For next month’s Brunswick Music Festival we are treated to a program of fantastic music across the suburb. The Venues 3056 event looks to be a highlight, offering a night of free music, across the dedicated venues that bring live music to the suburb year round. Let’s take a closer look at some of these iconic neighbourhood locations and delve into the history of what these buildings once were, before us music fans started wearing down the carpet.
Sitting bang in the middle of the suburb is Brunswick institution The Retreat Hotel. A meeting place for all, known for its rocking live music and large beer garden where you are sure to see a familiar face. A local’s favourite from way back, The Retreat Inn as it was once called, is Brunswick’s oldest pub, opened in 1846 just as the settlement started to grow. It provided a popular stopping place for travelers and its reputation hasn’t ceased, you will find it pumping on most nights of the week. Be sure to catch bands Terrible Truths, Primo, Steph Hughes and Erica Dunn for Venues 3056.
Just next door along Sydney Road is one of the earliest surviving, and reasonably intact Mechanics' Institutes built in Victoria in the 19th century. The Brunswick Mechanics Institute opened in 1868, providing library books to members of the community. Distinguished by its compact plan and building form, with its unusual juxtaposition of front room with a transverse main hall. It has reserved its role as the council’s key performing arts hub and for Venues 3056 it plays host to interactive multi-sensory installation Anthropony.
A venue new to this year’s music festival program, but a building that has stood the test of time is Estonian House. Starting life as The Great Western Theatre in 1928 it was a large landmark in the area due to its elevated position, and was often utilised as an advertising billboard easily seen at the nearby Moonee Valley Racecourse. Showing movies until the late 1950’s when television started to drain attendance, it was then used as a vast store before reverting back to a cinema again as Marco Polo Theatre, screening mainly Italian films.
Acquired by the Estonian community in 1970, today it’s used for functions, rehearsals for choirs and folk dancing groups, and meetings for those interested in traditional arts, crafts and language classes. Now add on to that list, music venue for Brunswick Music Festival, offering locals the chance to see incredible home-grown and international talent inside a unique setting.
One of Brunswick’s not so hidden anymore gems, is Howler. This 1000-square-metre warehouse shell from the 1940s was transformed into a multi-functional space and opened in 2013. The enormous indoor/outdoor area received high commendation in the Eat-Drink-Design Awards with every last pocket of the building serving some sort of purpose. The theatre room being a favourite for live music gigs which will play host to a diverse line-up for Venues 3056.
Weave your way through on Wednesday March 6th and take a moment to think of the years past. Venues 3056 featuring; Bar Oussou, Brunswick Mechanics Institute, Bombay Rock, Howler, Noisy Ritual, The Brunswick Green, The Penny Black and of course The Retreat.
Words by Netta Justice
Pictures via a variety of sources from venue websites.