The WMIAA — A Brief History

Highlights of the years 1955—2024

This is a short chronological history of the association, from 1955 to 2024. It includes highlights based on the text “A Short History of the First Twenty Years” prepared by Emil Aldor, with supplements by Audrey Cahn, Anneke van de Loo and Marjorie Beecham.

It also documents the later years in which the Warrandyte Arts Association morphed into the Warrandyte Mechanics Institute and Arts Association. After years of operating from a deteriorating Hall for which WAA accounted for 90% of the use, a quest to merge the two groups which began in 1975 finally came to fruition in 1986. The two broad aims of the resulting, combined association were to promote all forms of the arts in the community and to maintain the Hall for the benefit of the community.

In the twenty years that have followed the merger, WMIAA has transformed the Hall into a splendid community asset that is used on a daily basis by both WMIAA and the community. The activity level of the various groups of the former WAA has fluctuated over the years but the groups nevertheless continue to this day. This is major achievement in a period when Warrandyte has been transformed geographically from a relatively isolated village to an outer suburb of Melbourne, in a period that has seen the development of numerous community education facilities offering various creative learning opportunities in and around Warrandyte and in a period in which the changing nature of work and society in general means that people have less free time to devote to arts and leisure.

A separate list of past WMIAA Office Bearers


  • Extensive work on the guttering, including installation of leaf guard, assisted by a Manningham Council Heritage grant
  • Blossoming of the Visual Arts groups to include an active Friday morning Life Drawing Group and a Friday afternoon Still Life group


  • The re-commencement of visual arts under WMI&AA with indoor and outdoor painting
  • The passing of Marjorie Beecham after 50 years of involvement with the pottery groups
  • repairs to the roof of the pottery studio
  • Additions to audio visual equipment purchased from a Manningham grant of $3,000


  • Extensive work on termite damage and prevention in the hall, assisted by a Manningham Council Heritage grant
  • Re-polishing of the hall floor


  • The Warrandyte branch of the Chocolate Lilies Choir came under the banner of WMI&AA
  • The launch of the new pottery kiln (purchased with assistance from Manningham Council, fund raising and donations
  • The passing of Ann Arnold, a founder member of the Music Group of WAA in the 50s
  • Sponsorship received from the Bendigo Bank


  • Once more Manningham Council has generously granted WMIAA Inc $4,000 towards replacing the kiln in the pottery studio. The kiln has been causing hiccups (and expense) for some years, so with this grant, some money set aside in a term deposit and some donations, we are on track to replace the kiln before the end of the year.
  • Termite damage repair has been the other major project for 2014.


  • The Bendigo Bank allotted $2000 in sponsorship money for the purchase of a follow spot for theatrical productions.
  • Manningham Council contributed $3,322 towards the cost of purchase and installation of new tab curtains at the rear of the stage, through the Council’s Small Grants Program.
  • Additional digital equipment and software were acquired to improve sound effects for
  • The front of the hall was painted with the financial assistance of a Manningham Heritage grant allocated in the previous year.
  • The foyer was lined with acoustic composition, a finish that will allow photographic displays without unsightly damage to the walls.
  • The Pottery studio finally gained a reverse-cycle AC unit, as did the committee room.
  • Make up lights were installed around the mirrors and the stairs to the pottery studio were fixed.


  • The stage redevelopment was undertaken, commencing in December of 2011 and completed in time for the Follies, using the money given to the Association for this purpose when the Lawrence/Mayall Foundation was wound up. The project involved some new stumps, levelling and a new stage surface. Storage space, with lighting, was created underneath for trolleys on which to keep the folding tables. The space previously used for this by the front door was converted into a ‘Front of House’ cupboard.


  • Finalisation of the redevelopment began with the installation of a toilet in the pottery studio and a hand rail to the committee room stairs.
  • Extensive additional work was incurred by the existence of termites. This involved spraying and the replacements the committee room floor, and hence the floor coverings. A new door was installed to the rear of the committee room and the termite-ridden steps to the committee room were replaced.
  • The committee room was repainted prior to new carpet and vinyl being laid in Sept.
  • One of the A/C units in the hall also had to be replaced.


