Village People: Castlemaine builds community ties through event space

Published: 27 Oct 2021

People enjoying the entertainment in Castlemaine's Village Square at night

Please note: Images in this article were taken before current COVID-19 safety measures were in place.

If you want to create a village in the true sense of the word, focus on an outdoor space where everyone feels welcome to come and hang out.

Castlemaine has got that all sorted.

To help Mount Alexander Shire Council deliver a bounty of free and COVIDSsafe events for all ages, and to boost the local creative industry, the Victorian Government is pumping $100,000 into The Village Square on the corner of Lyttleton and Frederick Streets in the heart of town.

The funding is from Creative Victoria’s Creative Neighbourhoods Partnerships Pilot Program, which aims to unlock and open up spaces for creative work and participation in partnership with local governments and other partners across the state.

Latin dance classes, circus workshops, street theatre, food, open air cinema, literary talks plus folk, dance, electronica, reggae, rock and jazz performances… you name it, it’s all coming alive in this regional hub.

In fact, since launching in March, The Village Square has attracted thousands and hosted 80 performers, eight live radio broadcasts, four festivals, one solar-powered stage and even a garden built by children.

“The program focuses on celebrating our residents’ creative excellence, particularly our young musicians,” says Vicki Anderson, Cultural Development Officer at Mount Alexander Shire Council.Female musician singing and playing guitar

To that end, along with performances by Castlemaine Secondary College bands, the local dance school put on a hugely successful 90-strong socially distanced flash mob performance to the Tones and I track, ‘Dance Monkey’.

“We also engaged Jamaican dancehall and West African drumming specialists from Melbourne to help generate a sense of cultural safety for the ‘hidden talents’ across our less well-represented, but increasingly culturally diverse community,” Vicki adds.

And to help champion the shire’s role in the Bendigo-led UNESCO City and Region of Gastronomy designation, The Village Square hosted the inaugural Festival of Winemaking, Brewing and Distilling in April, produced by Castlemaine Farmers’ Market.

Thanks to the Victorian Government investment, further expansion plans are underway.

Upgrading and extending Village Square began in October 2021, using local suppliers to create a carbon-neutral structure to provide shelter, power and lighting to support an even wider range of creative events – and jobs for creative and events industry workers – all year round.

The funding will also enable Council to work with an advisory group of creative producers from the screen, live music, visual arts, events and broadcast sectors, to provide mentorship and training opportunities for local young people.

“We’re committed to establishing a community-driven collaborative governance model - a “curatorium” - where a group of young people will make programming decisions to directly inform the way the space is used,” says Vicki. “Opportunities for our youth will also include the creation of street art installations and direct employment in support of site management.

“Reactivation of outdoor public space has never been more important,” Vicki observes. “Our streets have the power to enhance, protect, and improve what’s already there and support daily routines, rituals and behaviours.”

Page last updated 21 Jun 2022
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