Civic HallShow map

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Civic Hall Memories 1950s - 1980s Merle Hathaway While I don't remember the opening of the Civic Hall, my father certainly sang at its opening in 1956. And I may have too, as I was as a young child a member of 3BA Choristers, and they sang at the afternoon concerts for schools the following day. My parents took me to many concerts of famous international singers and pianists, and even my first opera. I remember sometimes falling asleep in the latter parts of the concerts across their laps. Later I performed in South Street Eisteddfod - singing, elocution and choirs, and we also went there to hear the plays and Sun Aria contest, one year won by a young Kiri Te Kanawa. As children we got bored waiting for our performances and would explore the maze of dressing rooms and backstage. Right at the top level was the caretakers flat. It was such a strange sight to us with its doormat and domesticity in the middle of a vast theatre. We would sometimes tap at the door and run like mad to hide in a dressing room - but no-one ever came out to chastise us anyway! My father performed in the Mikado with Ballarat light Opera Company in the Lower Hall. It was quite popular for the local groups - it only seated about 400. But when Her Majesty's was almost lost, the local music theatre companies went there for their shows to ensure its future. It's sad that the same neglect has followed with the Civic Hall. The Civic Hall seemed very grand to me. I remember women in furs and the Ladies Cloakroom upstairs with a whole room for hanging coats. At interval we would buy elegantly packaged chocolates from the snackers which cleverly opened up into the main hall as well as the foyer. It was always packed in those days. I went to my first ball there - a School of Mines Ball. The art students had made a coffin to carry in their bottles and I had so much whisky & coke that a lot of the night was spent in the loos! I also went to the dances there, one of the last being INXS. Michael Hutchence was so hot and I danced wildly with the others up near the front. It was great having such a large space. You could sit in the balcony and watch or be on the huge dance floor. Probably thousands were at that concert. One of the last times I went there was to demonstrate 1850s dances with Sovereign Hill Heritage Dancers. It was great having the space with our wide crinoline and dances such as the Galloped and Polka. We had been used to practising in the small theatre at Sovereign Hill, and when we had to do the charge of the Galloped down the whole length of the Civic Hall we were exhausted! Perhaps around this time I was a member of the Tourism Board and we held a large Holiday Destination expo there, with many stalls filling the area. Sadly towards the end (late 1980s perhaps) the Hall was needing a facelift. The paint was still the mushroom and beige, and it seemed very dated. Of course fashions change and the 50s are very "in" now. I'd love to see the Rockabilly festival staged there. It would be perfect. You could even have car and bike shows there - as they did in the past. It will be criminal if this Council pursues its current plan to destroy the functionality of the Civic Hall by demolishing most of the Lower Hall (which removes the dressing rooms for both halls), loss of the main stage, and giving over the building to the Library. It's a beautifully designed building and if you remove some of its vital features - such as the main stage, dressing rooms and balcony, you remove the possibility of it ever being used again as it was intended. The building is structurally very sound, so even if Council let it sit another 15 years, it would be better than destroying it forever. The population of Ballarat is growing and we have no other properly designed venue to accommodate 2,000 people in its main hall and another 400 in the Lower Hall. Council already has c. $7m put aside for its repair. It should at least give it a go - do a basic makeover and see if it is viable. I really hope it is there for future generations to enjoy.

396 days ago

I wrote a long one and it has disappeared!

396 days ago

The Civic Hall- a Multi-Purpose venue Designed by Herbert Leslie Coburn Build by master Builder WB Trahar Selkirk supplied the 580,000 bricks Materials sourced from numerous local suppliers Local labour and trade companied were used Date opened 20 August 1956 An Iconic building of Mega proportions could be one of a kind in Australia..it is important for the representation of Art Deco/Modernist Architecture in Ballarat and possibly Victoria. 20th August 2016 is the 60th Anniversary of the opening of the Civic Hall which coincided with the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. The Rowing events were held on Lake Wendouree and Community events were abound at the Civic Hall. The Hall is etched on Ballarat's History and its history is linked to the discovery of Gold. It is described as having great Local Social Significance and plays an important part in the Lydiard St Precint Heritage Overlay (HO171). Civic Hall hosted community events and performances and has an Events and Performers list that would rival any performing arts venue. Exhibitions, Tradeshows and Community Balls were also popular. It has left a legacy of entertainment and controversy that will endure in the psyche of all residents and beyond.

406 days ago

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