Skip to content

Berlin by the Sea

Renew Australia, St Kilda Film Festival and City of Port Phillip are very pleased to present the 2nd incarnation of the Aperture f/77 program, Berlin By The Sea – A Tribute to St Kilda Punk + Alternative Music Scene 1980’s.

The program expands to include content in 3 window locations:

Punkline – A Short Film by Sue Davis and Tony Stevens
The White Room at The George (The Crystal Ballroom formerly located in The George)

–  Juvenilia Photographs courtesy of Peter Milne and M.33, Melbourne
Aperture f/77 at 77 Fitzroy Street

Outtakes by Richard Lowenstein
39-41 Fitzroy Street (in close proximity to the Prince of Wales Hotel)

Berlin By The Sea plays a small tribute to the enormous influence St Kilda played in the punk music scene of the 1970s and 80s extending beyond the shores of Melbourne, Australia to Berlin, Germany where many of the bands and band incarnations ended up residing.

There are tales of the “crawls”, where hundreds of revelers would dance along Fitzroy St from the Palace to the Crystal Ballroom or The Prince of Wales through the ’70s and ’80s. It was a time where alcohol flowed on the streets, brawlers shared beers after a scuffle and the music was often free and always abundant. Venues included The Ritz, The George, The Prince of Wales, The Linden Tree, four band rooms at The Espy, The Razor, The Palace, The Palais, The Dogs Bar, The Greyhound, Bloody Mary’s, The Dalton bar and The Inkerman among others. Some of these remain open, most are shut. The famous Crystal Ballroom closed for business in 1989 and the Palace in 2007, before a fire destroyed what remained. St Kilda is also home, or has been at one time or another, to some of Australia’s most prolific artists: Rock band Hunters & Collectors and its front-man Mark Seymour, Paul Kelly, Tex Perkins, members of The Birthday Party in the late 70’s, Rowland Howard and Men At Work started at an unnamed group in St Kilda.

(excerpt: courtesy – Selby Stewart, Mojo, 13 May, 2018)

The late 1970s was a time when punk and alternative music in Melbourne was developing. These bands were gigging around Melbourne and its suburbs but only a few venues were a base for punks and alternative punters. The success of the Seaview Hotel and its ballroom (which was given many names depending on the booking agent, the most famous being ‘The Crystal Ballroom’ named during Laurie Richards’ tenure as booker) gave the music industry a clear sign that alternative music had a place in Melbourne’s live music scene. This success flowed into St Kilda’s music scene in general with a growth in rock and roll venues — notably with The Venue, as well as established pubs (Prince of Wales and the Hotel Esplanade) starting to book alternative bands.

(The punk and alternative music scenes of St Kilda (and Melbourne) in the 1970s and 1980s; excerpt: courtesy Alex Gionfriddo, November 30, 2020, State Library of Victoria)

The Crystal Ballroom

In the 1970s, St Kilda’s proximity to newly hip South Yarra and Prahran, where there was a flourishing of new arts and fashion, meant a willing audience was right around the corner to embrace new music. For example, artist Howard Arkley and his friends from Prahran College were regular attendees at the Ballroom.  The sprawling south eastern suburbs of Melbourne were a natural feeder into St Kilda, with the major arterial Nepean Highway running through making the suburb an enticing nightspot for suburban punters starving for some action.

Dolores San Miguel commented on the Ballroom’s fame ‘That opening night… all those people that came up that staircase. Musicians that are famous today, fashion designers, artists that have won art prizes etc., film makers.’ Some of the notable people who frequented the Seaview and were inspired by it included: filmmaker Paul Goldman, children’s author Andy Griffiths and fashion designer Alannah Hill. Richard Lowenstein made the loose biopic film Dogs in Space in 1986, and in 2009 the documentary We’re Living on Dog Food and the filmmaker academic Donna McRae made Johnny Ghost, an examination of experience and memory of the Ballroom and St Kilda scene. 

The Ballroom scene lives strong in many people’s memories, The Ballroom scene was a key part of the Melbourne music fabric.

(excerpt: courtesy – Selby Stewart, Mojo, 13 May, 2018)

Berlin by the Sea: New installations celebrate St Kilda’s punk past

With thanks to:

  • Renew Australia
  • Renew Fitzroy Street
  • St Kilda Film Festival
  • City of Port Phillip
  • Peter Milne
  • Richard Lowenstein
  • Sue Davis
  • Tony Stevens
  • Nick Haines
  • The White Room at The George
  • M.33, Melbourne