By Tamara Howie
There are really only two ways into Darwin, and if you haven’t spent days on the road up the Stuart Highway, chances are you’ve flown into Darwin International Airport (DIA), along with 2.2 million passengers annually.
The airport received a $70 million facelift three years ago, and has recently undergone another transformation with a new venture not seen at any other Australian airport.
In August, DIA opened The Green Room, a tropical-themed performance space inside the terminal designed to welcome newcomers with Top End arts and culture, and provide a vibrant new entertainment venue for locals.
The floral wallpaper, lush green plants, and retro-inspired furniture speak to the original furnishings of the historic pub of the same name in the former Hotel Darwin.
Then and now: The original Green Room (left) was the inspiration for Darwin International Airport’s new performance space.
The lounge area surrounds a stage and two large digital screens showcasing local musicians’ film clips and snapshots of other arts organisations’ projects.
Project manager Claire Punch said the venue is an extension of the investment the airport already contributes to Top End arts organisations.
“We wanted to create a space that was dedicated to showcasing arts and culture in the NT,” she says.
“We wanted to create an environment where people feel welcome to spend time – whether dropping off friends and family, or simply dropping into The Green Room to see live music.”
Unlike many other airports, Darwin Airport is unique in that it’s in the centre of a geographically small city. There are no long drives when going to the airport and quick and easy access to the terminal.
This means if there’s a gig both locals and travellers want to see, the effort expended is hardly more than for any other local venue.
The airport has long-standing relationships with Top End arts organisations, which is something DIA chief executive Ian Kew sees as more than simply financial sponsorship.
“Long ago, we identified arts and culture as being a fundamental part of our diverse and colourful community,” he says.
“We want these community partnerships to be meaningful – we consider ourselves collaborators and friends, rather than just sponsors.
“The Green Room was really a two-pronged approach – to enhance the experience of our customers, and to show our support to arts and culture in the NT.
“We wanted to create a welcoming place, reflective of the Top End’s tropical, laid back lifestyle.
“We are spoilt here in the NT – it’s only fair that we share this with our customers.”
Punch says the idea was to “bring the outside in” and create a tropical oasis in the terminal, inspired by the original Green Room.
“The name ‘Green Room’ was thrown around early in the planning, for it’s obvious connection to a live performance venue – and it kind of stuck,” she says.
“We then began to research the theming of the original Green Room in Hotel Darwin, and immediately recognised it would be a fantastic foundation for the look and feel of our Darwin Airport Green Room.
“The team felt it beautifully reflected our welcoming community and lifestyle.”
Other Australian airports have created pop-up venues, but only to coincide with major events. This is the first time an Australian airport has created a dedicated performance and arts venue within its terminal.
Currently local musicians take over the space every Friday lunchtime – a peak time for travellers – and special events are also held in the space.
Spun Stories – a NT community storytelling event and podcast – recently live broadcast their sold out Darwin Festival show to a packed-out crowd in The Green Room.
Spun creative producer Lori Uden said the feedback about the venue was overwhelmingly positive and it was great to have a new entertainment venue in the northern suburbs.
“People said they loved the plants and the feeling of nature inside and said it was a really well-designed space,” she says.
“It’s a really clever idea to try and get people engaged with the airport, whether they’re waiting for a flight or for someone coming home, or just locals who live in the area who want to see cool events.”
Tamara Howie is a freelance journalist.