After years of lying empty and in need of some TLC, ‘The People’s Hall’ will be open its doors in four weeks.
The Ballarat Civic Hall opened its doors for the very first time sixty-three years ago.
What happened over the next half a century has become a story so unique to this city it is now etched into the core of the Ballarat story.
Plans are now underway to re-open the Civic Hall doors and begin a new era for this landmark building, and the entire community is invited to join in this historic occasion.
Over the coming weeks the City of Ballarat will release more details about this exciting event, however, we can announce the Civic Hall will officially re-open with a ribbon cutting and guided tours on Friday 1 March.
Ballarat Mayor Samantha McIntosh will officially re-open the Civic Hall onsite at 9am on this day.
The Civic Hall will then be open to a limited number of patrons on guided tours. Interested community members can secure their spot in a guided tour through the HerMaj.com website, with tickets due for release over the next week.
The celebrations will continue on Saturday with the newly-restored hall set to host its first community event.
The community celebration earmarked for 2 March will take the shape of a Begonia Ball – a throwback to the annual balls and galas which regularly took place in the hall’s early days, and to the hall’s first concert held at the official opening on 20 August 1956.
Mayor Samantha McIntosh said the community can expect an evening of fabulous food and brilliant local entertainment that brings to life the building’s glory days while celebrating its future as a space the entire community can enjoy and be proud of.
“For many it’s going to be a walk down memory lane, for others it’s going to be the first time they step inside this magnificent building,” she said.
“We want this to be special, but we also want this to be an event that reflects what the hall means to the community.
“The entertainment itself will tell the story of the fabulous events hosted at the hall in its heyday, while also showcasing its potential to once again host the who’s who of the music industry and cement itself as a key multi-format event space that adds to the city’s offering as a creative city.”
600 tickets will go on sale Thursday morning and will be available for purchase by visiting hermaj.com or by visiting the temporary box office situated at the Mining Exchange shop front.
“What has become so clear to us is how important this gem is to the people of Ballarat,” Mayor McIntosh said.
“There are few community members who can say they don’t know someone who has a connection to this landmark, and that’s why we’ve decided to host an event that embraces how the community once used this space.”
INXS, AC/DC, Slim Dusty, Olivia Newton John, John Farnham and Cold Chisel were just a few of a long line-up of star performers who have graced the stage over the years.
Many people will also have fond memories of attending debutante balls, dances, Begonia Festival events and Royal South Street competitions, exhibitions and rallies, and even bingo in the Civic Hall.
“It was a place that brought people together,” Mayor McIntosh said.
“In fact, I think it’s fair to say this was the community’s hall long before it officially opened in 1956.
“A quick search online and you will learn it was the community who voted for a new public hall in 1940. Add to this a very enthusiastic Mayor of the day – who was also a renowned local architect tasked with the hall’s design – and you can begin to envision how passionate locals were about having a space they could use for a range of civic and community events.
“As the Mayor of Ballarat today, I am proud to see the Civic Hall re-open for the purpose it was originally designed for – a community space intended for everyone to enjoy.”
The community celebration in March will also mark the end of a year’s worth of restoration works to bring this gem back to life after sitting dormant for 16 years.
“This unique venue – regional Victoria’s largest flat floor auditorium – will be capable of hosting a wide range of events such as exhibitions, seminars and gaming competitions. It’s an exciting opportunity for our city to once again have a landmark hall that will bring in some of the biggest names in the performing, creative and music spaces,” Mayor McIntosh said.
“The Civic Hall adds to our live music and visual exhibition offerings, which goes to the core of the Live Music and Creative City Strategies by bolstering the live music scene and providing our local creatives another platform to showcase their work.”