Blenheim takes centre stage for Billy show

BACK THEN: Billy Connolly amusing a packed out Trafalgar Centre audience in 2009.
BACK THEN: Billy Connolly amusing a packed out Trafalgar Centre audience in 2009.

Blenheim is not only taking Nelson's Billy Connolly show, it's also using the stage from Nelson's Trafalgar Centre.

The promoter of the comedian's 12-centre tour is shifting his Nelson show to Blenheim because the Trafalgar Centre has closed and an alternative venue at the Saxton Stadium could not be sorted in time.

It is among a series of events that are having to be moved, or being cancelled, because of the Trafalgar Centre closure.

Nelson City Council decided last month to close it because of earthquake risk. The council is waiting for a report which will go to its next meeting on February 27, but mayor Rachel Reese said today the centre was likely to remain shut for a year to 18 months.

Promoter Ian Magan said the decision to close the venue had come as a bit of a shock. "It threw us into a panic, we already had the thing ready to go."

He said they had worked with council staff on finding an alternative but it would have taken too long.

Instead the show will be held at Stadium 2000 in Blenheim on May 9.

Mr Magan said they were hiring some of the Trafalgar Centre staging and trucking it to Blenheim and back at a cost of about $3000. Special seating was also having to be put into the Blenheim venue to meet concert standard, with tickets costing between $79 and $99. It would end up with about 2200 seats, similar to the Trafalgar Centre.

Connolly had been keen to come to Nelson, where he last played six years ago. "He loved it and he very much wants to come back," said Mr Magan.

Ms Reese said for an event for more than 950 people to operate at the Saxton Stadium a safety report needed to be done, and it was not expected to be completed for up to two weeks. The promoter needed to get on because ticket sales needed to be made.

"It's not good to lose events, that's the reason we took some time to make the decision to close the building; the decision was not taken lightly. While we're aware of the impact, a lot of effort is going into finding alternative venues."

Mr Magan said other events scheduled for Nelson that would be affected included the Seekers 50th anniversary tour and the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra.

"This has changed everything. We are only one promoter; there are others using the centre as well," he said.

Mr Magan, who has been in the industry for 39 years, said: "Your city has a huge problem, it does not have a theatre and it has been ignored for too long."

Nelson's Stage Challenge will be a casualty of the Trafalgar Centre closure. Ms Reese said it could not be held at Saxton Stadium because of its schedule so would not be held in Nelson this year. Gym Sports would go to Blenheim and others being shifted to Saxton's schedule include the Giants basketball, a Tactix netball game, the Nelson Regional Art Initiative, the cat show, the Home and Garden show, the local government conference dinner for up to 605 guests, and the Blokes Day Out.

Ms Reese said the report due to the council on February 27 would give options for further decisions on what needed to be done for earthquake strengthening and other work. At this point demolition was not being canvassed as an option.

"What we need to clarify is what we need to do to get the building open and how quickly we can do it," she said.

There was a proposal for a $10 million northern extension to the Trafalgar Centre and while it was closed, it was an opportunity to get it finished.

"My personal view is that if we had a scaled-down version of the northern extension design that may be more appropriate, given the cost we are going to have for earthquake strengthening."


Events affected by Trafalgar Centre closure:

❏ Tactix and Giants transfer to Saxton Stadium

❏ Bill Haley and the Comets, to Theatre Royal

❏ Stage Challenge cancelled

❏ Cat show to Saxton Art expo to Saxton

❏ Gym Sports to Blenheim

❏ Contractors Federation dinner looking at alternative venues

❏ Local government dinner transferred to Saxton

❏ Blokes Day Out to Saxton

❏ Irish Rovers to Nelson College hall

❏ Home and Garden show to Saxton

❏ Fight for Victory, not confirmed

The Nelson Mail