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Home Is Where The Hall Is

Mar 13, 2014

Artwork for Stompin’s My Heart is a Hall by Ross Paxman.

As a primary meeting point, halls often carry the heart and collective memory of communities, written on their walls and embedded in their foundations. For over 22 years, Stompin have been creating site-specific performances from their base in Launceston, Tasmania, presenting dance in unique and engaging ways. Stompin Artistic Director and choreographer Emma Porteus describes the importance of their work: ‘Stompin has had a positive impact on the lives of more than five thousand young people from a diverse cross section of the community. Stompin dancers have performed to over eighteen thousand people locally, nationally and internationally and many of our alumni contribute meaningfully to Australia’s current artistic landscape.’

Stompin’s latest project, titled ‘My Heart is a Hall’, aims to reconnect communities to these spaces. Centred on four halls around Tasmania – St.Ailbes Hall, Mole Creek Memorial Hall, Sandford Hall and Sorell Memorial Hall – Emma Porteus and writer Finnegan Kruckemeyer commenced work on the project through a research expedition, collecting information on the unique histories of each building.  A creative development period with the Stompin artists followed, then workshops introducing the work and creative processes to the community.  Participants were provided with the opportunity to perform in the show.

Finegan explains the intention behind the project: ‘We want to fill these halls, to contribute to the living history of each community contained within them.  Retracing the history of each community via the way the town hall has been loved and neglected, filled and emptied; exploring the way these shared spaces contain our most precious memories.’ Through a highly involved creative process, My Heart is a Hall presents new, meaningful work that connects youth to dance, to each other and their broader communities.’

To honour these spaces, Kristian Pellissier spoke to community members to find out what makes their hall unique:

Carolyn Gutteridge, Launceston Catholic Church Parish Secretary:

‘St. Ailbes Hall is part of the Launceston Catholic Church.  There’s very little known about St Ailbes, beyond the fact that he was a sixth-century Irish bishop.  Built during the great depression and widespread poverty and opening in 29 May 1932, the hall is a popular, spacious social centre for the whole Launceston community.  It is used for dances, rallies, concerts, meetings, darts competitions, literary and debating sessions and other activities.  The hall is frequently used by the Launceston Horticultural Society.’

Maree Martin, Secretary of the Mole Creek Memorial Hall Committee and her husband Carlyle:

‘Construction on the hall started during World World II.  When the committee ran out of money, local farmers contributed, seeing the project through to completion.  The hall hosts monthly meetings and working bees and has just been repainted.  We maintain upkeep so that it’s available for everyone to use. It is used a lot for afternoon teas and country funerals and was used years ago as a picture theatre where a lot of jaffas went down the aisle.’

Dane Hunnerup, Program Officer for Arts & Events at Clarence Council, collected the following information:

Work began on the Sandford Hall in 1897 and as with most local halls, the money to build was raised by the local community through dances, lectures, cricket and football matches. At the end of November 1897, the Hall Fund Committee announced the first event to be held in the new hall – a tea meeting, concert and dance (tea meeting for sixpence and a whole shilling for the dance).

Sandford Hall became the centre of entertainment for the community. The cricket club was based there, and musical evenings became a regular feature. The hall also saw meetings and lectures from the Sandford branch of the Tasmanian Temperance Alliance.

After World War I, the population of the Sandford area declined considerably, but the hall remained in use for dances, lectures, concerts, meetings, school sports days and fundraising.

Graeme Evans, Sorrell Lions Club:

‘This hall is the central point for all community entertainment. It houses two memorials, is the venue for the Anzac Day dawn service and the market has been held there for the past 25 years. It has a wooden floor that’s great for dancing, with a lot of dances held for weddings and engagement parties. There used to be quite a show by the Sorrell tennis club called Red Aces, where each team in the tennis club put on a skit. Quite often there was some cross dressing… and some people started to get a reputation.  The RSL now occupies a quarter of the building and we have a play group called Sorrell on Stage that put on plays every year.’

What was particularly evident during the interviews was the sense of pride and affection communities held for these spaces. My Heart is a Hall connects the next generation of inhabitants to these beloved spaces, and for the conversation to continue.

Artwork for Stompin’s My Heart is a Hall by Ross Paxman.