The Substation is Melbourne’s newest contemporary, community-based arts centre. Housed in the historic Newport substation, The Substation is a not-for-profit organisation which presents the very best in contemporary arts, as well as nurturing the arts in the local community through workshops, classes and public programs.
The Substation is one of Melbourne’s newest and most exciting arts destinations, and is quickly establishing a name for itself as a vibrant artistic hub for the people of Hobsons Bay and beyond.
After a 15 year restoration process led by a small band of committed volunteers, The Substation opened in 2008 as Melbourne’s newest community-based, contemporary arts venue. It aspires to be one of Melbourne’s leading presenters of the Arts across all art forms, and boasts a 250 seat, flexible performance space, creative development studio, visual arts workshops & studio spaces, as well as the western suburbs’ most extensive gallery space.
The Substation seeks to establish a unique brand of programming that seamless brings together innovative community-based projects and the best of contemporary arts programming.
With a firm commitment to making the Arts accessible to all, The Substation aims to enhance our community’s appreciation and knowledge of the Arts through encouraging active participation in public programs, such as classes, forums, a schools program, artists’ talks and more, as well as exposing our audiences to challenging, thought-provoking and stimulating artistic experiences.
The Newport Substation was built in 1915 for the purpose of converting electricity from AC (alternating current) to DC (direct current) to electrify the suburban rail system in the local area.
Its other purpose was as a switching station for electricity supplied by the old Newport Power Station. Changes in technology precipitated the removal of much of the original equipment at the Newport Substation.
In 1965 the Newport Tie Station was built, (the small brick building at the southern end of the Newport Substation). This switching station replaced the function of the Newport Substation and continues in that role. After ceasing operations in 1967 the Newport Substation was used for a brief time as the railways upholstery workshop, in 1969 the building was finally locked up. Most of the original equipment had been removed in the preceding years.
Over the years that followed the building closure, vandals and thieves entered the building and damaged or removed almost all of the remaining electrical equipment and fittings. Almost every window pane was broken, ceramic insulators were smashed for the copper rods inside, lead flashing was removed from the roof, decorative tiling removed from walls, original signs and anything of value were stolen from the site. At various times between 1969-1996 people were known to use the building as a squat.
By the 1990's the building had become derelict. The roof structure had deteriorated and the downpipes blocked with asphalt. When it rained it seeped through cracks in the roof and overflowed from the blocked drains, flowing into the building. Water also penetrated through the broken glass, rusting the steel window frames and causing damage to the footings of the Newport Substation.
With broken glass, damaged fittings, rubbish and rubble everywhere, many pigeons using the building and vandals constantly gaining access and spraying graffiti everywhere, the Newport Substation had become an eyesore both inside and out.
In 1996 two local residents, Nigel Edwards and Darren Williams developed the idea of restoring and adapting the Newport Substation into a community arts facility. Over the years that followed the two established an Incorporated Association the "Hobsons Bay Community Arts Centre" and secured a twenty-five year lease on the building and the land surrounding it.
The association now has a committee of local residents and many hundreds of members. It has gained the support of all levels of government and from the wider community including residents and business sponsors.
The Hobsons Bay Community Arts Centre Inc. embarked on its restoration program in March 2001 with a "Work for the Dole" program in partnership with Victoria University and supported by the Federal Government. This program ran for nine months on a part-time basis. During that time the site was cleaned and fall protection was installed around the building.
In early 2002 the association was successful in securing funding from the State Government to conduct a Community Jobs program. Hobsons Bay City Council also provided financial and administrative support. The grant allowed the association to employ twenty workers on a full time basis for sixteen weeks and was conducted from May-September 2002.
Many restoration tasks were completed during this time. Power, water and plumbing were reconnected and installed throughout the building. The roof surface was cleaned and restored and included the application of a waterproof membrane. Downpipes were cleaned of debris and restored to working order. Glass was removed from all windows, the steel frames removed, repaired, repainted and reinstalled. New glass was installed to all window frames and mesh screens fabricated and installed to protect the new glazing. All graffiti was removed from the external brick and rendered surfaces.
The works program was a huge undertaking for a community organisation and was managed and supervised solely by volunteer staff. The outcomes achieved for both the participants and the completion of restoration activities were staggering, with the works undertaken by these staff still a central part of the building's success today.
Originally used to convert electricity for the railways for half a century, Newport’s substation is one of the oldest in the metropolitan system, and also one of the largest.
Once operations at the substation ceased in the late 1960s, the building was left abandoned and derelict for 27 years. In 1996 local residents embarked on the enormous task of restoring the building and converting it into a community arts facility.
After 12 years of hard work The Substation has officially opened its doors to the public in late 2008.
Architect: Victorian Railways Way and Works Branch, in association with Merz and MacLellan
Builder: Victorian Railways. A site on railway land was selected for the Newport Substation in 1913, and by June 1915 the building was two-thirds complete. It was one of the first five substations, constructed by the Railways Department because of delays in receiving tender documents from Merz. Completed in June 1916, it was designed to house three 1500kW rotary converters, which were not installed until 1919. The building was designed so those larger units could easily fitted if required. It began operation when electric services were extended to Williamstown on 27th August 1920, and it function was replaced by new buildings erected at Yarraville and Williamstown in 1967.
Significance: Newport is one of the oldest substations in the metropolitan systems, and also one of the largest, comparable to the North Fitzroy substation and slightly smaller than the Newmarket substation. It displays an exceptionally high level of integrity not seen in any other extant examples of this substation design, and although much of the original equipment has been removed or vandalised, the building is highly demonstrative of early twentieth century power generating practices. The building has strong visual and functional associations with the nearby Newport railway workshops, established in 1882.
The building has strong associations with the inauguration of electric services, due to its construction during the first phase of the scheme. It is also important for its associations with the engineering firm Merz and MacLellan, who designed the electrification scheme as well as the early substations in association with the VR Way and Works Branch. Its construction by the Victorian Railways sets the building apart from contemporary Railways structures built under contract.
They are all-important reminders of the significance of the electrification scheme.
|THE SUBSTATION IS PROUD TO THANK THE FOLLOWING ORGANISATIONS FOR THEIR ONGOING SUPPORT|
MAJOR ORGANISATIONAL SUPPORTER
ORGANISATIONAL PHILANTHROPIC PARTNERS
|2015 ACCOMMODATION PARTNER|
THE SUBSTATION IS PROUD TO BE PART OF ARTS WEST, A UNIQUE ALLIANCE OF ARTS ORGANISATIONS THAT REFLECT THE EXCITING, VIBRANT AND DIVERSE ARTS AND CULTURE THRIVING IN MELBOURNE'S WEST