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Lismore theatre club is born

Brian Fitzsimmons, founder of Lismore Theatre Club
Brian Fitzsimmons, founder of Lismore Theatre Club

IN1970 the Teachers College, Lismore opened for business in the old Lismore High School building on the corner of Keen and Magellan Streets.

It had been a long time coming and many were anxious for it to succeed.

Until then any students wishing to become teachers had to go to Armidale, Brisbane, or Sydney. Usually the choice was Armidale but this was a long way from home for those living on the coastal fringe.

However, the College was founded on a shoestring and for many months after it opened there were no desks or even chairs in the classrooms, no shelves in the library, and very little other equipment, especially for physical education and sporting activities.

Although the College was founded for the benefit of local students only 30% of those enrolled in the first year were from this area. There were many from Sydney and other areas, and many of them were homesick!

Accommodation was limited and soon the students began to feel ostracised.

The staff employed to train these young people came from other Colleges or high schools.

Most were highly trained and anxious to do something to help the students feel more at home.

Sporting teams were established and these participated in local competitions.

But it was in the music and drama activities that the College was to excel.

Shortly after he was appointed Brian Fitzsimmons founded the Lismore Theatre Club and his expertise was to take the Club to great heights in the Lismore cultural calendar.

Brian Fitzsimmons was an English lecturer in the English Department led by Geoff Randall.

His specialty was in drama and he had come to Lismore from the Alexander Mackie Teachers College (Sydney).

With the support of Geoff Randall and other staff members Ray Lawler's "The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll" was produced and presented to the people of Lismore.

The performance was to gain the Arts Council of NSW prize for Best Production of an Australian Play.

Finding a permanent home for the Theatre Club was difficult and performances of various shows over the next few years were at several different venues.

In 1973 the Club Rooms in Keen Street became its home. As this was not a public venue all the audiences were brought in as "temporary members" of the Theatre Club.

In 1975 a more suitable home was founded as the Rochdale Theatre at Goonellabah.

The Rochdale Theatre was established in the old Goonellabah Church or Hall facing Ballina Road.

The Club had had a mighty fight to obtain this building.

The Goonellabah Public School is situated right next door to the Hall and the Education Department wanted to expand by taking over the site and demolishing the Hall.

A fierce battle raged but, with the support of Lismore City Council who took over ownership of the site, the Theatre was secured. The Council leased the Hall back to the Club.

Extensive renovations to the Hall were done including tiered seating. Most of this has been funded by the Club through grants.

Unfortunately, at present there is said to be a problem with the renewal of the lease with Lismore City Council.

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