The Manning Entertainment Centre, also known as the MEC, is a 505-seat theatre in Taree, that serves the residents of the MidCoast and beyond.
The Centre was built as a bicentennial project in 1987 and has a long history of attracting the highest quality performers to the region including The Australian Ballet, Dame Joan Sutherland, Circus Oz, Bell Shakespeare Company and The Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
Additionally, the Manning Entertainment Centre is an important asset for local performers, with regular use by local schools, dance schools and groups including the Taree Arts Council, Manning Valley Choral Society and Taree & District Eisteddfod.
The biggest structural change to date at the MEC came in 2005 with the completion of the fly tower.
In 2018 MidCoast Council successfully applied for funding to design and build the new studio space through the NSW Government’s Regional Cultural Fund. The selection process for the designer resulted in Austin McFarland Architects being appointed.
In September 2020 Council approved the studio addition and in April 2021 Reeman Construction Pty Ltd was appointed the construction contract with work beginning shortly after.
The design, construction and fit-out of the new studio space in the MEC is funded jointly by Council, the community and both the State and Federal Governments.
Stephen Bromhead announced in 2018 that the NSW Government’s Regional Cultural Fund would provide $1.55million to the project and Dr David Gillespie announced in December 2020 that the Federal Government would inject $1million into the project, from the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program.
A very generous bequest from the estate of June Neruda Flett in 2007, specifically earmarked for the maintenance or improvement of the Manning Entertainment Centre makes up the remaining funds. June’s only request was that any use of the funds acknowledge her mother, Beryl Jane Flett.
At the Council meeting on 28 April 2021, MidCoast Councillors unanimously agreed to name the new facility the ‘Beryl Jane Flett Studio’ in honour of June and Beryl.
Check out the video below about the existing Manning Entertainment Centre below in the 'Arts Mid North Coast - Venues Guide'.
About the new studio space
The state of the art, multi-purpose new studio space is approximately 660m2. The flat floor will enable room to be configured to accommodate smaller scale events such as meetings, events, small conferences, trade fairs, etc.
The space will allow intimate and versatile performances by local and visiting producers, seating up to 150 people, to complement the existing 500 seat main auditorium.
It will be perfect for small professional touring productions such as cabaret, comedy, film screenings, and chamber and contemporary music that local audiences are not currently able to experience due to the lack of a suitable venue in the region.
The studio will also be capable of supporting large events and performances that require multiple spaces for rehearsal, break-out space or performance space.
Check out the before, construction and after images of the MEC below.
What will the project include?
- An auditorium with a minimum floor space of 400m2 to accommodate roughly 200 people.
- Retractable seating for up to 150 people
- Portable stage
- Front of House facilities including commercial kitchen, toilets and portico between existing MEC foyer and new auditorium
- Back of house facilities including toilets and dressing rooms
- Audio and cinema projection equipment
- Covered loading dock
- Suitable Control Room for Theatrical Equipment Operation
- Versatile rigging system to cater for a range of different shows
- Landscaping, footpaths and any other associated external works (including impacts on parking).
Check out some photos below of what an artist's impression of the future MEC will look like upon project completion.
Check out the photos below for construction progress on the exciting new studio space at the MEC.
21 September update
31 August update