11 June 2020

Splash of paint a windfall for Binalong Hall

| Edwina Mason
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Front exterior of Binalong Mechanic's Institute Hall.

Binalong Mechanic’s Institute Hall has been the centrepiece of the town’s social activity since it opened in 1911. Photo: Supplied.

In November 1910, a building that was to become the central gathering spot in Binalong was erected on an allotment in Wellington Street for £400.

It was an aspirational, if not plodding, project for the small NSW town, situated 35km northwest of Yass, which had already seen plenty of colour from prospectors who sniffed for gold in the region’s hills and beyond as squatters, stage coaches, innkeepers, bushrangers, travellers and the odd poet converged on the settlement, be it for a night, a year or for life.

Binalong already had a Cobb & Co staging post, store, inns, police camp, prison, churches, courthouse, school and railway line, but no hall.

In 1907, with a view to offering the town some wholesome entertainment for the idle young, the Binalong Progress Association’s inaugural meeting put a hall of arts at the top of its list. Three years later, it had raised £86 thanks to subscriptions, an athletic afternoon and a ball. The original grant of land had swelled to a half-acre.

Portrait of Banjo Paterson.

Binalong’s most famed resident: AB (Banjo) Paterson. Photo: Supplied.

Thanks to the faith of seven guarantors, the Binalong Mechanic’s Institute – simply rectangular, in all its bluestone glory, with a gabled facade – opened in November 1911 with a grand ball.

During the decades the hall was shaped by events, fundraisers and grants, becoming Binalong’s cornerstone of society and activity in the town.

In recent years, Binalong Hall has been the venue for bush poetry festivals – in honour of the town’s most famous resident, AB (Banjo) Paterson – including the 2014 NSW Bush Poetry Championships.

The building also hosts the annual Binalong Spring Art Show, events organised by the Binalong Arts Group, as well as yoga classes, weddings, parties, anything.

So imagine the local community’s delight as one of the hall’s largest ever funding contributions was announced this week. On 9 June, NSW Member for Goulburn Wendy Tuckerman announced $19,800 in grant assistance for the venue.

Ms Tuckerman said the money – made available through the NSW Government’s 2019 Community Building Partnership Program – will be used to repaint the hall’s interior.

“The Binalong Hall updated its kitchen in 2015 and has many more projects in the pipeline, including roof repairs,” she said. “All that couldn’t be done without dedication and hard work from hall volunteers. There has been a lot of work put in by many supporters and I congratulate all involved in the Binalong Hall.”

Hall manager Dianne Hopkirk was very welcoming of the funding.

“The community is very pleased to receive funding assistance to repaint the hall,” she said. “It’s just one way we are keeping the hall spick and span, ready for all events.

“The Community Building Partnership Program is designed to develop and enhance facilities that bring people together. Binalong Hall does this fantastically.”

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