Birregurra's Small Town Transformation gets the green light!

Minister Martin Foley with Angie Smales,
Vicki Jeffrey & Fiona Brandscheid
On Saturday 28th May,  Birregurra began celebrating the news that the community successfully secured $350k in funding to creatively transform the town through art as part of Small Town Transformations, a Victorian State initiative administered by Regional Arts Victoria.

The two year long project, titled "enLIGHTen Me: I have a Hall in my Heart" will see significant climatic and technological upgrades to the much loved but all too frequently idle Mechanics Institute, otherwise known as Birregurra Hall.

The ultimate goal is to inspire the community to champion its potential and creative possibilities—transforming it from a much underused facility into a sustainable and inventive cultural centre with an ongoing program of community activities and events.

There will also be some physical changes to the hall—subtle but very functional. A key element to the physical works to the hall will be connecting the interior of the hall with the outdoor space on the western side of the hall—opening up the secreted Senior Citizens room to a functional and creative landscaped area that will extend the use and flexibility of the space.

The project will manifest progressively across three stages and will kick off with a Show + Tell event inviting all those who have a connection to the hall, past and present, to nostalgically share their stories, memories and mementos of the hall which will be recorded and catalogued. It's these stories and ephemera that will inform many of the artworks produced across the project, including immersive projections, performance pieces and public artworks—all of which the community will have a chance to get involved with and contribute to.

Birregurra Mechanics Institute as it is today in June 2016
Over summer, the outdoor space around the hall will be activated by community members with a quirky and creative pop-up village green—a space to relax in a deck chair with friends, enjoy impromptu performances, chill out watching a film, learn new skills, buy local produce and, most importantly, contribute to how the space might look and function in the future.

Throughout 2017, everyone will be encouraged and have the opportunity to get involved. Theatre will be produced, music will be made, sculptures will be dreamt up, landscapes will be built. Innovative light and projection artist, Craig Walsh, will work with community members to create a major piece of immersive projection work based around the hall.Young adults and teens can learn how to use technical production equipment and create their own light and projection shows that they can put on at the hall. These are just a few of the ideas on the table and, with your input, there is sure to be many more.

The grand finale will culminate in a contemporary arts event which will provide a platform for unveiling all the works developed by our community and provide a chance for everyone to celebrate and enjoy what we've all created together. At night, sculptures will light the town up, projections will captivate locals and visitors alike, and performances with showcase the hall's ultimate transformation.

It's an amazing opportunity for all of us to transform Birregurra hall into a thriving cultural venue for the community and the district to enjoy. While the grant has provided a much needed injection of funds, ultimately it's up to the whole community to embrace the creative opportunities, get your hands dirty and help with landscaping and hall works, and champion the project to make sure it's a viable and sustainable success. It's truly going to be an exciting and transformative journey for all of us and our families. We hope you enjoy the ride!!

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The project is due to commence in August 2016 and will be completed by October 2018.

​Small Town Transformations is a Victorian Government initiative, managed by Regional Arts Victoria.

​Lead applicant is Birregurra Community Group. Project partners include Colac Otway Shire, Birregurra Hall Committee, Birregurra Community Arts Group, Birregurra Festival and Arts Show, Birregurra Senior Citizens, Birregurra Historical Society, Birregurra Primary School and Birregurra Community Health Centre.