Festival Hall (Melbourne)
The House of Stoush
|Former names||West Melbourne Stadium|
|Location||300 Dudley St, West Melbourne, Victoria, 3003|
|Operator||Arena Management Pty Ltd|
|Construction cost||250,000 pounds|
Festival Hall is an historic concert and sporting venue located at 300 Dudley Street, West Melbourne, Victoria. It is one of Melbourne's larger concert venues and has hosted a variety of local and international acts over many years.
The site began its sporting history as the West Melbourne Stadium (shortened to The Stadium) in 1913, developed by R.L.Baker, the Sydney boxing promoter, opening just in time for the Mehegan-Wells fight of 3 November 1913. In 1915 it came under the control of John Wren (chairman) and Dick Lean (general manager) of Stadiums Limited as a multi-function venue for boxing and pro wrestling. It quickly became known to locals as "the House of Stoush", as over the years it has featured some of the greatest names in Australian boxing including Lionel Rose, Johnny Famechon, Anthony Mundine, Lester Ellis and Barry Michael. Professional wrestling also featured regularly, as did Roller Derby, ballroom dancing, cultural and religious gatherings and the first Indoor Tennis Exhibition featuring John McEnroe. It was used by the Painters and Dockers as a meeting place. During the Great Depression, unemployed men seeking work would gather at Festival Hall to be picked for dock work.
Dick Lean Jnr (son of the original general manager, Dick Lean) joined Stadiums in 1960 and set about successful promotion of major music acts of all genres from both the UK and US, increasing the use of the venue significantly. The Stadium was renamed Festival Hall in the early 1960s to reflect its increasing use as Melbourne's largest live entertainment venue at the time. Lean booked the Beatles to play Australia in 1964. Lean continued to promote and bring to Australia many of the major headline acts during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.
Festival Hall’s versatile set-up has been used for many events including a weekly conversion into a television studio for the production of The Price is Right for the Seven Network. The venue has also been used for black tie dinners, product launches, conferences, motivation sessions, art exhibitions, large Christmas parties, religious and cultural events, and even as an examination venue for Swinburne University.
In January 2018, Stadiums Australia proposed that the site become a air of apartment towers, while retaining the front facade, with the intention of selling the project, saying it could no longer compete with other newer venues. A subsequent nomination to the State heritage body Heritage Victoria was successful, with the site gaining permanent heritage protection in November 2018.
Festival Hall is used for seated events of up to 4,586 including the main floor or for up to 5,445 if the floor is used for standing, sight lines permitting. The addition of floor-to-ceiling curtains around the main floor and between the side sections allows seating for up to 1,741 people or 2,600 standing on the main floor. The main floor has an area of 1,288 m², providing room for dining for up to 1,000 seated guests plus dance floor, and the stage offers a further 160 m² of elevated space.
- "memorable stadiums - Melbourne Stadium later renamed Festival Hall". Australian Boxing News. Retrieved 2 December 2009.
- "Festival Hall Live Music Venues Dining and Drink". Only Melbourne. Retrieved 2 December 2009.
- 1956 Summer Olympics official report. Archived 12 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine p. 42.
- "FESTIVAL HALL". Victorian Heritage Database.
- Harrison, Dan (23 January 2018). "'We're being pummelled': Festival Hall owners say it can't compete as redevelopment plans unveiled". ABC News. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
- "West Melbourne's Festival Hall granted heritage protection". Real Estate Source. 22 November 2018. Retrieved 4 October 2019.