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Project tells story of Bonalbo through its village hall

COMMUNITY HUB: Bonalbo Hall and three members of its loving hall committee, Marion Conrow, Lawrence McCarthy and Velia De Tozza.
COMMUNITY HUB: Bonalbo Hall and three members of its loving hall committee, Marion Conrow, Lawrence McCarthy and Velia De Tozza. Contributed

BONALBO village is celebrating today after receiving word that their community hall has been chosen to take part in the region-wide If These Halls Could Talk project.

The two-year project will have seven halls across the Northern Rivers, one from each local government area, have a renowned artistic team collaborate with their community to tell the story of their hall.

Marion Conrow nominated the Bonalbo District Memorial Hall and said the huge building with the sprung dance floor is so retro it's like going back to the 1960s.

"Bonalbo is a small community of 500 and the whole community would fit in there!" she said.

The project is managed by Arts Northern Rivers who earlier this year invited communities to nominate their hall.

If These Halls Could Talk project manager Natalie Bull said they received more than 120 nominations from halls across the Northern Rivers.

A diverse selection panel was established to assess the nominations, including an independent public historian and a regional gallery director.

"The assessment panel was impressed by the strength of the nominations and depth of community connection to their local hall," Ms Bull said.

"While only seven could be chosen, every hall in our region has a story to tell."

Bonalbo has a rich history with a small but connected community who proudly point out that the lack of phone coverage in the region means they communicate with each other like they did in the gold rush era.

Ms Conrow said the communities west of the range were doing it tough but had "the strongest of community feel".

"Exposure to artists and activity will give the town a boost," she said.

One story of Bonalbo Hall that captured the imagination of the selection panel was the giant cave of quartz crystals that was accidentally discovered in the 1900s, and then mined to make projector lenses.

Communities across the Northern Rivers are invited to continue to share stories and images of their hall on the If These Halls Could Talk Instagram and Facebook page as the project progresses.

The next phase of the If These Halls Could Talk project will have a community engagement co-ordinator and an artistic team embedded in the seven halls to create an artistic response to the history of the hall and its community.

If These Halls Could Talk project is funded by Arts NSW Regional Partnership funding.

Topics:  halls if these halls could talk northern rivers

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