submitted by Peter Makarthis on 02.11.2009
Roxy restoration pays homage to Greek café culture
Thursday 29rd October 2009
Member for Northern Tablelands Richard Torbay with Roxy Theatre Manager Sandy McNaughton in the old Greek café which will be restored to its original art deco splendour.The project to restore the Roxy Café in Bingara has attracted interest from descendents of Greek migrants across the east coast of Australia, Member for Northern Tablelands Richard Torbay has told Parliament.
He said the original Greek café culture which had been a phenomenon of almost every country town had virtually disappeared with the advent of fast food outlets and modernising of premises by developers.
Federal funding of $750,000 announced this month will see the Roxy Café return to something close to the original art deco splendor which made it the most popular eating place in town when it opened as an adjunct to the 470 seat Roxy Theatre in 1936.
Both the cinema and the café were built by a syndicate of three Greek migrant businessmen from the island of Kythera.
Like the Theatre the Roxy Café was built on a grand scale but after 1959 both fell on hard times and lost their original cachet. In 1999 the then Bingara Shire Council purchased the theatre to restore and re-open it. The State Government contributed $205,000 towards the project and in 2004 Premier Bob Carr opened the building and announced a further $40,000 to replace the original roof.
“Since that time the theatre has proved an outstanding success as a cinema and venue for live theatre and community events, attracting patrons from across the region,” Mr Torbay said.
More recently Gwydir Shire Council purchased the Café. Roxy Theatre Manager Sandy McNaughton has tracked down original art deco fittings and furniture from a Greek café run for many years by the Fardouly family in Inverell. These will be installed at the new Roxy. In rooms above the café, which formerly accommodated staff, memorabilia and photographs recording Greek café culture in Australia will be on display.
“There is now a general recognition that this is an important part of our heritage and there is already enormous interest from the Greek community around the east coast in the Bingara project,” Mr Torbay said. “It is destined to become a major tourist attraction.”
The Café itself will not be a museum. It will revert to its original use to cater for audiences and groups who use the theatre and for community events. Gwydir Shire Council in conjunction with the Gwydir Learning Region is also looking to incorporate a Trade Training Centre for Hospitality in the restored venue. The program will be run in collaboration with the New England Institute of TAFE, the University of New England, Bingara Central School and the Warialda High School.
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