  • Foyer/toilet/tank/deck work completed at start of year – project over budget because of additions as well as necessary termite work. Fund raising to proceed to complete works and add a toilet to the pottery
  • Pottery Group involved with making mosaic letter boxes for Strathewen Fire victims/survivors
  • Bendigo Bank again awarded WMI&AA $12,500 towards completion of the redevelopment program on the understanding that WMIAA raise the same amount. The redevelopment, commenced in Jan 2010, had quickly exceeded the value of the grant (quote was for over $80.000) and also problems with termites discovered once work commenced). A fund raising concert was held in Nov 2010, raising over $4,000 to start this process.
  • Theatre production in Oct ( ) directed by Caroline Shaw won awards from the Victorian Drama League


  • Minor grant of $1,982 from Bendigo Bank for 4 x theatre lights
  • Major grant of $50,000 from the Bendigo Bank for a major project to redevelop the foyer area and toilets, allowing for a toilet for the disabled and a separate toilet access from the committee room for cast during productions. The project included a water tank (water collected from roof) for flushing the toilets and improved (safer) access to the back entrance, including a decked area (with potential to cover) allowing extra space during Follies rehearsals etc. and plumbing for a toilet at the pottery studio
  • $12,500 received from the wind up of the Lawrence-Mayall Foundation, for the purpose of stage improvements
  • Manningham Council Heritage grant of $1,500 being half the cost of replacing both stage doors, one being replaced with a double door


  • Extensive electrical work checking circuits behind stage, rationalising cables etc and purchase of new lighting desk and dimmer board. Also another TV monitor for stage manager back stage
  • Pottery Group assists with another community project at Finns Reserve
  • Creation of a new website for WMIAA
  • Digital projector and motorised screen installed, new microphones and fold-back speakers and new DVD player
  • Grant of $1,750 towards replacement of theatre lights from Nillumbik Council
  • Sponsorship from Bendigo Bank - $1,350 towards “The Follies” – with a view to fixing the committee room floor where it had rotted
  • Pauline completed an account of the Painting Group for 1975 –present


  • Inaugural Film Festival as part of the Warrandyte Festival – run under auspices of WMIAA
  • Air conditioning installed in the Hall
  • Receipt of sponsorship of $1,000 from Bendigo Bank towards the “Follies” production


  • 50th Birthday Celebration involving:
    • A brand new banner
    • Pottery sculpture installation (The Follies) outside the Hall
    • Review of archives
    • 350 invitations sent to celebration w’end which included a display open to the public and an evening of speeches and entertainment
  • CCT link between lighting box and “Green Room’
  • Alan Cornell took over the newsletter with a stunning new format – “The Artful Dodger”
  • Receipt of $1,000 in sponsorship from Bendigo Bank towards the “Follies” production


  • Purchase of 120 new chairs (3,000) grant from Manningham Council
  • Rear car park sealed (mostly paid for by Council)
  • Involvement of WMIAA with Manningham Council’s Soundscape Project


  • Survey for asbestos – removal of asbestos from backstage area, followed by a further official check for all clear
  • Sad death of long-time member, Pauline Grayling
  • Pottery Group involved in a sculpture for the Pines Shopping Centre extension


  • Performance of the 2002 Pantomime in the Diamond Creek Park as part of a Nillumbik Arts Festival (coffers boosted by a $3,000 grant from Nillumbik)
  • 75th birthday of current hall building
  • Further hike in insurance costs


  • Heritage grant of $800 towards external painting
  • Our own One Act Play Festival (assisted by a grant from Nillumbik Council) in conjunction with an Exhibition of the Pottery, Painting & Craft Groups in the Community Centre Foyer


  • Hall hire at an all-time high. International Year of the Volunteer
  • Memorial garden created in honour of Henry Beecham, an outstanding volunteer (help of Council grant)
  • Vale Ted Domeyer, Life member of WMIAA
  • A Menzies Australia Day award to Marjorie Beecham for her contribution to the community, and especially to WMIAA
  • Revival of Music Nights
  • Ken Virtue receives a Menzies International Year of the Volunteer Award
  • Creation of mosaic path and memorial garden to Henry (Pi) Beecham (assisted by a $3,000 grant from Manningham Council)


  • Hall re-roofed, assisted by grants from Vic Gov, Council and Lions as well as a fund raising concert
  • Audrey Cahn leaves Warrandyte
  • A web site for WMIAA
  • Vale Henry Beecham, president, treasurer, committee member and contributor in so many ways for so many years


  • Committee room overhaul – bench, cupboards, flooring and appliances
  • Increase in cost of insurance. Now equals one tenth of annual expenses
  • Millennium Party at the Hall – in the old tradition of New Year’s Eve


  • Purchase of new tables
  • Tragic death of Theatre Company member, Christie Lawrence
  • A large WMI&AA group take part in a Celebration Concert at WHS as a fund raiser for the Christie Lawrence/Luke Mayall Memorial Fund
  • Life Membership to Pauline Cross (30 years involvement)
  • Splendid Exhibition with the theme – The Twelve Days of Christmas – contribution of other groups with lighting and music
  • Joan & Ron Golding leave Warrandyte


  • Committee room painted
  • Bank balance increasing again, especially with a fund-raiser Follies at the Pub in winter as an extra


