11 July 2010
It’s late in the day, but I’ve eventually visited McGregor Hall. It’s an old tiled, fibro workers’ hut from the earliest days of Canberra’s development. When I arrived in Canberra (1985) there were perhaps 5 or 6 around this area, which were even then used for various community activities: theatre, Photoaccess, group offices. This seems to the last of this style left, and so it’s a significant historical relic of Canberra. Sadly, and in the modern way, it’s threatened with redevelopment. The current users are the crew around the Canberra Musicians Club and various dance groups. I saw the Hall devoid of performers, but there was a distinctly pleasant vibe about the venue and also the people there: kids and community-minded adults of all ages. It’s at a location like this where you are exposed to the genuine feel of place. This is art and expression and community for its own sake, not for profit. It's valuable, but fragile. Governments don’t always see it this way, of course, and I can understand their predicament. The land is obviously valuable, and the huts were never meant to be permanent, but community needs encouragement and support and a past. Interestingly, good community and history have their own monetary value, in the health of a city and in tourism that increasingly thrives on uniqueness. McGregor Hall provides all these. It will be a sad day if and when another piece of our memory disappears.