Young Was Man Behind MEC; Opera Singer and Australian Theatre Pioneer John Young Left His Mark on Mackay's Arts and Culture

Article excerpt

KATIE

FEDOSENKO

HISTORY WRITER

news@dailymercury.com.au

ALTHOUGH Australian theatre pioneer and former opera singer John Young only spent a handful of years in Mackay, he left a lasting legacy in his establishment of our entertainment centre (MECC) and founding of the Mackay Festival of the Arts.

Mr Young's career began on a stage in New Zealand when he was five years old. His mother was in the theatre business, and encouraged Mr Young to study singing.

C[pounds sterling]I started as a boy soprano and then came over to Australia,C[yen] Mr Young said.

C[pounds sterling]After becoming an opera singer with the Elizabethan Theatre Trust Opera Company, I went into theatre administration. In other words, I've had a reasonably full life.C[yen]

Following years in opera administration, Mr Young took over the old Theatre Royal in Hobart, Tasmania and ran it for four years. It's the oldest theatre in Australia and it's still operating, he said.

Mr Young left Hobart to begin planning theatres throughout Australia.

His first theatre was the Seymour Centre in Sydney.

C[pounds sterling]I had about two and a half years with the architects and the management before that opened,C[yen] he said.

After opening theatres in Orange, NSW and in Ayr, Queensland, Mr Young was brought to Mackay in 1984 by city council to work on the construction and management of a new theatre, which became the Mackay Entertainment Centre.

Although the ABC regularly hosted concerts in the Theatre Royal, Mackay was in need of a contemporary theatre venue.

The new theatre was built from the ground up.

C[pounds sterling]When I arrived, the base of the theatre the concrete pour and some of the outside were up; that was all,C[yen] Mr Young said.

Apart from directing construction, Mr Young set up the theatre management structure and coordinated staffing.

From altering the bar foyer to installing a computer system, Mr Young had plenty of recommendations for creating a top-notch theatre.

C[pounds sterling]What I had to say was generally accepted and we made whatever alterations were necessary,C[yen] he said.

The good thing was that the architects (Sanders, Ellik and Associates) were on the spot, just over on the other side of the park.

When he took the helm of the centre, Mr Young was determined to both fully equip the centre to ensure its versatility for users and to create a C[pounds sterling]soulC[yen] with which the people of Mackay district would identify. …