year-old art museum.
The Castlemaine Art Museum has played host to works from some of Australia’s most renowned – and most controversial – art figures.
- READ MORE: Castlemaine Art Museum to stay open
New youth theatre company’s debut is a success
Theatre’s popularity and importance in Bendigo was underlined in April when a new youth theatre company was launched.
Joining Nexus Bendigo Youth Theatre as one of two youth theatre company in the city, BTC’s Tribe Youth Theatre had success with their first production, Barnum.
Featuring a young cast that could sing, dance, act and perform circus stunt, Tribe’s youngest cast members – Isla Devers, 9, and Remy Cugura, 11 – winning an excellence award at the Musical Theatre Guild of Victoria awards while choreographer Claire Sexton and lead performer Cedar-Rose Russell were nominated for individual awards.
- READ MORE: Theatre’s key role to play
Echuca-Moama singer performs at Eurovision
After winning the eighth season of The X Factor Australia, Isaiah Firebrace was selected to represent Australia at the world’s biggest song contest – Eurovision.
The Echuca-Moama product performed Don’t Come Easy in Kyiv, Ukraine, and immediately received good reviews as he made his was through the competition to the finals.
He might not have finished as high as Dami Im in 2016 but with a top-10 finish, Isaiah made the rest of his country proud.
- READ MORE: Isaiah gives Australia top-10 finish
Nexus brings iconic musical to Bendigo for the first time
Nexus Bendigo Youth Theatre made history in July when they became the first youth theatre group in the southern hemisphere to perform Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera.
Starring Mason Hingston as the Phantom and musical theatre debutants Erin Mannix and Kody Austin as Christine and Raoul, Nexus (led by director Julie Lovell) filled The Capital the grand and haunting performances. Austin was nominated for a Musical Theatre Guild of Victoria award for his performance.
The young cast of 65 did not lack support with the musical’s composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and other theatre stars sending good luck messages.
- READ MORE: Cast stunning in Phantom
Veteran theatre company moves to Bendigo
Continuing to show theatre’s growing prominence in central Victoria, the announcement that Arena Theatre Company will operate as Bendigo’s Capital Venues and Events first resident theatre company was exciting.
The youth-focused company was founded in 1968 and was Melbourne based until a loss in Federal funding and a new strategy combined to see Arena move to become a regionally-based professional theatre company.
Ulumbarra will host the world premiere of Arena Theatre Company’s first production since moving to Bendigo next year when it presents Robot Song – a production that will create discussion around autism while telling the story of the relationship between a girl named Juniper and a robot.
Iconic local band reunites for one gig
Albert “Skip” Skipper, Tyson Hodges, Dan Guille and Colin Thompson last played as Ethanol in 2010.
After a Facebook plea sparked the idea of a reunion, the group that formed in 1999 and produced producing two studio albums and a live album returned to their spiritual home at the Golden Vine.
“We were never big, but we were fun and had a good crew of loyal followers, both here and, to a certain degree, in Melbourne,” Thompson said.
“There were some wicked nights in venues of all sizes. Our home games at the Vine and at the Newy though were probably the best fun of all though.”
- READ MORE: Bendigo band Ethanol reunite for one gig
Local band features at Groovin the Moo
Bendigo band Tusk’s addition to the Groovin the Moo was a welcome highlight.
In 2016, fire tore through their Bamawm studio resulting in the loss of $40,000 worth of music equipment and a computer with recordings and lyrics saved on it.
The three-piece rock band played bands including The Wombats, The Darkness, Methyl Ethel, Thundamentals, the Smith Street Band and Tash Sultana.