All posts by Judith Buchanan

Maintenance Work has commenced on the Civic Hall


Replacement of  broken windows:

Work has commenced on the Civic Hall.  On Thursday Glaziers were spotted replacing the windows of the western side of the Main Hall.  After so many years of neglect this is a large undertaking that will take time.   Save Civic Hall believes that this work shows a genuine commitment by Council prepare the hall for future use by the community.


The Participatory Design Process has officially concluded:

As reported in today’s Courier Saturday 5th March, The Participatory Design Process has officially concluded in the Foyer of the Civic Hall.   We thank Here Studio and their staff for collecting and synthesizing all the information and data relating to  people’s memories, views on the future uses and expectations of the Civic Hall.

Here Studio did a wonderful job during their consultation and occupation of the hall’s foyer, encouraging all members of  the community to visit and share their thoughts and opinions.  Some valuable information was collected and can be used in any further development of the hall.  Thanks must also go the the public of Ballarat and District for embracing the Community Consultation and sharing their memories and aspirations.

The final five concepts were developed  by Here Studio and presented to Council who in turn accompanied Here Studio to the  Victorian Design Review Panel  (Victorian Architect).  In the below report from VDRP it was suggested that the final 5 design concepts were not viable and made further  recommendations to further explore  the 5 concepts..  Council have now moved  to the final stage are in the process of developing one design.

Save Civic Hall members of the Partnership Group will continue in an advisory capacity to achieve an appropriate outcome for the future use of the Ballarat Civic hall.

The January 2016 report from the Victorian Design Review Panel:

60th Anniversary of the Opening of The Civic Hall…20th August 2016

We now turn our attention to the Civic Hall’s forth coming 60th Anniversary of its opening on 20th August 1956.   The keys were turned and the door was locked on the Alfred Hall (now occupied by Big W)on the very same day for the very last time.  From the Alfred Hall a procession marched up Mair Street to the new Civic Hall and the crowd was addressed by Mayor Callow who declared that the new  Civic Hall gives  the people of Ballarat “New Hope” following the dark and dismal days of World War 2.  A huge celebration with concerts followed the official opening.

It is hoped that the Civic Hall would re-open on the 20th August 2016 marking this monumental event.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a re-enactment of the procession up Mair Street to re-open the Civic Hall followed by celebrations and concerts?

Wouldn’t this be an amazing tribute to the forefathers of Ballarat?….. especially Herbert Leslie Coburn, former Councilor and Mayor of Ballarat 1945,  who was an Architect and Teacher of Architecture at the School of Mines.  He designed the Civic Hall but unfortunately died just prior to its official opening.

Opening of the Ballarat Civic Hall 1956







Concepts K & L to be considered by Council for Ballarat Civic Hall


Concepts K and L

According to Here Studio Director Concept L or K are indicative of the final design for consideration by the Council.

Save Civic Hall supports concept L as the Civic Hall is retained as a dedicated Entertainment and Events venue .

In Concept K  the Library moves into the Lower Hall with the possible loss of the Stage and Flytower to that development.   The ribbon of Library spaces (appears in red) is disjointed and disconnected.  The existing  Library building  becomes offices.  The  wonderful existing reading room would be lost as the windows in the Lower Hall would not provide sufficient natural light.

There are no costings or business plan available for public viewing for the Concept Developments at this stage.

Extracts from The latest Here Studio Newsletter #44..

Crunch times

The past fortnight has been hard work for our team, working to support our Council considering a recommendation from the Partnership Group that we should now select from the 5 Concepts just 1. This required a lot of back and forth, negotiation, developing arguments, pulling together narratives, briefing, new drawings, sketches, quick cost appraisals, report writing and a presentation to Council Assembly.
We did long days (early starts and late finishes) all hands on deck. It was important to provide our Councillors as much as possible to make an informed decision.
Last night Council Assembly determined not to advance to the Council Chamber on this decision – we hope to learn a bit more from the Councillors in the Partnership Group meeting next week and discuss together what we can do as a group to focus the project.

What we observed were divisions between Concept L and K, Library and Community Hub and definitions of Event Space, mixing and keeping things separate, making some last minute changes, and staying the course. Key issues for Stage 1 are still car parking and funding – and behind these, more specific determinations of use. As a Partnership Group we have discussed looking for understanding and agreement at high level of purpose and principles, before discussing further detail.

