Griffin Theatre Company to purchase SBW Stables Theatre thanks to landmark philanthropic gift

Griffin-Theatre-Company-Launch-2020-photo-by-Ken-LeanforeFor the first time in the Company’s 42 year history, Griffin Theatre Company will own its own home: the SBW Stables Theatre in Kings Cross. The purchase of the iconic theatre has been made possible by a multi-million dollar donation from The Neilson Foundation, the largest single philanthropic gift in Griffin’s history.

“The generosity of the Neilson’s is truly extraordinary, with many arts companies benefiting from their support,” said Bruce Meagher, Griffin Chair. “It’s hard to imagine another company where the impact of that support will be as profound as for Griffin. We are small but we play a vital role in the Australian cultural ecology.”

“The story of Griffin is one of generous philanthropic support. It started when Dr Rodney Seaborn saved the Stables in 1986 to make a home for Griffin, continued when great supporters such as the Girgensohn Foundation stepped in to plug a funding gap following cuts in 2016, and was obvious in the tremendous support we received during COVID.”

“This gift from the Neilson Foundation is a game changer that will make us the master of our own destiny into the future,” said Mr Meagher.

“After the turmoil and disruption of lockdowns and restrictions in the last few years, we believe that opportunities for connection and exploration are more important than ever. Theatre allows people to explore new perspectives, stories and ideas in ways that digital media will never,” said Kerr Neilson, The Neilson Foundation.

“Our landmark gift of $5 million toward the redevelopment of the Griffin theatre demonstrates our commitment to this intimate performance space where audiences and artists can share these valuable experiences. We look forward to seeing the next phase for Griffith theatre as it thrives as a cultural and creative hub,” said Mr Neilson.

The Neilson Foundation’s extraordinary act of generosity allows Griffin to fully own and operate its landmark Sydney theatre, and supports a recently announced major redevelopment of the theatre, designed by the award-winning Tim Greer of Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects.

The NSW Government has announced funding of $5 million which will be supported by the Company’s own capital fundraising campaign for the redevelopment of the space. The new theatre’s capacity will be 44% larger and fully accessible, with an improved dressing room and a brand-new rehearsal space.

“Though the SBW Stables is tiny, Griffin holds an outsized responsibility in Australian theatre – as our nation’s theatrical home for stories about us, for us, and by us,” said Declan Greene, Griffin Artistic Director.

“But there have been many times over the last four decades that this mission has been threatened in some way or another… Be it funding cuts, threats of eviction, or just the general trials and tribulations of staging plays in a 100+ year old horse stables.”

“In this landmark moment in the company’s history, the Neilson’s have made it possible to hold this mission in perpetuity. This is an extraordinary gift to the current custodians of Griffin, and to our predecessors.”

“But it is also a gift to the generations of playwrights and theatre artists who are yet to be nurtured and supported by a company that is, in so many ways, the theatre of first chances,” said Mr Greene.

The much-loved SBW Stables has been Griffin’s home for over 40 years and has launched many extraordinary careers. Cate Blanchett and Jacqueline McKenzie began their professional careers at Griffin.

The films Lantana, The Boys, The Heartbreak Kid and Holding the Man were based on plays produced by the company. Away by Michael Gow, Australia’s most produced contemporary play, was first staged by Griffin at the SBW Stables Theatre.

Visionary philanthropist Dr. Rodney Seaborn saved the Stables in 1986 when it was up for sale and risked demolition. The Stables was purchased for $200,000 by The Seaborn, Broughton & Walford Foundation who generously offered Griffin Theatre Company use of the theatre rent-free, which has continued to this day.

Griffin Theatre Company will take ownership of the building from SBW Foundation in October 2022. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Griffin Theatre Company Launch 2020 – photo by Ken Leanfore