Farewell to the Gorman House Markets as Arts Centre embarks on a new chapter

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

This Saturday 23 May we say goodbye to Gorman House Markets in its current form. Much loved for many years, and renowned in its heyday as Canberra’s favourite Saturday meeting-place, the markets were established and managed by Gorman Arts Centre in the 1980’s.

Operated by the arts centre itself for close to 20 years, the Saturday markets regularly attracted over 100 stallholders at its peak in the 1990’s. Many regular visitors will hold fond memories of the markets and maintain their affection for the unique heritage and arts character of Gorman House.

A decision was made in the early 2000’s to outsource the markets as a business opportunity, and there followed a succession of private operators. In recent years, with the rise of new cultural and entertainment offerings in Canberra – including several other innovative and highly successful markets – the Gorman House Markets has lost its earlier momentum and is now less than a quarter of its original size.

A sub-licence agreement was signed with the current operator in 2012, which included a heavily subsidised licence fee to assist the markets to remain competitive. This three-year agreement will expire on 27 May 2015, as per the agreement signed by both parties.

Given the changed environment in Canberra, and the renewal and refocussing of direction underway at Gorman Arts Centre, the arts centre has decided not to offer a new sub-licence to the current operator.

Director of Ainslie and Gorman Arts Centres, Joseph Falsone, says:

“With more than 30 resident artists and organisations, including five key arts organisations, Gorman Arts Centre is a vibrant multi-arts facility serving a very large and diverse community. There more than 42,000 people connected on social media to the Centres and their resident organisations. It is a normal part of our operations to continually re-evaluate the mix of activities and residents at the centre, which includes our Board making decisions about sub-licences. It’s our responsibility to consider all aspects of a sub-licence decision to ensure the best outcome.

For the remainder of 2015, the arts centre will not operate markets, nor will it offer a licence to any independent markets operator.

“Gorman Arts Centre is undergoing a major period of renewal. With a clear focus on our mission to deliver innovative arts programming and services, we are overseeing the first significant renovations at the centre in several decades and the relaunch of major venues and arts opportunities. This will mean many more opportunities for artists and the community to experience, use and benefit from the arts centre. It also means we need to prioritise, and to keep a firm eye on our long-term sustainability.”


A new beginning

In June, Ainslie and Gorman Arts Centres will launch one of Canberra’s largest ever call-outs for arts opportunities. This will include the launch of a 200+ seat refurbished music performance space in the heart of Braddon, serviced offices for music organisations, purpose-built tuition pods and refurbished teaching and rehearsal spaces at the Ainslie Arts Centre.

At Gorman Arts Centre there will be a renovated Ralph Wilson Theatre and Main Hall for regular public performances, as well as a Broadband-enabled co-working hub for creative start-ups, a café/lounge opportunity, artists’ studios and venue hire. There will be a noticeable increase in public events and activities led by newly appointed creative producers. Large areas of the centre that have been underutilised and poorly equipped for over a decade will be brought back to life.

“The infrastructure, creative program and event opportunities we are about to launch will be immensely positive for the local arts community, and will meet critical needs that are not currently being served. This will more than occupy our small team’s resources for the remainder of the year. It’s an exciting agenda as we lead Ainslie and Gorman Arts Centres into a new era.”

Ainslie and Gorman Arts Centres wishes all the very best to the markets operator and stallholders in their future endeavours and looks to providing new and exciting opportunities to the local community into the future.

  • Photo: Adam Thomas