HUNTER School of the Performing Arts’ binishell building to be replaced by multipurpose facility

Excited: The upgrade was announced in Jo Gray's first term as HSPA principal. She has been part of regular project reference group meetings, which involve all stakeholders - including students. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
Excited: The upgrade was announced in Jo Gray's first term as HSPA principal. She has been part of regular project reference group meetings, which involve all stakeholders - including students. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

HUNTER School of the Performing Arts’ binishell is on borrowed time, as construction starts on the new multipurpose facility to replace it.

Principal Jo Gray said there was a “real buzz around the place” as 1176 students at the state’s only fully selective performing arts school watch the work that started last month on the combined gymnasium and performing arts facility forge ahead. 

It will have a full performance stage, a mezzanine level for extra seating, large LED screens, a wing with two dance studios and a dance workshop, plus another wing with two drama studios and a drama workshop.

“Our students are magnificent and they’re learning in not so magnificent facilities – demountables and converted classrooms – and these new spaces are going to be state of the art,” Ms Gray said.

“They’re already very motivated kids and I think this will enhance their motivation.

“The last development was the Hunter Theatre 10 years ago, so we do have very professional spaces to perform final concerts in, but this will be a professional space to prepare in. 

“Access to practical spaces is so tight at the moment and this will free that up. 

“Despite the hideousness of the bini, they’re sad to see it go – it’s a real icon and a Newcastle landmark.”

Binishells were designed in the 1960s and named after their Italian inventor Dante Bini. 

The NSW Department of Education built 14 binishells in the 1970s, including at Hunter Sports High, which demolished its binishell in 2016, HSPA and Callaghan College Jesmond Campus.

Ms Gray said she was “delighted” to see the “eyesore” go.

“Maintenance is a giant issue with painting and plumbers need to knock holes in it to get to pipes.

“The cockatoos are stripping it off, if we left it long enough they’d do it for us.

“It’s had its day – a performing arts school needs to have professional performance spaces, and the bini is not one of them.”

Ms Gray said the school had set aside $100,000 to match the parents and citizens (P&C) pledge of $70,000 and the P&C’s music sub-committee pledge of $30,000 to upgrade the music facilities located throughout the school.

She said the new multipurpose facility was being built on the site of a grassed area and an outdoor sports court, which will be relocated next to an existing outdoor court that will also be refurbished.

The department said the construction of the new court and the demolition of the binishell were planned for the Christmas holidays.

The project is expected to be completed by early 2019. Students will sit their Higher School Certificate written exams at McDonald Jones Stadium. 

The department is hosting an information session in the binishell about the school upgrade, 3pm to 6pm, August 13.

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