A space that began its life as a response to a war has over the last century become a gathering place for art, craft, music, food, dance, theatre, storytelling, fitness and Mullumbimby’s Biggest Little Choir.
Built during World War I as an army training facility, the Mullumbimby Drill Hall has had a varied life. As a military facility it was home to the Mullumbimby Platoon of 41st Battalion, the Mullumbimby Light Horse Unit and the Returned Soldiers’ Defence Corps during World War II.
Between the wars it was used by cadets, the boy scouts, a gymnastics group and a citizens’ band. Post-war it was back to being used by the scouts, the cadets and from 1945 to 1950 by the Intermediate High School, for manual arts.
In 1977 the Drill Hall became the home of the Mullumbimby District Cultural Centre (MDCC), which soon formed a working relationship with the Pacific Players, an amateur dramatic group established in the 1950s. The hall changed hands from the defence department to Byron Shire Council and by the late 1980s the now cultural complex housed MDCC, Pacific Players, Mullumbimby Adult Learning Association (MALA), and a pottery group.
In 1994 a studio was built onsite. By this time the MDCC had become an incorporated group with two constituent groups: the drama group now called the Drill Hall Theatre Company and MALA, including the potters.
Next week this facility reaches centenarian status and it has been given a wonderful makeover as a 100th birthday present. With support from Council and theatre company funds, the hall has now been air-conditioned, and there is an agreement with COREM to install a 12kWh PV system on the roof.
Michael Borenstein has been president of the Drill Hall Committee for about 15 years, he came to the Drill Hall as a director of theatre productions and he also performed in many shows.
Michael feels that it is important for communities to have a space where people can be creative. ‘It’s very much a focal point for the creative arts in this area. We have a pottery shed and that is used constantly as well.
‘If you look at the history, you see how it all developed. Over the last 20 years it has developed more of an arts focus. We have youth events as well.’
Committee secretary Sonia Borenstein feels that the Drill Hall is a great facility for the area. ‘It’s wonderful. It gives sense of continuity and community and Mullumbimby is a community and we are community theatre.’
Michael says that theatre company is accessible to all and events around that are very inclusive. ‘Mike Russo runs Monday evening classes for anyone for free. Anyone can come along. The workshops are free for all age groups, all you need to do is become a member of the company.’
‘We have a Hot Shorts competition here as well, where writers are encouraged to put in things they have created themselves’, says Sonia. ‘We do try to put on Australian plays by new writers whenever possible.’
‘It’s also an affordable venue for small groups of people’, says Michael. ‘It’s used every day of the week really, every evening. We have different shows coming in from different places.’
The first full production in the newly upgraded Drill Hall Theatre will be an all-female, rock and roll circus production of Twelfth Night, Shakepeare’s delightful comedy of gender confusion – the show opent on Friday October 21.
So, it’s time to party! On Sunday August 28, the community is invited to join in the celebrations. With the official opening at 11am there will be a full program of events from a marble competition to drama.
The cake will be cut at around 3.15pm and visitors are invited to attend in period costume.