Plans for live music venue in Docklands appears to change course
A major music promotor’s push to build a new pop-up live music venue in Docklands appears to have been abandoned after announcing it would invest its future at the iconic Festival Hall.
Live Nation Australia confirmed it had secured a multi-year lease at the heritage-listed Festival Hall in West Melbourne, after reaching an agreement with Hillsong Church, the venue’s current owners.
Hillsong had bought the Dudley St venue in October 2020 for $23 million after the music industry was decimated by COVID-19 induced lockdowns.
As reported by Docklands News in November last year, there were reported plans for a live music venue to be created in Docklands, with a vacant space next to the Costco supermarket on Footscray Rd being a key site of interest.
It was part of a state government announcement that it would spend $5 million in creating a “pop-up live performance venue which will attract new audiences and activate underused parts of the CBD”.
According to The Age, which had obtained cabinet documents, the proposed venue was being pushed by Live Nation, a US-based live music company, with a space being sought in Docklands to “fill a known gap in the Melbourne event and performance landscape” and host more than 100 shows a year with the capacity to hold crowds of up to 3500 people.
But Live Nation confirmed the multi-year lease of Festival Hall in March, and its wish to revive the live music destination, which hosted The Beatles in 1964.
“We are extremely excited to be delivering the next chapter of Festival Hall’s life, not only because it will help support the growing demand of shows that are coming down the pipeline across the industry, but also to put the iconic venue firmly back on the global live entertainment map,” Live Nation president Roger Field said.
“It’s a privilege to be part of an organisation that values the protection of existing heritage music assets and sees the importance that these venues play in the ongoing growth of the live entertainment sector and the communities they’re a part of.”
Chief executive officer at Music Victoria Simone Schinkel said, “we are so excited to have such an iconic venue back as a full-time live music venue”.
“It really was a missing piece; without it, Melbourne was missing that mid-sized arena, something between The Forum and Kia Arena, and for a thriving music scene you need venues of all different sizes,” she said.
A Victorian Government spokesperson said, "Melbourne has a well-earned reputation as one of the world's greatest live music cities – and we back the sector to support local businesses and thousands of workers.”
We will continue to consult with the sector to see how we can retain and advance our position as the live music capital of Australia, and ensure we have the venues we need to meet audience demand.
Hillsong will continue to use Festival Hall for weekend services and other events.
It bought the venue with the intention to create a community hub to support live music, entertainment, and other events. At the time Hillsong stated, “it’s a way to give back to Melbourne and continue the venue’s legacy.”
Live Nation has revitalised other heritage entertainment venues including the Palais Theatre in St Kilda and Anita’s Theatre in New South Wales.
The original Festival Hall burnt down in 1955 before being rebuilt for the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games where it hosted boxing and gymnastics.
The venue then went on to become the live music and boxing institution of Melbourne and was known for staging a range of world-renowned artists. •
Photo: Anthony Delanoix