Every Laneway has a Story
Start - Flinders Street Station "Under the Clocks"
LB: Here we are at our starting point, in front of the grand old entrance to Flinders Street station. This is the central station in Melbourne’s CBD, and it's more than just a transport hub. It was the busiest station in the world in the 1920s, and although times have changed, it’s still very much a cultural icon of Melbourne. Most Melburnians have organised to “meet under the clocks” on the stairs at the dome's arched entrance at one time or another, before heading off into the city for an adventure. And this is where I’m meeting my good friend Nick Cain today!
NC: Hey Lauren! How are things? So l'm sure you're wondering who we are and why we'll be taking you on a tour today. We are two Australian actors and creatives who love storytelling. So much so, we run a podcast called The Act of Storytelling, where we interview Australian storytellers and explore the various forms stories take in shaping our community.
LB: Shameless plug – go check us out on iTunes by typing in The Act of Storytelling or visiting www.theactofstorytelling.com.au. Write that down or something... because right now we want you to focus and enjoy the tour! We've also popped the link in the description of this tour, so you can get to it easily when we've finished our walk through the city.
NC: So let's get going! If you're facing the station entrance, we're going to head down the street to your left, so start making your way under the covered pavement now. Then turn left and cross the street over the wide pedestrian crossing, and into the open square.
NC/LB: Before we leave you to navigate in peace, let me quickly tell you how this works. VoiceMap uses GPS to pinpoint your location and trigger the relevant audio. This means you can put your phone away now and relax. I will tell you where to go. Some silence is normal; we're just between locations. So carry on going – we'll meet you in the square.
Up the stairs through the centre of Fed Square
NC: Here we are in Federation Square! More on that shortly. But for now, make your way up the stairs with the slight incline, through to the centre of the square.
LB: Can you see the very interesting-looking building to the left and in front of you? It's covered in geometric panels with oddly shaped gaps in it. Keep walking and we'll meet out front near the ACMI sign.
LB: This building you're walking towards is the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, or ACMI. Let's walk over to the front of the building to talk some more. Just head along this open area to the entrance, which is under the glass-filled gap in the building itself.
ACMI - "Explore the Moving Image"
NC: Make your way over to the entrance of the ACMI, and stop for a moment.
[2 SECOND PAUSE]
NC: Now let me officially welcome you to Federation Square! This community space in the heart of Melbourne was originally much maligned. It was considered an eye sore to many locals when it was being constructed, including me at the time! But now it holds a special place in the hearts of many Melburnians. It's an architectural gem, and the attention to detail that went into designing this space even extends to the footpath. It's an artwork called Nearamnew by Paul Carter, the ochre sandstone, which evokes a sense of the outback.
LB: And in the middle of Federation Square stands this far more contemporary structure, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. ACMI celebrates, explores and promotes the moving image in all its forms – film, television, games and digital culture. You can catch some great film festivals here, including the Melbourne International Film Fest, and the Japanese, Czech and Slovak film festivals. You can also catch iconic Australian films here, including independent favs, such as Pawno and Down Under, through to commercial successes such as Sherpa, The Boys and Fell, the beautiful feature film debut of writer Natasha Pincus.
NC: ACMI’s stated mission is to connect makers, thinkers, viewers and players in order to embrace the future, understand the past and unlock new types of creativity. So let's take a stroll into the building; it’s well worth the visit.
Walk into the ACMI, through the entrance with 'Alfred Deakin Building' above it. Then make your way straight through, until you reach the street on the other side.
[2 SECOND PAUSE]
LB: ACMI also runs industry interviews every second week for Friday on My Mind, which I for one try to get along to as often as possible. And recently I took my dad to see the amazing Scorcese exhibit here at ACMI, exploring influential film director Martin Scorcese’s inspirations, creative process and key collaborations.
Keep walking through the building. We'll meet you again when you pop out the other side, and we'll begin our journey into the laneways!
Left onto Flinders Street
NC: You made it! Now take a left here, and we'll head back to the main intersection near the station.
Cross over Flinders Street
LB: At the lights, let's turn right and cross the street toward the cathedral. Be safe! It can be a busy intersection!
