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Championing the arts in Gladys Moncrieff’s hometown

Moving to Bundaberg to run an arts centre named after one of our greatest stars has been a revelation for Paul Dellit and for this thriving regional Queensland city.

Normie Rowe, Paul Dellit and Jade Hurley at the Moncrieff Entertainment Centre in Bundaberg.

Normie Rowe, Paul Dellit and Jade Hurley at the Moncrieff Entertainment Centre in Bundaberg.

We love our champions in Queensland. One some of you might not know of (possibly because he’s not a sportsperson) is Paul Dellit. In the world of the performing arts, Dellit is absolute star.

And he has rubbed shoulders with plenty of others – such as his childhood hero Angela Lansbury, James Earl Jones and Colin Firth (to mention just a few) during a decades-long career as a theatrical producer, fundraiser, artist advocate, performer and writer.

Now, Bundaberg – 370 kilometres north of Brisbane – is benefiting from that wealth of experience in his current role as manager of the Moncrieff Entertainment Centre, which is situated on Bourbong Street in the heart of this thriving regional city. Since starting there two-and-a-half years ago, Paul Dellit has applied the same commitment to supporting the state sector that was recognised by an Order of Australia Medal in 2017.

“My contribution is sharing the passion,” he says.

Now, in Bundy, as they tend to call it, audience numbers and revenue are back above pre-Covid levels and Dellit’s success has proven that the Queensland capital’s loss (he worked at QPAC prior to going to Bundaberg) has indeed become the thriving regional centre’s gain.

The Moncrieff Entertainment Centre is named after one of the city’s most famous exports, the much-loved Australian singer Gladys Moncrieff, known as “our Glad”. It is a council-managed multi-purpose arts hub that also hosts film screenings, community events, exhibitions, workshops and fundraisers. Currently on display in the foyer is the 1000-brooch collection of internationally-accomplished Bundaberg-born dancer Trevor Green who just happens to be front-of-house manager at the Moncrieff.

Gladys Moncrieff was known as Australia’s first lady of song during a seven-decade career. She gave one of her final performances at the Sydney Opera House’s opening 50 years ago, an anniversary currently being celebrated.

Dellit, 59, is chuffed to be in charge of an entertainment centre named after such an Aussie legend and – who knows? – like Moncrieff, he may find himself adopted as an honorary son. He seems to have settled in nicely and intends to hang around for a while.

“I have been shown a very nice plot in the cemetery,” he quips.

Dellit was thrilled to find a receptive and involved audience within the region’s population of just under 100,000.

“Bundaberg is very culturally active,” he observes. “There’s literally something to do every night. We get people who come to each show at the centre because there’s quality stuff to see.”

That’s reflected in the 20 works curated for the 2024 program, and the introduction of a $90 three-show subscription package comprising Queensland Theatre’s hit Drizzle Boy, the Queensland Ballet on Tour quadruple bill and The 7 Sopranos.

The intimate 800-seat theatre is a big drawcard for patrons.

“Every seat’s a good seat at the Moncrieff,” Dellit pitches. “And every show’s a good show. Some shows are great shows but every show’s a good show.”

And it looks that way from the line-up for 2024. It features First Nations plays The Visitors (Sydney Theatre Company) and From Campfire to Stage Light by Cairns’ JUTE, plus more Queensland talent: A Very Kransky Christmas, Bundaberg-bred Jaden Grogan’s one-man show Jaz and the Big Red Dance Book, Matilda Award-winning musical A Girl’s Guide to World War and Camerata – Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra.

Then there’s 2023 Sydney Piano Competition winner Jeonghwan Kim, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Dave O’Neill, and pop music tributes The Boys from Oz and DOLLY: I Will Always Love You round-out the broad-brush offerings. There are also events for students, families and children and the Moncrieff Entertainment Centre which is very much a community affair.

Dellit is rapt to have other great artists coming through venue hires including Jessica Mauboy, Marcia Hines, Ian Moss, James Reyne and Burn the Floor and Normie Rowe and Jade Hurley who performed in Bundaberg with Dinah Lee in 2022.

Whether for audiences or artists, producers, managers, community groups or schools, in his role at the Moncrieff (or privately behind-the-scenes) Dellit’s priority is creating positive experiences.

During 12 years at QPAC he produced concerts and shows featuring international luminaries such as Patti LuPone and Lea Salonga, among others.

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And this QUT acting graduate is most proud of making a difference for jobbing artists.

One facet of that encompassed his 30-year involvement with the Actors Benevolent Fund – 18 as Queensland president before his relocation to Bundy – to help industry members in need.

“I miss giving back through it,” he reveals. “Helping people is my passion. It’s a tough business.”

Dellit continues to serve the broader artistic community with his daily Facebook posts recognising those whose contribution might otherwise go unacknowledged.

“I hate to be the births, deaths and marriages site, but unless you’re still up there doing it, there’s nothing in the paper, or rarely, about Australian artists when they pass away,” he says. “My thing is to honour the memory and also connect people.”

Not having had much assistance when he was a young actor, Dellit has also mentored musical theatre graduates.

“I miss helping younger people get a foot in the door,” he notes.

Now he is looking at ways of helping nurture budding performers in his adopted hometown, mooting weekend musical theatre workshops with notable Australian stars and creating a Gladys Moncrieff bursary. Then there is Dellit’s own performance career, which has been on the backburner for far too long for those of us familiar with his comic gifts and wicked wit.

“I do miss performing,” he declares. “I feel I’m due for a comeback in some way, shape or form.”

artsbundaberg.com.au/theatre

This article is republished from InReview under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.

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