Mu­sic hall may live on

Her­itage bid could save site

Herald Sun - - NEWS - JOHN MASANAUSKAS @JMasanauskas

PLANS to de­mol­ish Fes­ti­val Hall to make way for apart­ment tow­ers have been hit by an of­fi­cial push to pre­serve the leg­endary en­ter­tain­ment site.

Her­itage Vic­to­ria has ac­cepted a nom­i­na­tion to in­clude the “House of Stoush” on the state her­itage register be­cause of its his­tor­i­cal and so­cial sig­nif­i­cance.

The West Mel­bourne hall fa­mously hosted the Bea­tles on their only tour of Aus­tralia in 1964, and artists like Johnny Cash, Bill Ha­ley and Frank Si­na­tra also per­formed there.

It was also a pop­u­lar box­ing and wrestling venue, fea­tur­ing the likes of world cham­pi­ons Lionel Rose and Johnny Fame­chon.

Owner Sta­di­ums Ltd has in­di­cated it wants to sell the site, and has lodged plans to de­mol­ish most of the build­ing and erect two 16-storey tow­ers, fea­tur­ing apart­ments, of­fices and shops.

It was in­tended that some his­tor­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant parts of the sta­dium would re­main, such as the box­ing ring and the Dud­ley St en­trance. How­ever, much more may need to be kept if HV’s nom­i­na­tion is ac­cepted by the Her­itage Coun­cil of Vic­to­ria.

Mu­sic guru Molly Mel­drum wel­comed the nom­i­na­tion.

“There’s so much history down there, it’s part of our her­itage,” he said. “They can build around it, do what­ever they want, but just keep that bit there.”

Plan­ning Min­is­ter Richard Wynne said in­clu­sion on the her­itage register would en­sure any de­vel­op­ment would have to pro­tect and pre­serve the char­ac­ter and history of the famed venue.

“Noth­ing speaks to Mel­bourne’s arts, mu­sic and sport­ing cul­ture quite like Fes­ti­val Hall,” he said.

“From the Bea­tles and Frank Si­na­tra to Lester El­lis and Lionel Rose, it has been a stamp­ing ground for the megas­tars who have wowed us all, night af­ter night.”

City of Mel­bourne plan­ning port­fo­lio chair Ni­cholas Reece said the coun­cil had a plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion be­fore it, but her­itage mat­ters would be de­cided by Her­itage Vic­to­ria. “Many Mel­bur­ni­ans have a strong con­nec­tion to Fes­ti­val Hall and it’s great to see its so­cial sig­nif­i­cance be­ing recog­nised,” he said.

Crowds queue up out­side Fes­ti­val Hall in 1982.

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