I am back again for the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge so have made the commitment to blog every day in April except the Sundays. Some bloggers choose a Theme, and others do random posts. For me, a theme works better, so the theme I’ve chosen for 2016 is Bendigo, a large provincial city in central Victoria, Australia. I live just outside Bendigo and have been in this area for only 9 years, so feel I still have ‘visitors eyes’.
U is for Ulumbarra Theatre , Bendigo’s 1000 seat theatre which was opened in 2015. The theatre was once the old Sandhurst Gaol which opened in 1863. The old historic building has had a stunning renovation and now one of the largest theatres in country Victoria.
The old gaol was a heritage listed building which demanded certain requirements be met by the renovation. The new theatre was to include the site’s history. This has been done by keeping some of the prison cells.
The gaol’s gallows and the trapdoor platform between two walkways in the upper tier remain, and give perhaps a dark reminder of the events that occurred in this building in earlier years. The ticket box is situated beneath where the hangings occurred. Three men were hanged in this prison between 1885 and 1897. They were buried in the prison grounds in an upright position, supposedly so their souls would never know rest. Building works have stayed away from this area.
To walk into the theatre today, it is unavoidable to wonder about the past, however to see the renovation is to marvel at what is possible.
The connection between the old part of the gaol and the new theatre has been made by a glass ceiling, which allows a huge amount of natural light into the foyer.The old and the new is also bridged by huge blocks of local granite surrounding doors and windows in the old gaol.
The entrance is between the original red brick guard towers. The same local granite is framed around the new entrance-way.
‘Ulumbarra’ comes from the Dja Dja Wurrung lanuage meaning ‘meeting place’ or gathering together’. Before the opening of the theatre, an indigenous smoking ceremony was held to rid the building of bad spirits and to acknowledge the suffering that had occurred in the building.
The people of Bendigo are so fortunate to have this theatre. Both the size and the quality is bringing a constant stream of high quality artists to the city. Many of these artists would not normally be seen in a country theatre.