Old Castlemaine Gaol

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Old Castlemaine Gaol

When you think of an old gaol cell, live music performances generally isn’t what first springs to mind. Unless of course you have been to Castlemaine, where the Old Castlemaine Gaol is one of the most unique and sensational live music venues in the region.

A historic space that well the truly stirs the senses, the redevelopment of the heritage-listed building has seen some worthy names over the past few years – including the likes of Bush Gothic, Harry Coulson, The Twoks, The Mae Trio and most recently, Geoff Achison.

With two music venues within the gaol surrounds, venue owner Calum McClure says the space is actually the ideal location for any acoustic performance.

“The cell block has quite a unique acoustic feel. Because it’s a sandstone and granite building, there is a very unique acoustic quality and it sort of like been in a church – funnily enough,” he says.

“It’s really amazing for unique performances that you will never really hear or see like that anywhere else. Both spaces interestingly feel quite intimate, and you get really close to the performance.”

The Cell Block is exactly what it sounds like – an old, original block of cells in the building itself that was built in 1861 which can hold up to 200-300 guests, truly making it an ideal setting for performers.

The second music venue is the Mess Hall – a small, intimate space with no windows which can fit up to 100 people. The hall was built in 1972 where it was used for the purpose of feeding prisoners at the time, and now is part of the gaol’s Governor’s Cafe, which is open for breakfast and lunch Thursday to Monday.

“They are very unique venues in the way that they were not designed to be venues which is what makes it different. We are trying to re-purpose these places for new generations in a much more positive way than it was originally intended.”

Alternating between the two venues depending on the season (the Mess Hall for winter and the Cell Block in the summer), McClure says you can expect a range of simple, acoustic shows in January and February in the cell block, along with their regular Irish Sunday Sessions and hopefully an array of unique dance events.

“I do select shows that are more concentrating on folk, blues, jazz and classical. We leave all the rock stuff – it just doesn’t work in our venue because it’s so live. When you get lots of live instruments in there, it just becomes a bit messy.

“We are going to do a Johnny Cash Show of prison songs in March for Johnny’s birthday and we have a Bob Dylan show coming up in May. We try for events like that that suit the venue, and that sort of genre.”

Along with regular music performances, The Old Castlemaine Gaol also run dinner events, guided tours, ghost tours and host weddings – with future plans of a purpose-built wedding venue and an added focus on horror theatre shows.

The Old Castlemaine Gaol is located 36-48 Bowden Street, Castlemaine.
Visit www.oldcastlemainegaol.com.au or contact them on 03 5470 6222