Music hall may live on
Heritage bid could save site
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.