Meanwhile, the Architectural Team have been setting up and progressing the next Phase of formal design work, preparing technical consultants, briefs, and scoping design ideas and issues for different scenarios.
We have contracted an ‘As Existing’ surveyor AAM – a state of the art, highly experienced ‘Geospatial Services company specialising in the collection, analysis, presentation and delivery of geospatial information’. AAM will start on Monday using laser and photo technology to survey the Civic Hall in its existing state so we can build a ‘BIM’ model This will save our team time, lower risks, and improve the quality of collaboration between the technical consultants going forward.

Last week our team received a presentation from a researcher/architect in hands-on participation (particularly of young people) in projects in Malawi and the US – Jillian Hopkins. We have since been positively re-energised, refocussing on user groups, and are developing tangible ways for people to keep involved in the development of the site, even as we get into the detail of formal design work. Jillian came to visit us on Tuesday and we sketched out some early ideas. More to come!
We have also developed the Landscape Architecture Plan for Stage 1, and hope to share some new images and drawings next week!

Victorian Design Review Panel  (The Victorian Government Architect)

We (Here Studio) have now received the Report from the Victorian Design Review Panel of OVGA (the Office of the Victorian Government Architect) – which we discussed in the last Newsletter. It is now in the downloads section of the website here.

This Document is most interesting with recommendations from the Victorian Government Architect:

“There is a risk that by continuing with the current program of reducing the number of options for the site to the preferred five and then three, the outcome will be a compromised solution rather than the best possible outcome for the site and the Ballarat community.”   (From the VDRP report January 2016)






A Transition Exhibition on the 14th November was launched by Councillors Samantha McIntosh and Belinda Coats.  The exhibition revealed the 5 Design concepts for Phase 3 of The Community Participatory Design Process that began one year ago.

While Save Civic Hall is pleased that the designs keep the external structure, in most of the designs the Lower Hall could become part of the library or partly demolished, and the stage, balcony and foyer are lost.

The only design that retains  both halls is Concept “L”, however this  design is seriously flawed as it retains it only for the limited use as a Performing Arts space, with raked seating, removing any usage for dances, exhibitions, trade shows, dinners etc. it’s original use – as a multi-function space – has gone.

All five designs include offices, shops and residential apartments.  We must question some of the designs and ask … Is this what the community wants?   Is it appropriate to have residential properties on a site that is used as a performing arts venue?  This would surely impact on events when noise levels could be an issue, so why create the problem in the first place?  Why is there so much office space earmarked for the site?  Who is going to occupy the offices?…certainly there has been no commitment by government department, Vic Roads which was once thought to be a stakeholder .

concepts no stage              5 concepts balcony division


An estimate for stage 1 of the Development of the Main Hall  is $10-12 Million, and this would take place before a final decision is made on the whole site.

A proposal will be put to Council by Here Studio to proceed with Stage 1 of the redevelopment of the Civic Hall site, and a planning permit will need to be prepared.   This includes the main Hall, foyer, division of the balcony, west landscape, Civic Plaza and rearranged car parking.

Whilst we welcome The Civic Plaza and west landscape, concern mounts for the potential  loss of it’s multi-purpose function in favour of raked seating that could become permanent.  This would mean that the beautiful wooden flat floor would be lost, therefore there would no longer be a dance floor, restricting the type of events that could be staged in the main hall.

The stage and flytower is to be closed off with a new and smaller stage erected in front of the original stage.  The wings either side would be lost so there would be no retreat or dressing rooms for performers.

The upper level Dress Circle would be divided into three small theatres and small viewing area, obstructing the view of the stage.  It is proposed to use these for lectures, meeting rooms or art-house cinema which, incidentally, was not permitted in the past.  The only films which could be shown in the hall were educational or documentary.

The existing foyer would be converted into a kitchen with a loss of the two snack bars just inside the main hall.  A lift for disability access would be installed. A new, Art Deco inspired  spiral staircase would also be installed.  The foyer public space would be severely reduced.

There would also be a reduced overall seating capacity which would make it impossible to position it away from its major competitors.  Save Civic Hall understands that the budgeted $8 million could have provided a basic paint and polish to get the hall event ready without unnecessary modifications.


The 5 concepts are now on show at the Library.  A report is expected to be presented to the Council Chambers at the Council meeting on the 9th December.  Community members are encouraged to attend the meeting and share their thoughts on the “Civic Hall Site”.

