Current Issue #488

Woodville's art deco icon welcomes a new era of live music

Woodville's art deco icon welcomes a new era of live music

An upcoming music festival will re-establish the historic Woodville Town Hall as an important home of performance in Adelaide.

The music festival in question, AltFest, is to be headlined by Dallas Frasca and Z-Star Trinity, and will be the first taste of a new live music program (to be released shortly) that will re-energise the Local Heritage Listed Woodville Town Hall, which is owned and operated by the City of Charles Sturt.

“Council’s spent a lot of time and money fixing the hall up,” says Woodville Town Hall’s venue co-ordinator Deanna Howland. “It’s such a focal point of this growing precinct that they want to see it being used, developed, and brought back to life. They want to see it become a performing arts venue while maintaining its community use and accessibility to community groups. We’ve got a lot of different cultural groups who hold their annual new year’s celebrations here, so we want to see that continue but there is so much potential to have more art here.”

Originally opening in 1903 as the then Woodville Council’s chambers and offices, the council took out a £20,000 loan to build the town hall, which was completed in 1927. The council took out the loan on agreement with the owner of Star Theatres, Dan Clifford, that they would lease back the venue to the picture theatre tsar to cover repayments.

Woodville Town Hall in the golden age of town halls

“[Clifford] agreeing to run this venue as a cinema helped pay for it,” Howland says. “It was always mixed use, so they would run a cinema in the main hall with an old projection room up the back. It started as a silent cinema but within three years they added sound with the first talkie. From the start it was used for dances and balls, civic ceremonies and we still use it for citizenship ceremonies and council functions today. It was predominantly used for film/theatre, which continued for many decades as its prime use.”

In 1947, Greater Union Cinemas took it over and ran it as a picture theatre until 1974.

“It’s continued as mixed use for the community since then,” Howland says. “We still have cultural celebrations here, school concerts, fundraisers, weddings and parties. I’m keen that it continues to be known as a venue that is loved, accessible and cherished by the whole community, so really putting a focus and emphasis on being inclusive and providing for a diverse community.”

Woodville Town Hall today (Photo: Andre Castellucci)

The design and feel of the 900-capacity Town Hall reminds one of the Thebarton Theatre, which isn’t surprising, as the two venues were designed by the same architects, Kaberry & Chard. The Sydney architects specialised in designing picture theatres, and aside from the Woodville Town Hall and the Thebarton Theatre, designed the Odeon Norwood, which is now the home of Australian Dance Theatre. Lately, the Town Hall has had some tweaks and upgrades in order to meet the standards of a modern performing arts venue.

“It is Local Heritage Listed, so any upgrades we do have to go through heritage and development to make sure nothing we do vastly detracts from the look and feel of the place,” Howland says. “We don’t want to do that anyway because part of its charm is how beautiful it is. They don’t make them like this anymore.”

Woodville Town Hall
Saturday June 29


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