  • Mirrors installed in the Hall for dance groups and tappers
  • A few, Federation=-style sign, designed by Jock, for the Hall
  • Life membership given to Marjorie and Henry Beecham
  • Mandy & Mark do a fund raiser at the Pub
  • Only $4,000 in the bank at the end of the year


  • Only $2000 in the bank at the end of the year – ie expenses greater than income
  • Drama Group changes its name to Warrandyte Theatre Company


  • Everything ticking along OK
  • Beginning of the Tappers Group, with classes by Roz Gaffney


  • Laurie Shaw takes over Hall bookings etc from Peter Horne
  • As at July we had 9 Life members and 124 financial members
  • Vale Enid Bird, a founding member of WAA, who died on 27th June, 24 hours before her 88th birthday


  • More working bees to finish insulation in ceiling, more painting
  • A further $5,500 spent on installing ducted gas heating
  • Friends of State Park congratulated WMI&AA on the Hall refurbishment and offered plants to help with the garden – the whole area is a mess since Council widened the road. The Potters helped with planting across the road. Bev Hanson to advise on our side of things
  • 2 Members donated items in wood – a bowl and a cabinet – to be raffled at the Follies towards the Hall fund
  • Bank balance back in the black after the Follies (Sue’s was the most financially successful to date)
  • Beginning of the Tappers
  • Some conflict between inside and outside bookings, so new guidelines drawn up
  • A Cabaret Concert in Nov to top up the funds


  • A bank loan arranged towards the $36,000 spent on Hall repairs, including restumping, working bee to strip out lining and install insulation, relining with plaster and plywood, working bees to paint the interior. Completed in time for the Exhibition . Beginning of major renovation with demolition of interior of Hall on Sept 22nd – 4 page account in Oct 91 newsletter – also Dec newsletter. Most interior painting etc finished at working bees in time for the Annual Exhibition


  • 100th anniversary of WMI. Bruce Bence’s book launched at the Annual Exhibition
  • T-shirts printed depicting 100 years of WMI
  • Float entry in the Festival Parade won the “Craziest Float” prize – money spent on coffee mugs, drainer, tea towels
  • Planning permit for hall extension not renewed, but being pursued. Meanwhile the decision was taken to restore the existing Hall and a renovation sub-committee formed, headed by Doug Macrae – quotes for re-stumping of $10,800. Then hall needs relining, heating, re-roofing
  • Fund raising continues. Marjorie’s annual Landfall Luncheons continue to raise large sums


  • Start of a choir directed by Linda Mitchell
  • Purchase of a new piano for the Hall and a concert to show it off
  • Don Macrae built a new staircase to the Lighting Box with a cubby beneath for the piano
  • Planning permit for the previous hall re-development not renewed (bureaucratic reasons)
  • A year of many working bees including a turn up of 25 people to the Dec one, following a letter in the newsletter


  • A new kiln installed in the pottery
  • Had hoped that the grand plans for redevelopment of the Hall would be included in the development of the new Community Centre, but not to be & we remain independent
  • Decision made to overhaul the Hall. Addition fund raising for this through an instant “Trial by Jury” and a Fashion Parade
  • Smoking banned in the Hall
  • Working bees on exterior painting
  • Hall bookings increase


  • The music group was very active with 5, very well attended nights. They also put on a recital of chamber music and vocal selections at the Hall in Nov


  • Public Meeting on 24th March when the community agreed to the merger of WAA with WMI.
  • Incorporation of WMI&AA in May. Certificate of Incorporation received in July
  • Membership at 137, inc 37 family memberships
  • Combined music night following last central committee meeting at Burgess’s as a Christmas break up


  • 30th anniversary saw 3 drama productions, including the Follies
  • Major music production for Bach and Handel tercentenary
  • First Cook Book almost sold out therefore a Second Cook Book - launched at the Exhibition
  • Enid Bird turns 80


  • Festival contributions of Follies and a v. well patronised exhibition/sale in the Studio
  • A landfall luncheon to raise funds for the Studio
  • A repeat of the Octubafest
  • Ball with a bacchanalian theme (inspired by production of Lysistrata)
  • Another Handel’s Messiah by request


  • Banners at the Festival organised by Pauline Cross, Painting Group Leader– an Outstanding Success
  • Studio opened to the public for the Festival
  • Musicians busked at sites around the Festival
  • A fund raising Wine Bottling
  • Several drama productions
  • Varied music nights including an International Night at the Hall and a G & S night
  • Music Group sponsored “Octubafest” –at the Hall, including some original composition of Barry McKimm and a huge Christmas program on the theme of peace, goodwill and harmony
  • Arts Ball “Fabulous Forties”