Chapter House Lane - "Religion and Art Collide"
LB: Now turn right, and keep walking.
[2 SECOND PAUSE]
On your left is another of Melbourne’s major landmarks. St Paul's Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral built on the site where the first public Christian service in Melbourne was conducted, in 1835. It has hosted many significant occasions in national, Commonwealth and international history. St Paul's continues to be the choice venue for many state funerals, including those of prime ministers, premiers, governors, governors-general and other people of significance.
Carry on straight. We'll explore our first laneway up ahead.
Left into Chapter House Lane
NC: Now turn left and walk alongside the church, towards the archway ahead.
This spot is a great example of where religion and art collide in this city. We’ll stumble upon some great little shops in this lane. You can imagine Ye Olde Melbourne, with the horses clopping down this street. Now, you'll just hear the echo of high heels on the cobblestones as visitors come to Chapter House Lane Cafe for a treat, or pop into Alphaville. They have some very on-trend black-and-white clothing from Melbourne designers.
To brighten your day a little, you might like to stroll into Pollon Flowers – an amazing place to get yourself a bunch of your colourful blossoms to offset Melbourne’s edgy, black fashion theme.
Carry on heading to the archway.
Through the Archway
LB: Now that you’re across the cobblestones, walk up the stairs and through the archway. Then head to the street on the other side.
Left on Flinders Lane
NC: Take a left here, onto Flinders Lane, and keep walking. We're heading towards one of our favourite literary haunts and coffee houses.
To the Journal Cafe
NC: Continue heading straight. The coffee shop we're approaching is a great place for a pit stop.
LB: As we mentioned, we're both actors and storytellers. So the idea of a cafe next to a library is pretty exciting! When we both lived in this fair city, before Nick moved up to Sydney, we had many a meeting for personal artistic projects at our next spot. We don't want to ruin the surprise though, so keep walking. We're headed to 253 Flinders Lane. You want to walk just past the City Library into a wonderful little cafe the next door along. Don't worry – we'll tell you when we get there.
NC: In the meantime, here's a little reminder. Hopefully you've already burned theactofstorytelling.com.au into your minds eye for later reference. There you'll find a multitude of podcasts and blogs with wonderful storytellers from around Australia that we highly recommend exploring. You can hear more about our own personal journeys there as well. Just continue straight.
The Journal Cafe - "Coffee and Collaboration"
LB: So let's stop here, and take a look at the cafe on your left. Go on, step inside the lovely Journal Cafe for a coffee or tea top-up.
[3 SECOND PAUSE]
You in yet? Journal is a venue made up of two businesses; the Cafe and the Canteen.
NC: How does this place make you feel, Lauren? The atmosphere gets me every time. It's located in the centre of the CBD between a learning institute and a library, and the Journal Cafe’s punters are as diverse as they come. Maybe it’s the wonderful coffee here or the proximity to the library, but this place makes you feel like dreaming up a story to share with your best friend. It’s one of those cafes that feels like it could be a famous writer's favourite coffee shop. I can picture them, sitting in a corner writing their first bestselling novel, right? The high arch windows give you a great ability to rubberneck and dream up your own stories of people passing by.
LB: Absolutely. As we mentioned, we’ve had quite a few collaborative meetings here ourselves for the podcast, with filmmakers and journalists, reviewing past theatrical endeavours and brainstorming new creative projects! It's located in the same building as the Centre for Adult Education, which runs amazing courses for adults to further their education. In the same building is the City Library, which holds exhibitions, concerts, storytelling, crafts workshops, kids' programmes and more, along with an amazing catalogue of books. So it’s no surprise that this lovely little cafe attracts a diverse bunch of people, who come here to create, read, discuss, catch up and simply just chill out over a glass of wine and some antipasto. Have a great coffee in The Cafe or some simple yet delicious Italian cuisine from the Canteen.
NC: That's right, do what we did while recording today, and sit back and order a coffee on us! Well, not literally on us. We’re not there. But... I’m sure we would have bought you a coffee if we were!
