Jazz afternoons will be held once a month on Coledal RSL's deck as part of its live music program.

Almost a year after launching a GoFundMe campaign to stave off closure, Coledale RSL has been revitalised through a diversification of its offer – including a new focus on live music.

In mid-2022, the RSL in Wollongong was much in need of a cash injection after a change in its local demographics meant that gaming in the venue had dramatically decreased. While a GoFundMe campaign raised $6000, it wasn’t enough to keep the venue open and the club’s board announced in early December that it would cease trading.

In February this year at an Extraordinary General Meeting, Coledale RSL club members voted to sell a minimum of six of its 12 EGMs to fund the club’s reopening. At the same meeting all club memberships were extended for an extra year.

“We are pleased to announce that the motion to sell poker machines to fund the reopening of the Club has been passed unanimously,” a Club statement read.

“Lots of hard work ahead to reopen, but it’s going to be worth it.”

With the help of more than 70 volunteers, Coledale RSL Club was able to open on the Easter long weekend in early April. A large part of the strategy to reopen has been around diversifying its offer for the local community, which includes a lot of sea-changers. A big part of the focus has been on live music, with its gaming floor and TAB area making way for a stage and dancefloor.

The club’s volunteers – led by now operations manager David Lynch and Board member Mel Ellery – worked with live music organisations like OneMusic and APRA AMCOS to help reinvent itself as a place to enjoy some music over a drink or a meal.

As part of this new focus, Coledale RSL now regularly hosts heritage acts and emerging artists, hosts fortnightly open mic nights, has installed DJ spin decks on the dancefloor for weekends, and hosts jazz afternoons on its deck once a month. The club has also connected with other local entertainment venues to create a regional ‘tour’ mentality.

“APRA AMCOS and OneMusic have been supportive in helping us with our licensing… with investigating what grants are achievable… as a venue it’s good to know [these bodies] are a phone call away for help,” stated Ellery.

She shared her advice for other community-run spaces in need of a rethink.

“Have a vision of what you want to be known for, what are the gaps to achieving that and start kicking off one milestone at a time. Let members of the community have a voice and don’t stop inviting that voice in.” 

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