Tuesday, May 12, 2015

2015 Ballarat Heritage Weekend

Lately it seems to have been raining constantly at Ballarat. But there are compensations - like this exquisite raindrop-encrusted spider web recently photographed outside my studio. A remarkable feat of spinning and engineering, it was improbably suspended between our Hills Hoist clothesline and the vegetable patch, having weathered a particularly dramatic storm the night before.

Unfortunately the weather didn’t improve much for last weekend’s Ballarat Heritage Weekend, an event my partner Shane Jones and I had eagerly anticipated ever since attending the festival for the first time last year. Fortunately, all the events we visited were indoors based, and all were simply wonderful.

Aprons on parade at the 2015 Ballarat Apron Festival

Our first port of call was the Ballarat Apron Festival, co-organised by our friend and neighbour, Heather Macleod (pictured below) who declared that she thought of us when she was ironing the aprons pictured above and below. Lent by a private collector, several were worn by the character Jean Beazley (Nadine Gardner) in the celebrated ABC TV series Dr Blake’s Mysteries, which, for the uninitiated, is set in late 1950s Ballarat. In turn, I thought of my friend, Arizona-based artist Deborah McMillion, who is also a devotee of the show.

The ever-stylish Heather Macleod

At morning tea we were delightfully serenaded by a group of ukulele players

Vintage apron, a personal favourite among dozens of personal favourites

Shane with his personal pick: an homage to the legendary Australian racehorse, Phar Lap

In the Ballarat Gold Exchange in Lydiard Street, it was a treat to finally meet artist/printer Lawrence Finn, Director of Hipcat Printery in Kyneton. Also in Lydiard Street, we joined a guided tour of the membership-only Old Colonists Association, where the fictional Dr Blake frequently calls in for a tipple. The tour guide informed us that the actor Craig McLaughlan, who plays Dr. Blake, recently became a member. After the tour of this magnificent building, which was founded by veterans of the Eureka Stockade, we stepped out on to the balcony to enjoy stunning views of historic Lydiard Street. Later in the day, Shane and I demonstrated what Doctor Blake tragics we really are by calling into the cozy bar for a glass of wine.

The bar of the Old Colonists Association

From the Old Colonists balcony: LHS, the Mining Exchange and distant centre: Craig's Royal Hotel

Our favourite cinema, the Regent, viewed from the Old Colonists balcony. Later we called into the cinema for a
screening of vintage newsreels

Shane enjoys the view and the music of the Ballarat Memorial Concert Band 

Directly opposite, on the first floor balcony of the George Hotel, the Ballarat Memorial Concert Band played up a storm 

Two highlights of the day were concerts at the Mechanics Institute: at 4 pm, The Pacific Belles, a dazzling Andrews Sisters-inspired trio (we immediately pronounced ourselves lifelong fans) and at 4.30, a solo performance by talented Creswick-based chanteuse Aimie Brûlée.

Outside the Mechanics Institute, prior to the concerts, we bumped into Judith and Joel, two old friends we haven’t seen for several years. The four of us ended the day with a civilised coffee at the palatial Craig’s Royal Hotel (Mark Twain is its most famous guest) then going out for a meal and a further catch-up, followed by a solemn vow not to leave it so long until our next meeting.  

Meanwhile, Shane and I are already hanging out for the 2016 Ballarat Heritage Weekend.