Arts Flashback

To celebrate Arts Victoria's 40th anniversary we've hit the archives
and uncovered some choice moments in the development of
Victoria's arts sector.

Click on the images below to view the stories and photo galleries, share them with others, and find out how Victoria grew to be the arts and cultural powerhouse it is today.

1970s

Bell-bottoms, handlebar moustaches, platform shoes, our daring approach to fashion (and facial hair) belied an era of serious social change and political drama in 1970s Australia.

We scrapped the White Australia Policy and welcomed an era of multiculturalism. Aussie troops were withdrawn from Vietnam, and in 1975 our PM was controversially dismissed.

We had more leisure time that ever before. Norm coaxed us off the couch with Life. Be in it and we got fit. But when we weren't out BMXing, ten-pin bowling or roller-skating, we were listening to Skyhooks and Sherbet, tuning into the new world of FM radio, and watching Number 96 on our brand new colour TVs.

Here in Victoria, a creative community of artists, craftspeople, theatre-makers and musicians were laying the foundation of the mighty independent arts sector we enjoy today.

Premier Rupert Hamer put the arts firmly on the Government's agenda with the creation of Australia's first state Ministry for the Arts. Its first priorities? Getting the construction of Southbank's Arts Centre complex moving, creating a chain of regional performing arts centres, and bringing art out into the public.

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Dame Peggy van Praagh, DBE
Cast of Storming Mont Albert by Tram (1982). Front row: Caz Howard as Kathy Waterman; Peter Finlay as Nigel Davidson; Hannie Rayson as Samantha Hart-Byrne; Tony Kishawi as Terry Meagher (the punk); Peter Sommerfeld as Danny (the derelict). Back row: Mary Sitarenos as Alice Cronin; Mark Shirrets, director; Paul Davies, author, as Morris Stanley.

1980

Theatre Works established

Theatre Works – originally called the Eastern Suburbs Community Theatre – was founded in 1980 in Burwood by a group of VCA graduates, including writer, Hannie Rayson. It was part of a scheme by the Victorian College of the Arts to encourage students to set up their own companies and take theatre out to the suburbs. It has been located at its current home in St Kilda since 1985.

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Not only did Theatre Works take theatre out into the suburbs, one of its earliest productions gave tram travel a whole new meaning. Presented as part of the 1982 Moomba Festival, Storming Mont Albert By Tram made history as Melbourne's first travelling theatre – taking audiences on a riotous journey from Mont Albert to the city and back, aboard the number 42 tram. Written by Paul Davies, it was described as "one of the most surreal events ever to animate Melbourne theatre" (Jack Hibberd, The Age).

A follow up, Storming St Kilda By Tram, was the opening event of the 1988 Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

When Theatre Works became permanently based at the historic parish hall at 14 Acland Street, St Kilda, the company set about creating a new performing arts venue for Melbourne. Today it plays an important role in supporting artists to bring their stories to the stage, and partners with a range of venues, festivals and producers to present the best small-to-medium scale performances from Victoria, Australia and around the world.

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