Castlemaine Art Museum
In August 2017 an anonymous donor came forth to save the historic Castlemaine Art Museum from extinction. As well as supporting operating costs it’s also allowed the museum – founded in 1913 – to abolish its $10 entrance fee. This Art Deco building holds significant works of artists from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in its galleries – including Russell Drysdale, John Brack and Arthur Streeton – but has also played host to touring exhibitions, such as Ben Quilty’s After Afghanistan and a major retrospective of Indigenous artist Ginger Riley Munduwalawala: The Boss of Colour. The museum downstairs has many antiquities from the gold rush era and items telling the stories of early Chinese Australians.
The Bridge Hotel
The advantage of changing hands three times of late is that The Bridge has benefitted from multiple refurbs. The new owners of this rather picturesque pub and bandroom are brothers Patrick and Jeremy Furze, who’ve clocked up years in the music and hospitality industries between them. For the reopening in November 2017, they revamped the beer garden and built a new outdoor stage for sunny weekend busking-style gigs, while the indoor bandroom attracts touring acts from all over Australia. The new menu – designed by Alex Perry (formerly of The Good Table) and head chef Andrew Martin – features local produce and includes vegan options, with an early sitting for families.
This 1875 woollen mill was given a new lease of life when it was taken over in 2014 by a biodynamic sheepfarmer and a GP (they prefer to remain anonymous) and transformed into a giant hub for food and artisan manufacturing. They’re already running at 80 per cent full, thanks largely to the giant Vintage Bazaar, packed full with groovy clothes and homewares. They’ve thought of everything: as you browse the furniture makers and artist spaces, kids can be kept amused by the ping-pong and fussball tables, not to mention the Ice Cream Social’s hole-in-the-wall good times. The Mill is also home to the cellar door of the Boomtown Winemakers Co-op, Das Kaffeehaus, and The Taproom.
On the outskirts of Castlemaine, furniture maker Mark Anstey created a lively artspace of studios – home to mosaicists, sculptors, painters, instrument makers, ceramicists and writers – that’s open to the public. There’s a contemporary art gallery that hosts rotating artists (and live music events), and even an open-access printmaking studio and ceramics studio. The vintage truck-bed stage plays host to the rowdy annual karaoke festival, Castlemaine Idyll, at which a generous proportion of Castlemaniacs take the stage with the outlandishly brilliant backing band. Community project Growing Abundance harvests and grows local produce to keep Mama’s Kitchen pumping.
The new five-strong team behind the historic Theatre Royal – musicians Felicity Cripps and Tim Heath, filmmakers Andrea Distefano and Campbell Hynam-Smith, and director/producer/restaurateur Jono Hill (Heartattack & Vine and Wide Open Road) – have pumped fresh blood into this business, making it a primary hang-out for locals and a massive drawcard for out-of-towners. The espresso bar in the foyer (well stocked with Cripps’ incredible cakes) transforms into a pizza and wine bar by night. The combined cinema and venue has a capacity of around 350 and attracts well-regarded local and international bands. In cinema mode, there are often three to four screenings a day, from big new releases to art-house flicks.