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Byron Shire
April 24, 2024

Lennox shed restoration a victory for community

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Robyn Hargrave and Dorothy Thompson of the Lennox Head Heritage Committee inside the restored shed. Photo David Lowe.

Long-time campaigners for the salvation of the historic Lennox Head shed/pavilion are very happy with the final result of the restoration and improvement works, recently delivered by Ballina Shire Council.

Dorothy Thompson’s father did a lot of work for the Ballina Council, Surf Club and other community organisations in the early years, and was involved with the original resumption of the seaside blocks (where the pavilion now stands) so they could become public land, as well as the creation of the original building, in the 1950s.

The restored shed. Photo David Lowe.

Local historian Robyn Hargrave has fought for the preservation of the shed for a number of years.

While the building has been decried by some as an eyesore with no real heritage value, it’s become obvious in recent years that it has significant sentimental value for many people in Lennox Head, as well as practical value when the weather closes in.

Long battle

With almost everything else in Lennox Head changing beyond recognition in the last few decades, both women are pleased to see the shelter and associated buildings now have a new lease of life, following a torrid few years of battles to preserve them, through various plans put forward by Ballina Shire Council as part of the Lennox Village Vision revamp.

Community enjoying the restored shed. Photo David Lowe.

After multiple deputations to Ballina Council representing heritage interests, Robyn Hargrave says she’s really pleased with how it’s all turned out. ‘We always had the confidence once we saw the final plans. This was our preferred option.’

After many different approaches were considered and rejected at various stages, the building now features a long central table which is wheelchair accessible and contains chess boards. There’s a new roof, a different colour scheme, and extensive use of timber throughout, with the neighbouring bus stop and toilet block visually integrated and connected via flowing pathways.

Many Bundjalung words about the area are built into the design, with local Indigenous input. As Ms Hargrave says, ‘It’s all part of our living history, our living culture, and we’re all going forward.’

Robyn Hargrave and Dorothy Thompson with the restored shed. Photo David Lowe.

She believes with so much of the old Lennox now having been knocked down, it was ‘pretty precious’ to have at least one public building preserved, to reflect the village’s past and bring it into a new era.

Absolutely delighted

Dorothy Thompson is very grateful to have a piece of Lennox’s heritage preserved. ‘I’m absolutely delighted,’ she said. ‘I would have felt very down if it had been destroyed.’

One of the Ballina councillors who argued for the preservation of the building was Lennox’s Kiri Dicker. She told the Echo the result was ‘amazing’, and beyond what anyone expected. She remembers wondering at times if she’d made the right decision to campaign for the shed because it was such a ‘massive fight’ to save it from demolition.

Chess game in the restored shed. Photo David Lowe.

Cr Dicker said she loves the chess boards (an idea which emerged from a listening post gathering) and the long central wooden table, and is excited about the potential for the revamped venue to become a location for new events, such as community dinners.

With little remaining of the original structure but the arches, Cr Dicker says the shed nonetheless symbolises something important to a community which has been dealing with an enormous burden of growth. ‘There’s been some grumbles, but largely, we’ve been pretty gracious about it, although people are genuinely shocked at the pace of change.’

The beauty of randomness

Kiri Dicker said it was important for long term residents not to have their main street entirely sanitised and uniform. ‘They wanted some randomness about it!’ she said.

Crack repair in the restored shed. Photo David Lowe.

This idea has even been extended to the repairs of the cracks in the floor of the shed, which embrace the Japanese concept of kintsugi, in which the repair becomes part of the art, rather than being hidden.

‘The idea is that not everything has to be brand new and the old thing can be worthy,’ said Cr Dicker.

In terms of Ballina Shire Council’s long argument with itself about the Lennox shed, she says the lesson is to listen to people, make a good decision and stick to it, rather than ‘swaying around in the breeze’.

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