It is exciting to be opening this beautifully restored building, and to welcome a new arts venue to Sydney. It will be an important element in linking with our Oxford Street Cultural Quarter and provide a new hub for artists and performers.
In 1884, the Woolloomooloo Baptist Church, outgrowing its original home on lower Bourke Street, bought this land. An architect-parishoner, John Stone, drew up the plans for the new church, and the Burton Street Tabernacle was completed in 1887.
It was extended in 1892, and again in 1922, with major internal alterations carried out in 1948, and it remained a centre of worship for over 100 years.
It was, of course, most famously associated with Arthur Stace. Inspired by the words of the Rev John Ridley who wished he could "shout eternity through the streets of Sydney", Stace took up his stick of chalk and, every day for the next 20-plus years, roamed the streets of Sydney inscribing the word Eternity in perfect copperplate. If you want to try it yourself, we have chalkboards out in Kells Lane today where you can try to match Arthur's beautiful hand.
It's said he wrote the word over a million times, so much so that it became recognised as an emblem of Sydney and is replicated through this new theatre.
When the City bought the Tabernacle in 2003, it needed extensive repairs, and following our community consultations, we embarked on a thorough program of works.
These included repairing the roof and laying new Welsh-slate tiles to match the originals, restoring the original decorative timber ceiling, repointing the brickwork and general repairs.
In 2011, we began works to transform the building into the 200-seat Eternity Playhouse. This involved converting the basement for a box office, cafÃ© and bar, and public facilities; creating a new backstage area with dressing rooms, offices and performers' facilities and installing a new foyers, and new stairs and lift to improve accessibility.
We further restored and preserved the building's heritage features while making it more sustainable with energy-efficient lighting, solar panels on the roof and rainwater collection and reuse.
We've spent almost $8 million to restore and convert it to a state-of-the-art theatre which will be a joy for theatre-lovers and which will support new talent and boost local businesses.
We are delighted that the Darlinghurst Theatre Company are taking up residency, and - appropriately - will be launching this new theatre with Arthur Miller's All My Sons, the play that launched Miller's own career. Darlinghurst Theatre staff are here today helping us to make you feel welcome and answer any questions relating to plans for their inaugural season. We will hear from Glenn Terry and actor Robyn Nevin.
Our next project will start just across the road next year, when we re-create Heffron Hall as a new sustainable centre for cultural and community use.
That project will provide multi-purposes community spaces and there will be improved out-of-hours school care for up to 30 children. The building will be accessible, and open up to natural light, as well as to the park, which will also be have landscaping improvements.
I would like to thank the local community who have been patient throughout the Tabernacle's transformation into the Eternity Playhouse and I know you will embrace this new local institution and take pride in it.
I'd also like to thank the Light It Up' Capital Campaign supporters; 'Arts NSW' for their contribution towards the theatre's technical equipment and Darlinghurst Theatre Company staff past and present who have consulted on the project since 2008.
I would especially like to thank our project team:
- Architects Tonkin Zulaikha Greer
- Builders Kane Constructions and, from the City of Sydney,
- Senior Project Manager Samantha Carroll and
- Senior Design Managers, Marcia Morley and Matthew Taylor
You've all done a magnificent job. Thank you.