LB: When you're ready to move on, cross over to the other side of the road. Then turn right and start walking back the way we came. You're going to turn left into Manchester Lane, the second little lane on your left. It's just before the big, red-brick building.
Manchester Lane - "Experiment with Design"
LB: Continue straight down this narrow lane.
NC: Manchester Lane is definitely worth a wander, connecting Flinders Lane to Collins Street. It's named for the fabric warehouses, tailors and hatters housed along the strip in the 1860s. Today it's home to a number of fashion stores and eateries, including Design A Space, an amazing retail business specifically set up to promote the uniqueness of Australian Design. It showcases the work of over 100 local independent Australian designers, including clothing, accessories, jewellery and artwork.
LB: Bit of trivia for you Nick, I shot a commercial once that involved coming into Design A Space and trying on different clothing. Turned out to be a great opportunity to try on amazing pieces that at another time I'd be too shy to try.
NB: Really? I think that's actually a great example of how this city can encourage you to push your own boundaries; oscillating between old and new, conservative and alternative.
LB: Absolutely! On that note, why don't we try something a little more traditional now. Shall we? Continue straight.
Left on Collins
LB: Take a left here, onto the bustling Collins Street.
Be sure to notice the high percentage of corporate workers in the city if you're here during the day. What a contrast to the Laneways!
NC: Let's wander down Collins St a little further and step back into the 19th century! It's up ahead and we'll be turning right.
NC: Now cross over to the right-hand side of the street, going over the pedestrian crossing when it's safe to do so. Then keep walking straight in the same direction.
[2 SECOND PAUSE]
LB: By the way, thanks for joining us as we follow the trail of our favourite artistic adventures deep in the heart of this ever-changing city! It’s always a pleasure to share some of our story of Melbourne with visitors.
The Block Arcade - "Doing the Block"
NC: And of course, here we are at the Block Arcade. Stop for a moment and look at its entrance on your right.
The site of the Block Arcade was purchased for eighteen pounds in 1837. It originally housed the Briscoe Bulk Grain Store, which dealt in grain, lumber and ironmongery. I've added a new word to the Nick Cain dictionary today! But the business owners eventually relocated due to the 'impracticalities' of the structure of the arcade.
LB: And then, following a rather spectacular fire in 1886, a team of architects were commissioned to redesign the block into a shopping arcade based on the Galleria Vittorio in Milan. It became known as the most popular place to shop and be seen amongst Melbourne’s polite society. Consequently, the Block Arcade ended up taking its name from the expression at the time for promenading in the area, or ’doing the block’.
[1 SECOND PAUSE]
So let's 'do the block' ourselves! Go through the entrance, and walk through the arcade. We're heading for the street on the other side. So you'll need to turn left at the end of this passageway, then right into the laneway.
[2 SECOND PAUSE]
NC: The arcade includes the Hopetoun Tea Rooms, which were created for the Victorian Ladies Work Association and named after the founder, Victoria’s first Governor’s wife, Lady Hopetoun.
LB: Feel free to stare through the often-photographed tea room windows, at the delicious and decadent cakes stacked inside. Or step inside the rooms themselves, which seat no more than 50 at a time but feed up to 400 a day, and sip tea in style while snacking on sweet and savoury delicacies. Time for tea, Nick?
[2 SECOND PAUSE]
Don't forget where to go, though. Left, then right into the laneway and all the way to the street behind the arcade. We'll catch up with you there.
Right on Little Collins
LB: Is your shopping all done? Good! Take a right now onto Little Collins, and carry on walking. You'll hear from us again a little further ahead.
Right into Carson Place
NC: Take a right now into Carson place. Don't worry, it may look a little dodgy. But it's completely OK and you'll be excited to see what's at the end of this laneway!
The Butterfly Club - "A Collection of Kitsch"
LB: Stop here for a moment.
Of course, a stroll down Carsons Place will bring you right back out of the mores of the 19th century into the contemporary charm, street art and brickwork of this little laneway. At the end of which lies the infamous and much loved, Butterfly Club.
