Category Archives: Event


You are invited to a free community event to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the opening of the Civic Hall in 1956.  Commencing on Saturday 20th August at 2.00pm.

  • Assemble at the Town Hall at 1.45pm to take part in a re-enactment of the original 1956 parade with Beaufort City Brass Band to the Civic Hall for an address by Mayor of the day (1956) Nathaniel Callow and Mayor of today Des Hudson.  Parade is expected to leave the Town Hall at 2.00pm
  • Then proceed to the Trades Hall in Camp St  for an afternoon of celebration including some fabulous entertainment by innovative community groups, a talk on the Civic Hall by Historian Dr Anne Beggs Sunter and Brett Edgington, Secretary of The Ballarat Trades Hall, afternoon tea, and art auction of a fabulous Civic Hall artwork.

Those community members with mobility issues who feel they can not march  to the Civic Hall are encouraged to make their way to  the Trades Hall round 2.45pm to secure a seat.  

PHOTOGRAPH:  Clarendon College Debutante Ball is courtesy of Ball Organizer Gwendoline Blake

CH 60 poster




civic hall


At a Council meeting of April 27 2016,  councilors  voted to adopt the Civic Hall Masterplan, which includes the complete take over of the main hall by the library and the demolition of most of the Lower Hall.  Thank you  to those Councillors who voted against the recommendations and saw the folly in this plan.  The Masterplan only became available for public viewing on the previous Friday before the Wednesday meeting and was only available on the Council website in the form of an agenda item.  This was a long weekend so most of the community were unaware of the Masterplan.

Save Civic Hall had requested the Heritage Advisor’s Report over 12 months prior to this meeting through Freedom of Information,  and this secret  document was released on the same day as the Council Meeting.   Secret …..because decisions were made without some councilors claiming they had no knowledge of this document.

The Council’s own Heritage Adviser Brian Benson, warned Council about proceeding with the demolition of any part of the structure claiming that the demolition application of 2014 was a complete RED HERRING and Council breached many of their Planning Scheme in regards to Heritage Overlays.  He also went on to say that the Civic Hall’s significance had been overlooked and it does not matter if the significance is of Local or State level it can not be ignored.  No engineer’s assessment  was ever commissioned to prepare an Engineer’s Report on the overall condition of the building which according to the Heritage Adviser’s report is in good solid condition despite its neglect.

According to the report there were many anomalies quoting breaches of the Council’s own planning laws that must be considered and therefore Mr Benson would not support the demolition of any structure on the site.   Save Civic Hall will not support the Masterplan and will certainly not support the demolition of any part of the structure as outlined in the heritage adviser’s report.  Nor will it support the loss of the stage and its side rooms and dress circle.  Costings for the demolition of most of the Lower Hall are not available to date.

A community asset of this significance should not  be hijacked in favour of commercial development  so therefore it is totally inappropriate to consider the part of full demolition of any part of the Civic Hall.

The only way forward is for mediation with the council and Save Civic Hall will be seeking  further consultation to secure a more suitable outcome for the Civic Hall.   Should the Council pursue the demolition of the Lower Hall we will be collecting further objections to the destruction of this integral part of the Civic Hall as commercial development can still be achieved without demolition.



Plans are underway for a free community event on the 20th August to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the opening of the Civic Hall in 1956.  The opening coincided with the 1956 Olympic Games and rowing events took place on Lake Wendouree.  This year of 2016 the Rio Olympic Games will also take place.  Watch this space for all the details which will be finalised over the coming two months.  Help us celebrate this amazing milestone in the history of the Ballarat Civic Hall.   We Hope to see you there!!

Opening of the Ballarat Civic Hall 1956


Library to take over Civic Hall?

ch master
In shocking news, Council has revealed its preferred option – to demolish most of the Lower Hall, extending the nearby Library through, taking over the whole of the remaining building. This plan has never been put to the public before, despite the long, expensive “community participatory design process”.
On Wednesday 27 April Council votes on a motion to adopt one of 3 final options. For full details and plans, see Council’s Agenda on

You can ask questions without notice, and also make a 3-5 minute submission (ring Council 5320 5500 before 4.30pm to book in.)

