Media Statement: Bella Union

The Trades Hall and Literary Institute (THLI), managing body for Victorian Trades Hall, can confirm it is undergoing significant repairs and restoration to the oldest continuously working Trades Hall building in the world.

These repairs have been delayed until the expiry of the current lease of the Bella Union Bar.

Victorian Trades Hall is a building of international architectural and political significance. Built using money donated by thousands of workers, it is classified by the National Trust and is included on the register of Historic Buildings (Victoria). 

Despite this, portions of the building are literally crumbling, and much of it is in dire need of restoration. With plans for this restoration project to be put out for tender shortly, major building works are anticipated across the site between August 2017 and May 2018. Large portions of the building will be significantly affected during these works, including areas in and around Bella Union.

As neither access to these parts of the building or the safety of patrons and workers can be guaranteed, THLI was unable to accommodate Bella Union’s request for an extended lease. Substantial changes to the building schedule have already been made to prevent the venue having to close earlier.

Victorian workers have supported artists at Trades Hall for generations, since Tom Roberts and Frederick McCubbin studied painting there in the 1870s. Even today, Trades Hall is home to theatre groups, opera singers, an artist studio and comedians. The closure of Bella Union will not alter the union movement’s proud history of strong support for the creative arts in Melbourne.

After these complex, significant and much-needed restoration works are complete, a new live music venue and creative arts space will open that is affordable, physically accessible and welcoming to working people, including the low-paid.

We look forward to welcoming all working people to a space managed by a licensee who respects the need to preserve the 161 year history of this important site, and is more prepared to develop a respectful relationship with the unionists who occupy Trades Hall on behalf of all working people.


Media contact: James Raynes, [email protected] or 0405 829 809

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