Published: 17 May 2022
When Her Majesty’s Theatre was built in Ballarat in 1875, the roads out the front were dirt. Performers were showered with gold nuggets and only wealthy patrons could afford to attend shows.
Over the past 147 years, the Victorian-era, heritage-listed theatre has become the cultural heart of Ballarat. It has hosted local and international performances to delight millions of theatregoers.
Her Majesty’s is now undergoing major upgrades to breathe new life into the ageing venue and so patrons of all abilities can enjoy performances.
The Victorian Government has contributed $10 million from the Regional Jobs and Infrastructure Fund for the third stage of works. These will transform the theatre to meet modern safety and accessibility standards.
Access all areas
While Her Majesty’s has been lovingly maintained over the years, the nineteenth-century theatre didn’t meet modern requirements – especially to welcome people with mobility challenges.
The Stage 3 upgrades include installation of new lifts, accessibility improvements, improved fire safety and a new box office.
For the first time, visitors of all abilities will be able to access all levels of the building and enjoy a drink in the Long Room Bar without having to negotiate steps.
Ballarat local Emma Blee has been on Her Majesty’s board since 2017. She understands better than most the importance of the upgrades.
A serious accident in 2016 left Emma left with permanent restrictions to her mobility. Stairs are tough and painful.
“People with accessibility challenges can’t access the full benefits of Her Majesty’s,” Emma explained. “Getting anywhere above the first level is really challenging.”
“We’re pretty excited these changes are going to happen,” Emma said.
“The improvements being planned will enable me to enjoy the full theatre experience.
“The focus on accessibility in this project means I can join family, friends and colleagues in the Long Room at the top of the Theatre.
“The lift will also mean it will be easier to access meeting rooms and offices in the basement.”
Welcoming more acts
It’s not just patrons who will benefit from the upgrades.
A backstage lift will allow artists and performers needing an alternative to stairs to perform at the theatre.
With an intimate capacity of 800, Her Majesty’s is a much sought-after venue for comedians, musicians, school groups and dancers.
As Emma says, “It’s a theatre performers love.”
Construction is expected to be complete by late 2023 and will ensure performers and patrons can continue to enjoy Her Majesty’s for many curtain calls to come.