A SPECIAL birthday party was held in Ballarat’s Civic Hall when the old girl turned 59 on 20 August. In its heyday the Civic Hall was the centre of community celebration.

Controversy over the fate of the Hall and its site is now turning to a positive, leading to the probability of a new lease of life, and one with the community at its heart. The Open Door Studio in her foyer has attracted thousands of people to share their ideas.

A toast to Grand Dame on her 59th birthday: Judith Buchanan, Merle Hathaway, Tiffany Barton, Neville Telfer, Rod Broadbent and Victoria Wardlaw.
A toast to Grand Dame on her 59th birthday: Judith Buchanan, Merle Hathaway, Tiffany Barton, Neville Telfer, Rod Broadbent and Victoria Wardlaw.

The first ten broad concepts were presented first to Council, and then recently to the State Government Architects, who have advised on the development of the site. The current task is to draw up five; more fully developed and costed concepts.

But on Thursday everyone was invited to visit the Open Door Studio from 12 noon, to see the current plans, contribute ideas, and from 5pm to enjoy cake and a drink.

A poem, especially written for the day, was read by its author Tiffany Barton, who made the trip from Western Australia.

A playwright and performer Tiffany was seen by Ballarat resident and staunch supporter of the Civic Hall, Victoria Wardlaw, performing a poem five years ago in Fremantle.

“Victoria asked me if I’d be interested in writing a poem about the Civic Hall and I jumped at the idea,” Tiffany said.

“I did a bit of research and in the process sort of fell in love with the place and became a Friend of the Civic Hall myself and so I wrote the poem in consultation with Victoria, as well, and it has lots of references to all the amazing rock bands that played here and the history and the emotional connection to it.

Tiffany added she basically created a ghost character and it’s the ghost of the Civic Hall that she is playing. “The ghost is just talking about all the things that she has seen in here, the rock n roll and she mentions the Country Women’s Association donating their grand piano, and the music, and Prince Charles and the debutante balls, the Begonia Queen, plus a lot of other things.”

Tiffany’s poem is called ‘Give Her Shelter’ and in part reads:

They call me the lady of love, built on gold, left out in the cold

I roam these halls, these rooms, wear these plumes

Wrapped up in sorrow and mellifluous tunes I’ve seen it all ladies and gentlemen,

Seen the people come and go

I’ve seen the spirits above us

And I’ve seen the spirits below….

This night it’s the anniversary of the Ballarat Civic Hall

It’s a precious thing, what these walls have seen

It’s a richness beyond recall

There’s gold in these foundations

It’s history in the making

But her life lies in jeopardy

Her foundations are shaking….


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