1891

The first Grand Annual Competition is held in Ballarat at the Skipton Hall under the auspices of the South Street Young Men’s Debating Society and attracts 260 entries competing in music, poetry, elocution, essay and debating. Prizes worth 63 pounds were presented by the Governor of Victoria, Lord Hopetoun and future Prime Minister, Alfred Deakin.

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1892

Following the success of the first competition, entries double and competitors vie for honours in music, poetry, literature and criticism in front of over 1000 people who crowded into Skipton Hall to watch the ten day event. A cooking contest is also introduced for women of the colony to showcase their skills. The following year,…

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1894

The first discussion around amalgamating East and West Ballarat get under way and becomes a South Street competition essay subject around ‘the best practical schemes to that end.’ It would be another 27 years before Ballarat East and West join to become one, with its first mayor being South Street founder, W D Hill. The…

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1896

The popularity of South Street reaches new heights and the need to accommodate 800 entries sees the competitions move to a larger venue, the Academy of Music (now Her Majesty’s). Despite having built a new hall in Skipton Street in 1886, it soon becomes apparent that a much bigger hall is also needed to cater…

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1897

The first of the choral contests are introduced to the competitions and won by the Barkly Street Wesleyan Choir.

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1898

As the Eisteddfod grows, three halls are needed to cater for the overwhelming interest in the competitions. Soprano Amy Castle’s vocal success at South Street soon sees the young singer on her way to singing fame in Europe. Her Majesty’s Theatre changes hands and its new owners commission leading Australian architect, William Pitt, to remodel…

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1899

Entries pour in from interstate with upwards of 200 competitors taking part and the Eisteddfod is extended to more than five weeks to accommodate strong public interest and more than 50,000 people. The City Oval officially opens and women are not only given the right to vote in Western Australia but are finally admitted to…

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1900

The first Painting and Brass Band Competitions are introduced, with 15,000 people making their way to City Oval to watch the closing of the Band Contest. The band competitions prove to be so popular that schools are given the afternoon off so they can attend. At the end of the Eisteddfod’s first decade, entries total…

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1901

The Victorian Band Association is formed to manage the overwhelming interest in the Band contests, and thousands of avid South Street supporters travel by stream train from Melbourne to Ballarat to watch the competitions –an eight hour round trip.

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1902

Peter Dawson wins the Bass Solo section in South Street’s Senior Vocal Contest and goes onto international fame, singing at Covent Garden and touring Australia with another South Street diva, Amy Castles. It was Dawson’s version of Waltzing Matilda’ that catapulted our unofficial national anthem to fame in 1938, after which versions came ‘thick and…

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1902

Crowds line Lydiard Street to witness the return of Dame Nellie Melba from Europe, while the well-heeled were fortunate enough to purchase tickets attend her performance at Her Majesty’s Theatre.

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