In the late 1990’s a study of resident’s in the Bellarine Peninsula, conveyed a genuine love of performing arts and a clear need and want of all things creative. So the concept for a theatre and arts hub took shape, as did the plans for what was to become the Potato Shed. The official opening took place on 14 March, 2001 and since that time what it would represent and what it achieves today, far outweighs any of the initial expectations. It has become a seriously thriving creative hub with so much on offer and something for everyone…
Annually, the Potato Shed enjoys approximately 110,000 -112,000 visits into its bright and welcoming façade. An intimate and relaxing theatre proudly hosts 2-3 productions each month throughout its annual theatre season, along with a highly popular and well attended ‘Morning Showtime’ series. Add to this a variety of theatre productions aimed at children throughout the school holidays and it is consistently well attended and extremely well received.
Behind the scenes productions are already being negotiated for the 2021 and 2022 theatre seasons and are offered by a variety of theatre houses including HIT Productions, Melbourne Theatre Company and Adelaide Cabaret Festival. In addition the Potato Shed annually attends the Victorian Performing Arts Centre Association’s Theatre showcase event. This provides an array of theatre offerings, a show expo and creative installations for local and interstate theatres to add to their season’s offerings.
A demand by high quality production houses to present their offerings at Potato Shed, along with a well-researched and negotiated list of theatrical offerings, ensures a wide and loyal group of consistent theatre goers. They travel far and wide and beyond the Bellarine and consist widely in age and interest and are both locals and tourists. They also keep coming back for a wonderful relaxed atmosphere and an intimate theatre experience which in many cases can be enjoyed mingling with actors and crew at the end of the show. Access to the venue is easy as is parking, another big tick for a must do Potato Shed experience. You can also now book online, which is a fantastic and recent addition, and being well embraced by theatre goers who are booking early morning and late at night and clearly loving the convenience.
However it is not only all things theatre on offer at this creative hotspot. The Potato Shed are also in partnership with local schools: St Ignatius and Bellarine Secondary College. Both schools utilize their facilities for Dance, Drama and Music classes. St Thomas Primary School utilize the venue for both before and after school care and an abundance of music, dance, drama and general interest classes fill the halls from 7am to 11pm daily. It offers a busy and buzzing creative environment, which is at 98% capacity and is a strong and much loved and relied upon community hub.
With this comes a major need for an increase in the current in-house facilities and offerings. So negotiations are currently under way aimed at increasing the current size and facilities by 110%. These will be inclusive of a further fully equipped state of the art theatre, as well as a number of music and dance studios due to the high and ongoing demand. The drive towards these changes are being well lead by Theatre Manager Rob Macleod and his team, along with council representative, Councillor Mason who was recently quoted as saying ‘The Potato Shed plays a vital role in the cultural, social and educational development of the Bellarine. It offers the local community a space and the freedom to create, display and engage in art of all persuasions. It is a highly successful partnership model between, council, the community and Bellarine Secondary College and St Ignatius College. In fact, it’s been so successful that some expansion of the facilities is necessary to make it more cost effective for any diverse programs. The original master plan is to be revised given the changing circumstances. This would be great for the Bellarine community and beyond.’
Finally Potato Shed are proactively reducing their footprint and impact on the environment. A well-managed internal drive is paving the way for minimal wastage onsite, the abolishing of plastic of any sort is not far away and led globes will dominate lighting throughout the venue. Solar Panels have also been given the go ahead and will adorn the rooftops in the not too distant future.
Yes, indeed, the Potato Shed really is a thriving metropolis of all things arts and creative. It is a much loved Bellarine icon and it looks like its star is going to shine even brighter with the plan for future redevelopment. So be sure to watch this space and do drop in and enjoy a relaxed and welcoming creative environment which is guaranteed to keep you coming back for more...
Images - Ivan Kemp
Story - Trudi Bondarenko