Oberon's Malachi Gilmore Hall re-launches

ALL SMILES: Johnny and Lucy East outside the Malachi in Oberon. Restoration of the old entertainment space has been a passion project for the couple.
ALL SMILES: Johnny and Lucy East outside the Malachi in Oberon. Restoration of the old entertainment space has been a passion project for the couple.

For well over 40 years, it was a thriving hub of social activity, and now Oberon's Malachi Gilmore Hall is open again.

The state heritage listed art deco theatre - affectionately known as the Malachi, was constructed in 1937, with funding from Oberon Catholic Church.

Architectural firm Agabiti & Millane designed a striking faade of curving and rectangular shapes, giving it a distinctive, futuristic appearance

The Malachi quickly became the centre of Oberon's social life - hosting balls, variety shows, school concerts, Queen and Princesses competitions, weddings, CWA dances, sports club dinners, and nights of cinema and music at the talkies.

Social activities at the hall declined in popularity throughout the 1970s. In 1984, it was sold and converted into a wool handlers' warehouse.

In 2017, Lucy and Johnny East visited Oberon to look into Lucy's family history in the area.

The Malachi Theatre

The Malachi Theatre

Lucy's great uncle Les Anstiss was the theatre's proprietor for its first 10 years.

While the couple didn't arrive looking for a project, when they saw the building they immediately started thinking it would be nice to restore it. It took them around nine months to decide they wanted to take on the huge restoration effort.

"I think I would have been full of regret if we didn't give it a red hot go," Lucy said.

"We got a lot of help from the state government and State Heritage NSW."

Restoration works included structural and decorative repairs to interiors, installation of new state of the art sound and lighting systems and fitting out the auditorium with art exhibition and theatre production capabilities.

Major challenges to restoration efforts included bringing the 1930s building up to date with compliance laws, and filling out a seemingly endless number of documents to meet state heritage requirements.

Lucy said the couple also intended to do restoration work on the theatre's faade next year.

The new owners have a lot of exciting plans for the theatre, including cinema screenings, live music, art exhibitions dinner dances and a regular concert series called 'Malachi Nights'.

Other planned uses for the venue include film clubs for kids, a monthly Young Adults Screen Society and a Winter Botanical weekend organised by the garden club.

"We are trying to find new, refreshed versions of the events that used to happen in there.

"For all the years the Malachi was dormant, there was no other dedicated performance space in Oberon."

The official re-launch of the venue on April 9 and 10 was a huge success, with 45 performers and technical crew putting on a show for a sold out audience on the Saturday and a near sold out matinee on the Sunday.

"We had guests who met their husbands and wives on the dance floors.

"(There were) stories of people bringing their dogs, carried under their jackets to watch movies."

"Oberon is very high in altitude and very cold. People came on a Friday night in their newest nylon dresses and just danced until they were warm."

Lucy said she hoped the re-opened venue really engaged locals, showing them what a local arts space could do for them

"You can bridge time through these buildings, you can grab back that sense of community."

The Malachi is located at 124 Oberon Street, Oberon. For more information click HERE