NC: This cosy performing arts venue in the heart of the CBD is definitely on the checklist for up-and-coming artists in Melbourne. The Butterfly Club originally came into being in a backstreet of South Melbourne, thanks to the entrepreneurial talents of cabaret artist, Matthew Grant. He lived and worked on the premises in the early 1990s before opening its doors to the public, when interest in cabaret grew in 1999.
[2 SECOND PAUSE]
If it's earlier than 5pm and the club is closed, or if you'd like to keep moving now, let me tell you where to go next. Head back up the lane, and turn right to continue walking in the same direction as we were going before.
[2 SECOND PAUSE]
LB: At one point The Butterfly Club was Melbourne's only full-time cabaret venue. It relocated to its current premises here in the city in 2013. It has been responsible for presenting over 1,000 new works across various styles, including cabaret, and has nurtured the careers of some fabulous performers, including Tim Minchin and Eddie Perfect.
NC: And not only does the club host a plethora of innovative performances, it's also home to an amazing collection of kitsch! This was true from its first years in South Melbourne through to the present day. If you happen to be taking your tour during the hours of the early evening, we recommend heading up the stairs to have a drink at the bar. While you're there, you can check out a show, as well as the amazing collection of knick-knacks that line the shelves and give the venue a truly unique ambiance. The club is open Tuesday to Sunday from 5pm till late.
When you're done, just follow the directions I gave you earlier. Back up the lane, then turn right to keep walking in the same direction as before. We'll meet you at the next big intersection.
Right on Swanston
LB: Alright, now cross the road in front of you. Then take a right onto Swanston, and walk down the wide pedestrian pathway.
There's plenty to look at down here and most often, a wonderful mash-up of cultures. The people-watching is superb!
Melbourne Town Hall - "More than the Heart of Town"
Welcome to the civic and cultural heart of Melbourne! Stop here, and have a look at the impressive town hall on your left-hand side.
The Melbourne Town Hall was built in 1870 from stunning bluestone and Tasmanian freestone. Step back and take in the beauty of the building.
[2 SECOND PAUSE]
Melbourne is continuing to evolve into an amazing modern city, but it seems quite fitting that this building stills exudes the old world charm. From your vantage point, l’m sure you can picture the building over 100 years ago, standing proud, with dirt and cobbled roads featuring horse-drawn carts clattering along the street... In fact, if you look around, you might be still lucky enough to see just that!
For a building that most people associate with boring, old council chambers, which it definitely has, the building also includes a pretty amazing musical instrument deep in the heart of the auditorium. The Grand Organ is built along the backwall of the stage. It’s an impressive figure that requires ninety-thousand cubic feet of air each minute to operate! Plus it takes over 6000 pipes to make that baby sing. It can produce the smallest whistle, right through to the loudest, most thunderous roar imaginable. It literally shakes you to your boots!
And it’s not limited to classical music. I once watched the members of Cat Empire infuse their indie rock anthems on that thing. Even the Brian Jonestown Massacre have made the organ sing as a part of their live show.
The building is also used as a hub of the festival city that is Melbourne! If you have the chance, walk up to the first level and head to the bar. The town hall also plays home to the Melbourne International Comedy festival and it’s the favourite watering hole for all of the top artists.
Imagine sneaking a frothy on the beer-soaked carpet with hilarious comedians like Ross Noble, Daniel Kitson, Celia Pacquolia or Stephen K Amos!
[2 SECOND PAUSE]
Okay, let's carry on walking down the street in the same direction.
Left, then right onto the walkway
NC: Stop here on the corner for a moment. Can you see the statue of two men, right in front of you? That's Melbourne’s first public monument, a sculpture of Victorian explorers Burke and Wills.
[2 SECOND PAUSE]
Okay, now turn left and walk a few meters. Look out for a small statue of a dog, and stop for a look. It's just after the step with the railing around it.
[3 SECOND PAUSE]
Have you found it yet? It's called Larry La Trobe, and it came to renown after it was stolen in 1995, 3 years after its installation. The revamped version here today was reinstalled in 1996.
[2 SECOND PAUSE]
Now walk a little further and take a right, to follow the walkway that trails along the water features through City Square. You'll turn right just after a lovely fountain wall that was gifted to the city by the late John Mockridge, an important architect of post-World War II Melbourne.