The Civic Hall foyer will re-open soon and it is critical for residents to visit and give feedback on the 5 concepts.  Please view the designs and ask questions.  Save Civic Hall believes it is important that the Civic Hall is retained for community use as a multi-purpose venue with maximum capacity for generations to come.

5 concepts general          5 concepts





Transition 2

Here Studio will launch  their much anticipated 5 concepts at the Transition Exhibition on Saturday 14th November at 10.00am  in the Civic Hall car park.  Members of the Save Civic Hall group have worked tirelessly  over the past years for restoration and retention of the Hall for future use by the community.  Everyone is invited to view the 5 concepts and offer feedback to Here Studio.


The Partnership Group, comprising Councillors, members of Save Civic Hall, The Committee for Ballara and, more recently, Commerce Ballarat and Ballarat Foundation, has been meeting with Here Studio for the past 12 months.  Some of these meetings have been frustrating for our members and others as some design concepts emerge without a clear vision of  usability.

Currently we understand from the draft sketches that there is only one design emerging from the Participatory Design Process that Save Civic Hall would support.    Only Option 2  appears to retain both the main hall and Lower Hall, flytower and foyer.  

Save Civic Hall has a clear vision for the Civic Hall’s future and will continue to advocate for the best outcome for maximum usage by the community and others.

5 concepts



A recent article in the Courier suggested that it would cost $100 million to redevelop the Civic Hall.  This is misleading as this is for development of the whole site,  not just the Civic hall.

Estimation for the Civic Hall  for stage 1 of its redevelopment is $10-12 million. This $ amount would prepare it to be event ready.  This does not include any other development that may go on the site.



There has been much debate about the Civic Hall’s future uses and what can and cannot be altered.   A number of changes have been discussed none of which Save Civic Hall accept:

  • The stage and flytower could be blocked off  while its use is considered.  A new stage could be erected in front of the original stage greatly reducing seating capacity, therefore making it a competitor for all smaller venues.  
  • Graduated seating which would destroy its multi-purpose  functionality resulting in the loss of the dance floor.
  • The entrance  could be moved to the Eastern side of the building and foyer used for another purpose.
  • The Upper Floor Dress Circle rear seating divided into small lecture theatres or meeting rooms.  Patrons would no longer be able to view the stage from the upper floor.
  • Snack bars could be developed into a restaurant which would further reduce the seating capacity.
  • The Lower Civic Hall and Flytower could become part of the Library redevelopment with a possible partial or full demolition of the Lower Civic Hall.
  • The loss of one of the staircases in the foyer which could hinder an emergency exit leaving only one staircase in use and a lift that could not be used in the event of a fire.

These are only a few of the ideas that have been discussed during Phase 2 of the Process, it is critical for the community to view the next 5 concepts and offer feedback to Consultants Here Studio.


Documentation of “The People’s Hall…” – exhibition, held at Backspace Gallery in June 2015, was recently accepted into The Victorian Historical Society after its nomination for a Community History Award.  This is great news as it will be preserved for future generations andbecome a valuable resource for anyone researching Ballarat’s history.

Items that were accepted included photos, promotional posters, brochures and film footage by WIN NEWS.


As the Society has many entries for 2015 it will take some time to list them all so here is the link to the site for future reference.

Thank you to the Ballarat Community and all Civic Hall supporters  who visited the exhibition and made it a resounding success. 



Civic Hall Exhibition items donated to The Gold Museum



On the 12th October 2015 Merle, Barbara and Judith met with Senior Curator, Roger Trudgeon to donate some of the items from The People’s Hall-Civic Hall Exhibition, plus photos of the exhibition and photographic greeting cards by Judith Buchanan for Save Civic Hall.  Mary Kelly, resident and former user of The Civic Hall also attended and donated many of the event programs which were on show at the exhibition at the Backspace Gallery back in June.

 Mary also donated a rare and precious black and white photo of the Vibratones performing at Civic Hall.  It was rare because it is the only photo that we know of that was taken from the balcony in the dress circle area on the 1st floor and is an amazing view of this event in the 1960’s.  Mary also donated other unrelated items.


View from the balcony….The Vibratones at a 1960’s event


Merle Hathaway donated some of her precious and personal items such a trophy cup she won at one of the South Street  elocution competitions and some accompanying news paper articles in addition to some other personal Civic Hall treasures.  Curator Roger Trudgeon was delighted to accept the items on behalf of the Gold Museum in the interest of preserving Civic Hall History for future generations.

