Steve Kettle never saw himself as a Harry M. Miller type, organising concerts, and certainly not Jake and Elwood of the Blues Brothers 1980 movie fame who caused mayhem trying to get their band back together. Not many retired bank managers like Steve fit their description.
However, in his quiet way Steve achieved something special that deserves to enter the Hall Hall of Fame, if there is such a thing.
Ever been in a small town community hall? In some, the closest hint to life is the picture of Her Majesty; maybe remnants of frayed string that once tied a balloon stuck to the rafter by a drawing pin from the last golden anniversary afternoon tea.
Some may say the Mount Compass Memorial Hall was in danger of heading that direction, but thanks to Steve, an amazing bunch of volunteers and passionate locals it is packed once or twice a month by the Supper Club. It is an inspiring example of a simple idea and community spirit, and Steve was actually like Jake and Elwood – he too was on a mission.
The challenge was getting locals back into their hall for whatever reason, so on a cold Friday night May, 2010 without any money or clues to this entertainment world he thought of inviting people to come along to the hall’s supper room – hence now the Supper Club – and have a nice country-style meal and listen to a local ‘muso’ Leigh Marshall.
Tickets were pre-sold, and if it were to make a loss Leigh generously said he would perform for nothing. The idea was to use the funds raised to create something arty or perhaps another form of production – anything to get them into the hall on a regular basis.
“The hall was packed,” Steve recalled. “It took volunteers, perhaps some who had never done something like this before, to somehow make a stage from old pallets on which Leigh could perform.
“We had no equipment. People had their own card tables for the first few sessions because we didn’t have any. Leigh was terrific. He can sing anything you want; he’s such a talented artist.
“At the end of the night everyone got up, put the chairs away, took the stage apart and swept the floor. It was a huge success.”
So good, they did it again a fortnight later, sometimes monthly. This hall, rebuilt by locals 60 years ago, and expanded in April, 2016 with assistance from the Alexandrina Council and amazingly $550,000 raised by the community, has continued to be the eye of this amazing community spirit.
In those early days a successful night was attracting 30 people. Now, there might be as many as 160. People say wouldn’t miss the Supper Club for quids, but it’s not about Carole’s slices and Jo’s stunning cheese platters, and as good as Leigh lives up to the rap he gets in these parts, this is purely about a community getting to know each other and having a great time. It’s not about self-promotion either, supported by the fact that no one on the committee has a title; they all come under a category of ‘co-ordinators’.
Steve, who stayed on the committee for three and a half years but continued to support the event, said the night became so popular that it needed to move into the bigger hall. “This meant providing meals was even more difficult,” Steve said. “Most nights people bring something or they’d buy a plate of cakes or a cheese platter prepared by volunteers in the kitchen.
“This has always been about getting a community together. We wanted the hall used and everyone felt so good when we started attracting locals who had never been inside. It created so much town spirit, and from these nights an art group started meeting here, and now that has got bigger.
“We needed special installation for the acoustics so the art group created these designs on them to make it look nice. Steve Brown is a house painter and he painted the roof for free… he’s probably got the best voice in the state.”
Steve Brown on stage on this particular Saturday night performing with his band, and everyone was having a great time. “All of the musos tell us they like to come here because they feel the community spirit; it makes them feel good,” Steve Kettle said.
Adding to this revolution of culture in downtown Mount Compass was the fact the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra performed one Saturday night several years ago. Again after that memorable occasion and like every time Stevo the painter sings his heart out, the locals packed up the tables and chairs, and swept the floor. And each time this wonderful committee with no official names organises another liquor licence and the entertainment for the next riveting Supper Club night. Look for the sign on the main road.
These days Tim Newberry and Andrew Petherbridge are seen as the leading co-ordinators of this fabulous routine – they’re hard-working and passionate about these events. Tim’s wife Jo joins others helping out in the kitchen, and as much as the community spirit appears to have an endless flow, like anything a few extra helpers would be welcomed.
Andrew describes Mount Compass as the heart of the Fleurieu. “We have a very close knit community spirit and that is reflected by the fact that the hall and oval were built and managed by the community. That’s unique to South Australia, particularly the Fleurieu. A great example is the people here tonight.”
Both Andrew and Tim said they could not sing the praises enough of everyone involved over the years, and the community for its support. But rest assured Leigh Marshall could; as Steve Kettle said, “he can sing anything”.