Brunetti's and The City Square - "Coffee and Democracy"
LB: Keep walking along the path.
Back in the day, City Square on Swanston Street was the city’s central piazza, when the area opposite Flinders Street station was a wasteland of train platforms, rather than the collaborative and enigmatic space that is Federation Square today.
The square is bordered by Swanston and Collins Streets, Flinders Lane and the Westin Hotel, and has quite a bit of history! Today it's a meeting place used for festivals and events.
Carry on walking down the path. We're on our way to another pitstop: Brunetti, one of Melbourne’s favourite coffee shops, and another popular meeting spot. It's just at the end of the path.
LB: Here we are at Brunetti's on your right-hand side. When you've had a coffee or a snack, or if you're keen to keep moving now, continue to the end of this path and turn left. Then just carry on walking down the narrow road.
[2 SECOND PAUSE]
Brunetti’s began trading in 1985 in Carlton, just 2 kilometres from the Melbourne CBD. The cafe’s founder, Mr Giorgio Angele, began his training as a pastry chef in Rome, Italy at the age of 10. Today you can still find him at Brunetti baking delicious European sweets and desserts. Starting small, Brunetti in Carlton eventually became so popular that they expanded business into this even smaller Cafe in Melbourne’s City Square.
NC: Brunetti’s offers yummy sweets, including gelato, and also savouries. If you’re feeling peckish from all this walking, treat yourself with… a treat!
And in case you've forgotten the directions from Brunetti's: just carry on going to the end of the lane, and turn left. We'll catch up with you in a few minutes.
Right into Hosier Lane
LB: Now you're in for quite the spectacle... take a right into Hosier Lane.
Hosier Lane - "The Ever-changing Citylights"
NC: Take your time looking around here.
This little lane is touted as Melbourne’s most tattoo’ed laneway, and definitely deserves closer inspection. Take a moment right now to step into the middle of the lane – being safe about it of course! Now do something not many people consider when they come here. Take a big breath of air and smell the aroma...
[2 SECOND PAUSE]
What did you smell? Amongst the smell of Movida restaurant, and possibly the garbage that lines this inner city street, you can probably still get a hint of the industrial smell of spray paint that adorns the buildings in an almost 360 degree fashion around you.
Artists are continuously updating this artwork. If you’re lucky and in the lane at the right time, you might even catch one at work! Do us a favour... make sure you say hello, and appreciate their work up close as it’s being made.
[1 SECOND PAUSE]
The lane is obviously famous for its street art, but a project that you might not know as much about is the wonderful Citylights Project. It's an independent public art project nestled in the heart of the work by street artists around the world. See those lightboxes on the wall? They are the permanent lightbox exhibition by the Citylights project that produce work from over 400 artists through over 150 different projects!
There are 12 lightboxes in total and they’ve been in operation since 1996 – and new exhibitions are featured every 10 weeks. The beauty of this exhibition is of course that it’s open 24/7, and it gets better at 2am than at any other time! Let’s be honest, there’s not many places you can say that about!
[2 SECOND PAUSE]
When you've had a look around, and maybe taken some pics, make your way to the end of the lane.
Left, back on Flinders
NC: Time to step out of the colourful laneway. Take a left here and walk down Flinders Street. Can you see the Melbourne Cricket Ground or MCG in the far distance? It's Australia's most famous sporting ground and holds over 100,000 people. You can probably just make out the top of the stadium, a bit to the right. Don't worry, we're not headed there. But it's worth pointing out!
Cross the busy road ahead and keep walking. We'll see you on the other side.
Oliver Lane - "Foodie's Delight"
NC: Ok, now take a left into the cobbled foodie's delight that is Oliver's Lane. A tour like this can work up a serious appetite, and no matter the time of day, this laneway has you covered.
Maybe head to the uber cool, uber hipster cafe Bowery to Williamsburg. It takes its culinary motivation from the New York style, so think bagels and Rueben sandwiches washed down with good coffee. They get that from Melbourne, not New York! They also play some classic tunes. Michael Jackson through to Earth, Wind and Fire. Enough said.