A big thank you must got to Barbara Cytowicz for organising the visit and enabling the exchange if items.  We must also thank the Gold Museum for their support during Civic Hall -The People’s Hall Exhibition and initiating a Civic Hall Collection.


Curator Roger Trudgeon is a very happy man after receiving donations for the Civic Hall Collection.


Barbara has also developed a wonderful online resource for The Civic Hall Historical Walk.  There is a map of the Heritage Precinct with photos and descriptions of various buildings and highlights on the way.  She also points out the locations of the Civic Hall’s predecessor halls, The Alfred Hall and The Coliseum.  Some of Ballarat’s most spectacular Victorian architecture is on show as well as some Art Deco gems.  Now the weather is a little warmer why not pack a picnic and take the challenge or better still stop off at all the eateries and cafes along the way.



Here Studio are now in the final stages of the formulation of 10-5 concepts for  the forthcoming conclusion of phase 2 of the Participatory Design Process.  This is expected to conclude towards the end of October.

There will be a Community event on 14th November to celebrate this milestone and the 5 concepts will be on show to the public.   Details to be announced by Here Studio in the near future.


An environmental Forum and panel discussion took place at M.A.D.E on Thursday 15th October.  The guest speakers presented a talk on what they believed were the environmental issues  surrounding the Civic Hall.   The different views made for an  interesting discussion with lots of questions from the audience.  The conclusion was that there were still many unknowns about the Environmental issues associated with the Civic Hall Site and more work needs to be done to uncover the facts.

The guests were Gavin Cerini, Angela Enbom, MC Matt Briody, Michelle Emma James, Penny Greenslade and Dave Kendal.







A new online resource is available now to help you take The Civic Hall Historical Tour.  There is so much to see and learn…discover what led to the inception of the Ballarat Civic Hall from the earlier predecessor halls.   Learn how the Civic Hall fits into the Heritage Precinct and how it is linked to the discovery of gold in the district.  There is a plaque to commemorate the planting of two rare  Ginkgo Trees, believed to be living fossils.  As the weather warms up, take the challenge, its a self-paced tour, you will be surprised what you will see along the way.  

The Civic Hall is one of Ballarat’s most imposing buildings and a fine example of Stripped Classical Art Deco Style.  Designed by Architect Herbert Leslie Coburn and Gordon Murphy.  It  was built by local builder WB Trahar.  Bricks were supplied by local Ballarat company Selkirks.  It was fitted out by local companies and trades people.  

The clever design makes use of the undulating land and is a cross diagonal design that incorporates a large main auditorium  and a smaller Lower Civic Hall.   Seating Capacity  is around 1500 in the main hall and 400 in the Lower Hall.  It was the largest building project undertaken outside Melbourne after  World War 2.  The Civic Hall opened 20th August 1956.

The Civic Hall is currently undergoing a Community Participatory Design Process to determine its use for future generations.  The Save Civic Hall group will advocate for the conservation of the hall’s heritage and preserve its integrity as a multi-purpose, major events venue.

You can contribute your ideas for the Civic Hall or view the current work by consultants Here Studio at the foyer of the Civic Hall :  Tuesdays  9-5pm, Thursdays 12-7pm.  The 1st Saturday of the Month 10am-1pm.

DSCF1054         DSCF0423





Calling for information on films that were shown at Civic Hall

Cinema and Theatre Historical Society: (CATHS)


We do know that movies were shown in the Civic Hall and Earl Martell from CATHS  is keen to add the Civic Hall into their records and is seeking information.  The Harvey Mangles films were identified but there must be many more as I have heard people in the community say that they do remember seeing films there.  If you can remember titles of these films please contact me at or phone 53356290.  I  would also like to update our events list with further details so please contact us first and we will forward your information to Earl.

They have a very nice website…check it out!



It was announced on WIN NEWS last week that maintenance and repair works will commence on the Main Auditorium in November or December.  This news was exciting and a real breakthrough in the fight to save the Ballarat Civic Hall.  it appears that the 5 concepts to be taken to the next phase of the Participatory Design Process all retain the main Hall so there is no reason to delay the necessary works.  The Demolition Application lapses in September so we can assume that DEMOLITION IS DEAD!

This is  due to the community sending a clear message that we will not allow our heritage to be desecrated and disrespected in such a destructive manner.  Thanks to you, the supporters, the future is looking brighter for the Ballarat Civic Hall!


