All posts by Merle Hathaway

About Merle Hathaway

I am currently Secretary of Save Civic Hall and the co-ordinator of Communications and Media. When not volunteering for SCH, I am a freelance arts administrator, curator and jack of all trades to do with promoting and supporting the arts.

Participatory design process to start soon!

Council will decide at their next Council meeting whether to fund a community-focussed participatory design process to take place at the Civic Hall in an “open door studio”.

After years of stale-mate and dissent, and much community consultation – which Council has largely ignored – this new process aims to produce 3 fully fleshed out plans.

The process should start in a month or so and will involve artists, architecture students, the general community – including children, and the stakeholders of the Civic Hall and its site.  The emphasis will be on finding consensus.

Guiding the whole process will be a stakeholder advisory committee which should represent a wide range of views on the future of the Civic Hall and its site. It is expected that members of SCH will be part of this group.

Save Civic Hall will support and actively promote this so long as the process and overarching stakeholder committee is not seen as biased towards demolition or other unsuitable, especially non-community, uses of the Civic Hall.

Save Civic Hall is encouraging Council to include representatives from the arts, health and community based interest groups.

A 7 year old's view of the Civic Hall
7 year old Leela’s view of the Civic Hall

Seeking Civic Hall memorabilia

Do you have items or information relating to the Civic Hall?

We’d love to hear from you!

Barbara, Judith and Merle are now working on an exhibition about the Civic Hall, for Heritage Weekend 2015. Several people have already come forth with original ball tickets from the 1950s and 60s, and we have several programmes of the first concerts, posters from events held there over the years, and wonderful photographs of the bands that performed there.

We know that many people did their Deb, or attended balls there. It would be wonderful to borrow one of two of those frocks!

Tickets from the very first and later balls, donated by Frank Martin
Tickets from the very first and later balls, donated by Frank Martin

The Gold Museum has also offered to be a safe repository for any items which are donated. So they will be preserved for the future. But of course we would be happy to just borrow items closer to the time of the exhibition.

And as we are gathering information about the Civic Hall, we’d also be delighted to meet with anyone who has stories or other things to share.

Get in touch if you’d like to talk – Merle: 0419 324042 or Barbara: or Judith: 5335 6290


Inspiring Forum: Civic Hall – Reopen, Revitalize!

Last Sunday’s forum, held at the lovely old Ballarat Mechanic’s Institute presented three very inspiring and informative speakers.The focus was, how do we refurbish or adapt old buildings to vital community hubs.

Ammon Beyerle, Co Director of Here Studio, and a founder of Ballarat Coworking, asked us to consider –  Do we change the use of the Civic Hall? Or change the building? Do we want large, or small changes? Are there things we wanAmmon at Forumt
to keep?
He showed images of arts and community spaces in Europe and Australia that have been developed by creatively adapting old buildings such as Paris’ Museé D’Orsay, once a railway station and London’s Tate Modern, formerly a power station. Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art was once a maritime services building.

Jeremy Gaden, Director of The Substation, Newport, gave an inspiring account of how the derelict 1915 railway building has become a leading conte
mporary art space in the western suburbs.

Long considered an eyesore that nobody wanted, its rejuvenation
began with just two enthusiastic people and finally involved the whole community.  Today businesses nearby are thriving and there are are fewer closed shoThe Substation interiorps. Gaden said that a key problem is that The Substation was neverdesigned to accommodate people. (Unlike Ballarat’s Civic Hall, which was designed to accommodate many people for a wide range of functions).

 Phil Roberts, historian and Secretary of the Ballarat Mechanics Institute, spoke of the $5 million process to restore the Ballarat Mechanics Institute. he meticulous restoration was achieved in stages, over fifteen years, with funding mainly from the Brumby state governmentBMI exterior, major philanthropic trusts, local service clubs and businesses.

Save Civic Hallis currently continuing discussions with the City of Ballarat regarding their proposed community engagement process. This is seen as a timely process to heal the rift between Council and community and to further discuss some of the ideas put forth at the forum.

Civic Hall ~ Reopen, Revitalize!

This free forum will look at a range of options for restoration and adaptive reuse of the Civic Hall and its site,  to create an exciting community hub for Ballarat. Also featured will be great examples from Ballarat and Melbourne. 

CH Public Meeting BMI

Jeremy Gadens: Director of The Substation, Newport.
Phil Roberts: Secretary, Ballarat Mechanics Institute
Ammon Beyerle: Co-Director of Here Studio, Co-Founder of Hub Melbourne and Ballarat Coworking.

2pm Sunday 25 May at Ballarat Mechanics Institute
117 Sturt Street, Minerva Space. (First floor – lift & wheelchair access)
Meet the speakers over afternoon tea and view Civic Hall memorabilia afterwards.
RSVP appreciated for catering: 0419 324042 or

See more information on Civic Hall and other local news on Weekend Notes. Ballarat has several writers providing content for this online magazine.

Council allows SCH tradesmen to inspect Civic Hall

Save Civic Hall last year asked if a team of tradespeople and experts could inspect particularly the Lower Hall with a view to them providing their services free of charge to return it to community use.

This happened on 27 March. While we are still waiting for all their reports the general consensus was that the Civic Hall remains structurally sound and able to be repaired and returned to community use.


Above left: Entrance to Lower Hall. Right: Main Hall

Those inspecting the Lower Hall and the main hall were shocked at the lack of maintenance and security. Many of us visited the main hall when Council allowed limited viewing in 2012 but more recent graffiti is obvious in these photographs. It shows that people are continuing to gain access to the building.