LB: But maybe you're walking down this laneway a little later in the day? Coda Restaurant has you sorted for a great meal. You'll need to remember to bring your wallet, this place isn't cheap. But it's worth paying for the experience. Coda has received The Age Newspaper's "HatAward" for culinary excellence. Travis Howe, the Head Sommelier – or wine waiter – has won Sommelier of the Year, as well as picking up 2013's Wine List of the Year award. The service is impeccable.
We'll meet you at the end of the lane.
Right on Flinders Lane again
LB: Turn right here, and keep walking. We're heading back onto Flinders lane now but that's OK, because it's a pretty cool laneway!
We'll leave you in silence for a while to take in the sights and sounds. You'll hear from us again in a few minutes.
Continue along Flinders Lane
NC: You still with us? We haven't forgotten about you. Keep continuing straight, we're nearly at our next destination.
Cross Flinders, to fortyfivedownstairs
LB: You should be walking on the right-hand side of the road. If you're not, cross over to the right-hand side now. Be safe! Look both ways! When you're safely on the other side, continue walking straight ahead in the same direction as before.
fortyfivedownstairs - "Accumulating Contemporary Culture"
NC: Alright, now stop here.
Are you hanging for some theatre yet? Can you see the sign for Fortyfive Downstairs? You might not; it's only a solitary black and white flag, just above eye-level on your right.
Fortyfive Downstairs is a not-for-profit theatre and gallery. It's located on the lower floors of a nineteenth century brick building, which housed the industrial equipment and cloth bales of the fashion industry up until the middle of the 20th century.
LB: And on the floor below stretches the once derelict, basement-turned-independent theatre space that continues to support amazing contemporary Australian theatre productions. I have seen so many shows here, and every time I come down the stairs I find the space completely transformed. I saw an amazing production of Someone Who’ll Watch over Me by Frank McGuinness presented by West East Theatre in 2009, and the following day did my best to persuade everyone I knew to come and see it!
NC: You’ll also note Andrew McConnell’s acclaimed, all-day Eating House and Bar, Cumulus Inc, in the same building. It's just inside on your left before you head down the stairs to the theatre and gallery. Why not dinner and a show? If that’s not your thing, we have one last stop on the tour that's even better than some theatrical icing on the cake! Head back down Flinders Lane from whence you came and we’ll speak to you shortly! Well, not too shortly – but we'll catch up with you in a few brief minutes.
Cherry Bar - "The Cherry on Top!"
Here it is! Turn left into this small lane. Then take a few steps and stop walking.
[1.5 SECOND PAUSE]
Can you hear that? That’s the cherry on top of our tour, the sound of Rock’n’Roll. That’s right, you’re currently standing in a laneway named after legendary Australian Rock band, ACDC. It was originally named Corporation Lane, which was incredibly lame, so on October 1st, 2004, Melbourne's mayor of the time, Our Bro John So said these immortal words:
“As the song says, there is a highway to hell. But this is a laneway to heaven. Let us rock!”
Actual words from an actual mayor. Brilliant!
It’s a fitting laneway name too, because it houses the self-proclaimed “pretty much best rock n’ roll bar in the world”, Cherry Bar. It's just to your left, through the heavy iron door. It was founded in the late 90s and is actually the only business located on this laneway, in the heart of Melbourne’s business district. You never know who you might meet at Cherry or who might be performing that night.
I’ve been tipped off to many an intimate concert happening in Cherry Bar. Most notably Prince, aka “the artist formerly known as”, was known to finish a concert at a big arena and head directly to Cherry for a more intimate place to slay some tunes into the middle of the night.
And this is where we leave you. We hope you’ve worn your best pair of skinny black jeans, favourite metal band top and are ordering a whisky, so you’ll look like a local! It’s been a pleasure telling you some of the stories that Melbourne laneways have to offer.
If you like what you have heard, please join our community by listening to our podcast via iTunes or find more great info at www.theactofstorytelling.com.au. You’ll find us on Facebook and Twitter too under ‘The Act of Storytelling’. For quick links, check out our author profile on the app.
But until then…
Thanks for listening!