As we near the end of Phase 2 of the process it is extremely important for people to view the current Design Charettes that are on view in the foyer of the Civic Hall.  These are little pictures of what the different elements of the designs might look like.  The concepts will reduce from 10-5 in the coming weeks with a Transition Exhibition at the Civic Hall on 31st October where the 5 concepts of the 3rd Phase will be revealed.  

We would encourage people that are associated with theatre or performing arts to look at the designs and ask if their needs would be catered for.  Some of the designs lose the use of Lower Civic Hall to a Library extension.  There does not appear to be anywhere for the assembly of large groups of performing artists such as orchestras, choirs or large events or exhibitions.  The Flytower could be an air circulator  for the Library instead of what it was originally designed.  If you have an interest please call into Here Studio at the foyer and put your views across.

Hours:                            Tuesday       9-5pm

                                          Thursday     12-7pm

                                          1st Saturday morning in the month 10-1pm (next is 3rd Oct)


Local Student Liana Skewes is currently undertaking an oral history of Civic Hall Stories on Thursdays at The Foyer of the Civic Hall.  She has been recruited as an Intern and this project forms part of her History course.  This will be a valuable rescource for future generations to tell the incredible story of the Civic Hall and the people who used it.  Anyone wishing to participate please contact the Consultants of Here Studio at the Foyer of the Civic Hall at the above hours or email:

























Sound and Light Seminar at The Ballarat Art Gallery Annexe this coming Thursday

The Core Team at Civic Hall Site, 300 Mair Street, Ballarat, invite you and your friend or partner to our:

Seminar at the Art Gallery of Ballarat Annexe


Thursday, 10th September 2015, 5pm – 7pm

Join us in considering multi-purpose needs and possibilities for existing and potential venues and facilities at Civic Hall Site. Guest speakers will present, from different professional and technical perspectives, followed by a moderated panel discussion. The focus will be on ‘state of the art’ delivery for multi-purpose arts and entertainment venues: Both new and old – Clean slate and retrofitting.

We are tremendously excited to present the following expert speakers:

Rex Hardware, Lecturer, Live Production, Federation University Arts Academy
John Ford, Director & Lighting Designer, Relume Consulting
John Alekna,
 Acoustic Design, Marshall Day
Mike Hall, Director & AV Consultant, Rigoni Hall
Graeme Campbell
, Principal, Environmental Noise & Vibration, SLR

Even if ‘Sound + Light’ is not your personal area of interest, please feel free to tell your friends and family. We would not want anyone to miss out on this important learning opportunity. We have a lot at stake and we aim to get it right for everyone’s benefit.

Our established invitation to the people of Ballarat and all interested stakeholders is:

Dream big, get into it and let’s reinvent this whole site as truly ‘future-ready’!




In the Breath of Ghosts…mysterious and beautiful! in the Civic Hall

“In the Breath of Ghosts” by Lisa Anderson

As part of the International Ballarat Foto Biennale there is a free exhibition in the main auditorium of the Civic Hall.  This weekend is the last chance to see this amazing exhibition which captures the essence of an abandoned large building with its interactive ghostly images and projections…truly strange and mysterious!

The first time since 2002 that the whole main auditorium  has been used for an event.  

Tours take place this weekend 5th & 6th September 2-6 pm no booking necessary.  

Tours are strictly limited to 8 people at a time.

These images were captured on a mobile phone…  see if you can spot the ghost!












The 59th Anniversary was enjoyed by everyone who embraced the celebration in the foyer of the Civic Hall.   It was a milestone in the Civic Hall’s History as the 1st time the  Anniversary was able to be celebrated in the Civic Hall building.   Next year 2016 will mark the 60th Anniversary of The Opening of the Civic Hall  and we look forward to a much larger celebration inside the Civic Hall…plans are already being discussed.

A big thank you must go to a number of people:

  • Here Studio who were willing to allow a small celebration in the foyer
  • The Ukulele  Kollective who entertained the people who came to view the concepts and enjoy the celebration
  • Cake Decorator extraordinaire Colleen, whose  did an outstanding design and decoration of the celebratory cake
  • Mr John Ditchburn (Ditchy) for allowing the use of his cartoon “Civic Hall …The Modern Day Eureka Rebellion” on the cake
  • Poet and Playwrite  Tiffany Barton for coming all the way from WA to present her persona as “The Civic Hall Ghost” and reciting her moving poem about the Civic Hall.

Here is the Courier Article of 21.8.15 by Matthew Dixon which captures the essence of “Community Togetherness”