While this remains a potential asset to the community, one would expect our Council to ensure that it is safe and secure.

Keep your Objections coming!

Council has agreed that objections may still be lodged up till they finally make their decision. Save Civic Hall has to date gathered over 2,125 written objections, and presumably many other people have delivered them or submitted online.

Council now seems to be considering postponing its application for demolition while it considers the offer of Premier Napthine to relocate Vic Roads to the Civic Hall site.  This is dependant on whether the Liberal Government is re-elected. So there would be another delay while the building deteriorates further.

However, the Mayor is actually using the term “adaptive re-use” instead of demolition now!

It may be worth looking at the ABC TV report on this.
Check out their current 7-storey high, ugly office block in Kew. Can this really be accommodated beside the Civic Hall?  What would that do to the skyline of Ballarat’s CBD?

Of course, it’s great to see opportunities for Ballarat, though it will not bring 400 new jobs to Ballarat as the Premier declared. The plan is to relocate the existing staff from Melbourne. Personally, I hope they consider other, more suitable sites, and leave the Civic Hall for a community hub, not overshadowed by what would be the biggest building in Ballarat.

In the meantime, Save Civic Hall encourages you to continue to send in your objections, reminding Council that it is our community space, so that whatever is decided, demolition is not part of it. And that the site is retained primarily for community use.

Concerning Civic Hall: a poem by Bexley John Martin (c)

In Ballarat there lays a place
To entertain us all;
Where artists can fill up the space
That’s known as Civic Hall.
But Council wants to claim its land,
And pull it down they say;
Which I would dare to understand
Would be a sad old day …

With little thought they’ve gone ahead
With plans all of their own;
To use the place that I have said
We all have seen and known.
So it is up to each of us
To stand up good and tall;
That we may kick up such a fuss
Concerning Civic Hall …

With this in mind I ask of you
A simple thing indeed;
To show the Council it is true
That such a hall we need.
Where folk have come to strut their stuff
In shows that have been grand;
And now we find it all so tough
That they should want its land …

We need a place, our own to call,
Where songs  are loud and true;
Where echoes bounce off every wall
In front of me and you.
We need a place, so grand indeed,
With space to fill so well –
And one such place that we all need
Should have so much to tell …

So let us dare to make a stand
To save this hall we know;
To do the things with it that’s planned
Since first it came on show.
For it’s stood grand in its good place
Since ’56, and all;
And to this day we need this space
That’s known as Civic Hall.

Get your objection to demolition in NOW!

Deadline for submissions to Council 5pm, Friday 14 March 2014

Now the City of Ballarat has lodged its application for demolition of the Civic Hall the community only has until 14 March to make its objections.

Tell Council what the Civic Hall means to YOU and YOUR COMMUNITY.

SCH Demolition Application Flyer

Council’s application is to demolish our 1956 modernist /late Deco Civic Hall, the carpark, skateboard park and all the trees.

This is Ballarat’s largest hall, seating 1500 in the main hall, 400 in the Lower Hall. It was ideal for large scale events such as rock concerts, trade shows, home shows, festivals, balls etc. It would be GREAT for Ballarat International Foto Biennale, great for the Rockabilly festival, Diwali Festival of Light etc, and we know the building is structurally sound.

Council has no plans for what is to replace it (despite that is one of their own requirements). It is not planning to build a park, or another large hall to replace it. Their application does not mention the social significance of the Civic Hall. Its only “vision” for community use has been a suggestion for an outdoor, standing-only space for 3,000 people (in Ballarat!!!). This is the so called “Fed Square” solution. 

The focus of both the application and the developers who’ve supported it is on commercial development – more shops & offices.

Environmentally it’s a disaster, with the loss of embodied energy and loss of a significant pocket park and its 60 native plants, birds and butterflies, many protected species. And we know that the greenest building is the one that already exists.

You can read the application on Council’s website 

Submissions can be one sentence or longer, or on Council forms, or submitted online.

 Need help writing your submission? Come along to one of our workshops at Ballarat Library Meeting Room –
Sunday 23 Feb, 2 – 6pm  or  Friday 7 March, 12 – 8pm.

World Radio Day, Thursday 13 February, Voice FM

Voice FM will celebrate World Radio Day by focusing a large part of the day’s programs on the history and value of the Civic Hall, the community’s efforts to save it from demolition, proposed by the City of Ballarat Council, and their push for commercial development of the site.

Enjoy a variety of program segments including talk back, live debate, musical performances and pre-recorded and live interviews with various experts to feature filling a full day’s program.

Special guests will include Robin Grow, President of the Art Deco Society, Chairperson of Save Civic Hall, Dr Penny Greenslade who is leading the environmental impact study, Rod Broadbent who performed at the Civic Hall and who has recently coordinated a group of tradesmen willing to assess and repair the Lower Hall.

Dr Ron van Oers, Vice Director, World Heritage Institute of Training and Research for Asia and the Pacific (WHITRAP) will also contribute to the programme. Based in Shanghai Dr van Oers spoke at a forum late last year about the Heritage Urban Landscape programme, which Ballarat Council has signed up to. His special interest is the contribution older buildings with social and heritage significance make to the life and health of cities.

Tune in to Voice FM 99.9, especially from 9 – 12 noon, and from 3 – 4pm.

Stop Press: Council has declined to participate!