HERE – a site specific work for Trades Hall

This is HERE, a work I created as part of my Masters in Art in a Public Space from RMIT. I used the ‘888’ motif from the 8 hour day campaign as a lens to focus on stories and histories connected with specific spaces in and around the building itself.

New Building
Old site of the Female Operative’s Hall (1884 -1960)

In 1884 the Female Operatives Hall was built after a successful Tailoress strike. At the time females were not permitted entrance to the committee rooms in Trades Hall2, so a separate building was necessary. Although it was created from a misogynist start, the building developed a strong focus on women unionists and the suffragette movement. In 1960 the hall was demolished to make way for the building that stands on the site now.

The colours of these ‘8’s reflect the suffragette colours of green, white and violet, which stands for Give Women Votes, and were installed on the rails of the car park above the New Building’s door as a memorial to the women who once worked here and to the building which was deemed inconsequential enough to demolish.


Victoria Street entrance hall
Painted banners (dates unknown)

On the wall of the entrance hall from the Victoria Street entrance are painted honour rolls commemorating various trades unions who donated to the creation of hospitals around Melbourne. Included in these lists are the Dressmakers union, the Confectioners union and the Tobacco union. These three caught my attention and I wanted to illustrate all these unions and these three in particular.

One ‘8’ is several shades of pink representing the Confectioners union, one is various colours representing the Dressmakers union and one has brown branches on it, representing the Tobacconists union.


Victoria Street entrance hall
Victorian Labour College banner (circa 1917)

The Victorian Labour College was created in part to educate the working class so they could better themselves. They ran classes in the evenings, presumably to accommodate working life. Classes
such as these were run in many Mechanics Institutes around Australia. I’ve always thought this early democratic approach to education admirable.
The ‘8’s in this set rest on the thin shelf that runs along the bottom of this banner. One represents writing via material with scribbles on it, one represents books with the printed word on the fabric and one echoes the colours of the banner itself.


Trades Hall staircase bannister (Victoria Street entrance)
Site of the bullet holes in the wall (1915)

In the early hours of the 1st of October, 1915, three men broke into Trades Hall and entered the Typographical Society to commit a burglary. When the police surrounded and entered the building the three men all ran in different directions and a shoot out ensued. Constable David McGrath was running down the stairs when he was shot by John Jackson. Constable McGrath collapsed and died under the mural where the bullet holes can still be seen.

The ‘8’s are silver/gray for the bullets, brown suit material for the policeman who died and red for the blood shed.


Lygon Street lawn
Workers Memorial (2000 – present)

This memorial commemorates ‘the workers who have lost their lives as a result of their work’ . In 2004 there were 5 work related deaths a day in Australia7 and this is clearly something that concerns trades unions. This memorial is one I have driven past hundreds of times but never known what it commemorated. I want to pay my respects to those who have died in their workplaces while highlighting this quiet corner of the Trades Hall story.

The three ‘8’s are placed at the front of this memorial in the style of wreaths laid at the foot of other memorials. The middle ‘8’ is the only ‘8’ in the entire project to be sewn from plain material, black to signify death. The ‘8’s on either side are sewn from floral material to represent wreaths.


Lygon Street entrance
Scaffolding (2000 – present)

The scaffold which is in the Lygon Street entrance has been in place since I first encountered Trades hall some time in the mid 2000s. It was placed there to protect visitors from falling masonry and plaster due to significant cracking caused by the drought. Although most people would try to see past the scaffold to the building behind, I want to highlight the scaffold itself. Not only is it part of the continuing story of Trades Hall for over 10 years but it also makes reference to current building trades.
The ‘8’s hung off this scaffolding are green, grey/silver and white, reflecting the colours of the scaffold’s components.


The New Ballroom
Various Melbourne International Comedy Festivals shows, Hard To Swallow (2006) and
Squizzy Tailor the Musical (2010)

This is personal history between Trades Hall and myself. I have watched a number of shows in this space, both during Melbourne International Comedy Festivals and at other times during the year, including Hard To Swallow, a one woman show by a beautiful, tattooed sword swallower named Miss Behave and Barry Dicken’s Squizzy Taylor the Musical.

The Comedy Festivals are represented by a yellow and red ‘8’, which is the official Comedy Festival colours, Squizzy Taylor by an ‘8’ sewn from suiting type material and Miss Behave by a multi-coloured paisley material reflecting her tattoos. They are installed to the left of the stage.


Old Council Chambers
An Air Balloon Across Antarctica (2007)

In 2007 I designed the only theatre show I’ve toured with to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I took the job because the director came to me with an interesting challenge – she wanted a air balloon on stage but it needed to pack down to less than a metre so it could be shipped to Scotland and packed away between shows due to the shared venue space. This show premiered in the Old Council Chambers, which was also the first time I’d worked in Trades Hall. It was also a significant moment in my career as it was the first time I’d properly toured overseas as well as being the first show that both my name and my work had been mentioned in reviews of the show.
As well as being the set and costume designer, I was also the graphic designer and the promotional material I produced featured a red balloon with a brown woven basket flying over white Antarctica.
This personal history are reflected in a red, white and brown ‘8’s displayed on the stage curtain in this room.


Three of the ‘8’s were taken into the Trades Hall Permanent collection – the writing ‘8’ from the Labour Union Banner set, the Tobacconist Union from the Painted Banner set and the suiting ‘8’ from the Policeman’s murder set.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Danielle August 21, 2012 at 10:09 am

I like your work, it takes you on an interesting journey through the building’s history.

Sayraphim August 21, 2012 at 10:52 am

Thanks Danielle! I have found that I’m really inspired by a place’s history and stories.