The Old Paper Mill, Fyansford

‘This magical old place has a lovely energy about it. It is a historical space everyone can enjoy, whether it be relaxing with a cup of coffee, a glass of wine or watching the children run free.’ We hear about the new Arts Precinct at the 1870s Fyansford Paper Mills, from Marcus Johnson of Ubu Gallery and owner Alex.

Fyansford Mills

Marcus says, ‘I’m the Social Media manager for the space and we are building a community. We’ve held three major public events. At last year’s open day, we were thrilled to have about 5,000 attend.

‘Then Music at the Mill’ had 20 or more bands playing in 5 different spaces.

‘On September 23, we held ‘Fyansfest’, to welcome Spring on the Vernal Equinox, when day is the same length as night. The Geelong Memorial Brass Band played as all marched with lanterns up onto the hill to light the 10 metre bonfire.

‘Resident artist Bruce Kirby made the epitaph and there were so many families with children who’d never experienced a bonfire.

‘We plan to continue to hold three annual public events.

‘We’ve got a few bigger players on board like Provincial Wines and Truffle Duck, the Door Café, which is open from Wed – Sun, offers a relaxing retreat where mothers get time off while their boys climb trees or girls make elaborate fairy gardens. They offer a curry Friday nights and live music, often with an open mic or jam style on Sunday evenings. Watch out for Graham’s dog Flo, our mascot. We often hold events on Saturday nights, one being @La Vida Salsa, which holds social Latin dancing nights.

‘We plan to run woodwork workshops also. Ubu Gallery is open on the weekends. Over Summer we do things like leave out the old typewriter or paints for kids to enjoy. At the Gallery, I help people get their careers going. I believe Art helps people come to grips with their world.

‘Nelson Park Primary held their end of year Art Show here. It made one young girl’s year when I told her that her piece had sold.

Alex on the old Fyansford Mill, ‘In my eyes, this National Trust of Australia property, is owned by the people of Geelong, us actual owners merely come and go. I have a background in Historical Restoration so it was a pleasure to rebuild all the windows by hand. These are amazingly beautiful buildings and it is good to see them being used and enjoyed. We plan to restore the waterwheel which has a 1km water race that could create electricity to help us become partially self-sufficient.

‘I call the Grand Hall the Industrial Cathedral. The Old Mill has seen a number of industries come and go. It was initially built as the paper mill in the late 1870s and about 200 people worked here when Fyansford had a population of about 2,000. From the 1930s it was used by the military to build sea mines, then it became an ice factory. The room used for this had its walls lined with cork and now it makes an excellent space for band practice. Mind you, bands have been using the mill for years.

‘Now it is a space for artists to congregate. If more people appreciate and enjoy the precinct, it will add to its longevity.’

Interview by Jacqui B, Photo: Phil Hines Photography

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