Council’s 3 choices are:
  • Option 1 retains the Civic Hall as a multi-purpose space for festivals, events, bands, balls, exhibitions etc. This is the only one to retain the west side park.
  • Option 2 sells off the current Library to developers, and  the Library takes over the Civic Hall with an additional building to the west.
  • In the preferred Option 3 the current Library is linked to the Civic Hall through a demolished Lower Hall.  The Civic Hall  foyer is blocked off for other uses, and the stage, dressing rooms and fly tower are all gone, leaving only the centre part of the main space as a massive reading room.
In the Agenda there’s a very fanciful image  showing the main hall with people in lounge chairs looking through what was the stage to the new entrance building. Can you imagine the cost of heating this huge space on a daily basis?
The public clearly said in so many of the 3,000+ submissions opposing demolition that they wanted the Civic Hall re-opened and re-used for the purpose it was designed. It still is the region’s only large flat-floored venue. It’s unique and would not take a lot of work to repair and improve further.
With Ballarat’s increasing population, we will need more large venues like this.
Option 3 is a mishmash of incoherent ideas. Of course the Library needs to expand, but into appropriate, purpose-built spaces. It’s especially unsuitable to put it into the cavernous spaces of the main hall.
There’s a suggestion that what’s left of the main space could be used for events.  Even if you could clear the lounges etc, what’s left of the main space has no stage, dressing rooms or other performance facilities. Making it quite unsuitable for anything much.
Hard to see this as anything other than a cynical exercise in ticking off on “community use” to put the Library into the Civic Hall.
The community deserves better!
ch master 2

2016…a milestone in the history of the Civic Hall


Save Civic Hall (SCH) is delighted that maintenance work has now begun on the Civic Hall. Since 2013, SCH has advocated for reopening the Civic Hall as Ballarat’s largest multi-purpose venue for flat floor events, such as festivals, balls, exhibitions and more.

On 9 December 2015, we applauded Council’s decision to abandon moves towards demolition, whilst opposing suggestions to make expensive, permanent alterations to the foyer, balcony and stage, which would seriously reduce its future viability. Despite these and other concerns with the process, we continued to encourage participation with the Here Studio-led studio in the foyer, until Council recently announced its cessation.

SCH thanks Here Studio for leading this process to its present state of two possible designs being offered for Council analysis, tweaking and decision. We hope Council will endeavour to have the Civic Hall repaired in time for its 60th Anniversary on 20 August 2016. Last year, SCH organised a small 59th celebration in the foyer with a cake adorned with a cartoon by The Courier’s Ditchy.

We also enjoyed a poem by a “ghost of past performers” and the Ballarat Ukulele Kollective. Imagine a grander re-opening of the main hall on 20 August this year with some of the original performers – Graeme Vendy and the Vibratones, and Trevor Gleason, as well as more contemporary local music, theatre and dance groups. That was how the original opening was celebrated. Let’s do it again and celebrate!

Merle Hathaway, Secretary, Save Civic Hall

This letter appeared in The Courier 16th March 2016


Where else could you see so many people dancing at any one time in Ballarat?  We need to save this amazing dance floor.   We don’t know what we’ve got till it’s gone!

dancing at ch                                                      photo courtesy of Brendan Britt

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.


Civic Hall will celebrate 59 years…20th August 1956

DSCF0914   DSCF0912  DSCF0907

The Sign will be out and the Balloons and streamers will be up:

Come and Join us to celebrate the 59th Anniversary of the opening of the Civic Hall at the Foyer this Thursday 20th August.  Here Studio will be open as usual from 12-7pm and we encourage all the community to visit the foyer and view the 10 concepts as the consultants are preparing to narrow them down to 5 concepts during phase 2 of the Community Participatory Design Process.  It is important to have your say so please participate.

You can view this amazing celebratory cake and at 5.00pm we will cut the cake and you can help us eat it and wash it down with a complementary drink to toast the Civic Hall’s past and it’s future service to the Community. 


Opening of the Ballarat Civic Hall 1956

Image is owned by the Central Highlands Library

Thursday 20th August marks the 59th year of the opening of The Ballarat Civic Hall in 1956. The very same day the lock was turned for the very last time on the Alfred Hall (Now Big W) which was considered beyond repair and later demolished.  A procession took place from the closure of the Alfred Hall to the opening of the magnificent Civic Hall.  Mayor Callow led the procession.

Plans for the Civic Hall were formulated in 1939 but were unable to be implemented until after World War 11 due to financial constraints and manpower as the war consumed all resources.  It is a great testimony to the strength and persistence  of people of Ballarat that they did not give up and were determined to have a Civic Hall to replace the doomed Alfred Hall.

Long serving City of Ballarat Councillor, Herbert Leslie Coburn  left a lasting legacy in Ballarat for his achievements on Council, teaching at the School of Mines  and in his well respected Architectural business .  His architectural prowess and vision led to the erection of many fine public and residential buildings in Ballarat and the Western District.  

The Civic Hall was his Crowning Glory…unfortunately he did not live to see it open on the 20th August 1956, he was admitted to a hospital in Melbourne and  died that same year in September.  

We honour his memory and vow to save his wonderful Civic Hall!