A $26 million investment to turn one of Victoria’s most notorious jails into a hub for the arts, will pay off this weekend when the Ulumbarra Theatre opens in Bendigo.
Ulumbarra was developed on the site of the former Sandhurst, later Bendigo, jail.
The theatre is a striking mix of contemporary and Victorian era architecture.
The jail was decommissioned in 2006 and the neighbouring Bendigo Senior Secondary College took over the site.
“The school had co-existed with the jail for well over 100 years,” principal Dale Pearce said.
“It was an eyesore. Until three or four years ago there was razor wire around the top of the jail walls.”
Originally there were discussions about converting the jail into classrooms, but soon Mr Pearce began to dream of something a lot bigger.
“The original structure was really sound and fantastic,” he said.
“So our thinking was ‘what can we do for the school but what might we be able to do for more public use, civic use’?”
Discussions began with the City of Greater Bendigo and then with state and federal government departments.
An ambitious project emerged where the school would share facilities with the wider community.
“In a regional city you often get far better collaboration than you often do in the metropolitan environment,” Bendigo’s City Futures director Stan Liacos said.
“So all the key people that have been behind this development gathered five years ago and really schemed it.
“Then we convinced federal, state and local government to fund it and here we are.”
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