Quite often in small towns in regional Victoria, the one place that is available for communities to gather is in the local hall. In many instances, that is the main reason that they were built!
They were originally the centre of towns. The gathering place. The hub of a community. As time has moved on other spaces have taken on the role as gathering places – sporting recreation reserves, various club rooms, performing arts centres. And as bigger more modern spaces have become more prevalent, in some cases the tiny halls in tiny towns have faded into the background.
Dejected, ignored and many times unused, the community halls needed some help, so in 2011 Regional Arts Victoria began promoting Home is Where the Hall is and asking communities to register their events during one month of the year to highlight and celebrate halls and the people who tirelessly work in them.
The idea was to give halls a new life. It was my first year with Regional Arts Victoria and I was excited about the enthusiasm around this project and the people who contacted us to be a part of it. Short films were made to record some of the special moments at a few of the halls in that first year and a few years later the project extended interstate into Tasmania and South Australia spreading the celebration of halls further across this beautiful nation. Over the years we have gathered quite a list of halls which remains on the website as a resource all year round.
And now, eight years on, we are almost at the tail end of another great year of Home is Where the Hall is. There has been such a great offering of events from across Victoria and South Australia. And many of those halls have incredible histories. I have just had a good look through the Halls Directory and encourage you to do the same as some of the stories about the halls are incredible. The oldest Victoria hall on the list is in Stanley, previously known as The Nine Mile during the gold rush. The Stanley Memorial Hall and Atheneaum was built in 1856 as a public room and became a library. The hall burnt down in the 1860’s and was rebuilt in 1874 and still house a substantial historic book collection today and is vital still to its community.
The Badger Creek Hall was built in 1924 in one day and the Malmsbury Town Hall was built in 1868 and continues to connect its town with numerous event. The Christmas Hills Mechanics’ Institute Hall was built in 1877 and is the home to the Christmas Hills Orchestral Players and claims to be the “cultural capital of the universe” and on and on it goes. Most of the stories talk about people coming together and mainly in very small communities. The halls have become a home for an art gallery, a brass band, a community theatre group.
And anyone my age will be very familiar with every nook and cranny of their local hall – with memories of dancing there at a sister’s 18th, a brother’s 21st or a family wedding. In all cases community halls are loved and treasured by those who hold memories of the sharing that took place in these glorious spaces.
Congratulations to everyone who took part in Home is Where the Hall is in 2018.
It was a pretty special month of wonderful events and proves that there is plenty of life left in those halls.