On 17 February, 3500 members of Australia’s music industry, from Midnight Oil to the Canberra Symphony Orchestra, signed an open letter to the federal government about the dire state of live entertainment. As they pointed out, live music alone is currently at four percent of pre-COVID levels due to lockdowns, border closures and socially distant audiences.

So now seems the wrong time to open a music-focused performance venue. Not according to Andrew Kay, owner of the Brunswick Ballroom, which hosted its first show on 25 February, a week after that letter gave many others pause.

Andrew Kay and venue director Will Ewing in the Brunswick Ballroom. Photograph © Nicole Cleary

Tonight and tomorrow (4 and 5 March), the new performance venue presents its Opening Gala, hosted by Eddie Perfect and Margot Tanjutco. Produced by Tinderbox Productions, the Gala will be directed by Dean Bryant with musical direction by Isaac Hayward. Performers include jazz singer, cabaret artiste and gender transcendent diva Mama Alto, leading actor Bert LaBonté, Indigenous performer, composer and songwriter Jess Hitchcock, writer and performer Ash Flanders, performer and composer/lyricist Vidya Makan,...