  • Continued growth – membership up to 203
  • Financial year moved to coincide with the calendar year & AGMs moved from Nov to Feb
  • More kids Saturday programmes in painting and pottery as well as Creative Movement and Drama with Mandy Liddell and Greg Bainbridge, culminating in a play at Stiggants at the Festival
  • Increase in drama activity
  • Plenty of music activity and a combined drama/music production for Christmas
  • Exhibitions
  • Arts Ball in Oct with Halloween theme
  • Plan for hall extensions developed and an application for a planning permit by WAA & WMI
  • WAA (Pauline Cross) to sponsor a Banner Project for the next Festival


  • Drama gp produced a “Festival Follies) as well as another full production, “Come Blow your Horn” and rehearsed play readings
  • Painting, craft & pottery groups involved in an Australian Exhibition during an Australia Week at Myer Eastlands
  • Several music nights and a Christmas production, “Christmas the Medieval Way”
  • Pottery evicted from Potters Cottage (after contributing half the cost of building the original workshop) and re-established at the old Fire Station in Mitchell Ave now that the CFA has moved to new station in Harris Gully Rd – a huge job (224 person hours!) and many fund raising luncheons to follow
  • Successful children’s workshops to be repeated in 1981
  • Membership up to 180 and a “Silver Anniversary” Arts Ball held in the Hall in Nov


  • On the up, following success in drama, music and the Arts Ball
  • A series of children’s classes in Painting, stagecraft, macrame and pottery
  • Exhibitions in Eastlands, Doncaster, Warrandyte Festival, Scouts Fair, Sheep Show and the Annual Exhibition
  • Craft Group had 3 teams in the “Fleece to Garment” competition at the Sheep Show
  • Full drama production, “The Insect Comedy”
  • Repeat of the Arts Ball in Nov
  • Second coming of the Messiah in Dec by popular request


  • Colonial Old Time Dance organised at the Hall by WAA and W Hist Soc.
  • Drama Group revived following a letter box drop and a public meeting (Charles (Bud) Tingwell as guest speaker). Monthly play readings of a high standard followed and production of “A Comedy of Errors” in Sept.
  • WAA presented “As We Are” by Guest artist, Beverly Dunn at the Hall
  • Some farewells:
    • Yvonne Reid finished running “Theatrekids” after nr 19 years
    • Ann Dickson resigned as general secretary, after many years
    • Hilda Barbour (music group) passed away
    • Ann Arnold left for the Caribbean, but
  • Music revived with the Andersons organising the Informal Nights as well as a Sing-Along of Handel’s Messiah (orchestra, core group of singers, soloists, scores to hire, supper)
  • George’s Australia took a consignment of Cook Books – they had been looking for one with a distinctive flavour
  • Arts Ball held in Nov – a great success – see the poem written by Joan Golding about it entitled, “We Had A Ball”, dedicated to Peter Horne


  • Successful melodrama, “Unhand me Squire” produced for the Warrandyte Festival as well as displays by craft, painting & pottery groups
  • July: A joint cabaret presentation of WAA with W Hist Soc “Warrandyte Story” (a light and live production devised by Brian Laurence), also inc Jock’s “Envirodyte” and a repeat of the melodrama. A memorable moment of the evening was Mark Leehy singing his own haunting composition “Warrandyte Morning” to a backdrop of superb slides of Brian’s, depicting the early morning mists over the Yarra


  • Some new enthusiasm and a successful production of “Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass”, a major effort involving 60 people, produced by Judy Irving,
  • A few informal music nights and a staging of a jazz concert in the Hall of the Storyville All Stars
  • A re-run of “The Wizard of Warrandyte” for the “Back to W’dyte Festival”. This was W’dyte’s 1st Festival – something that the first organisers of WAA had hoped to achieve themselves one day
  • Membership up a little – probably due to “Alice”


  • Some hint in the Feb newsletter of a shift in the membership from the original “enjoyment of participation” to a “desire for professionalism”
  • A short history “Beginnings” appeared in May newsletter, “Years of Expansion” in June news, “The Show Must go on” in July, “The Second Decade” in August
  • Recipe book “Wheys of Warrandyte” completed in time for the Nov Exhibition
  • Exhibition successful
  • Process of transfer of Hall commenced and with the solicitor
  • Membership down a bit by end of year, drama group in decline, music only ticking over, but pottery, painting and craft very active, as were Yvonne Reid’s “Theatre kids” operating actively - under 8’s on Sat and over 8’s on Wed


  • By Dec, 181 adult members, 6 intermediate members + 46 junior members
  • Start of the Cook Book project as a fund raiser
  • 20th annual exhibition in WAA’s 20th year (detailed crit in the Dec newsletter)
  • Compilation of a brief history of the first 20 years, organised by Emil Aldor – various articles in newsletters inc Jan edition by Audrey Cahn, April editions
  • 3 drama productions + a junior production by Yvonne Reid’s Children’s Drama and Movement Group - “The Wizard of Warrandyte”, written & created throughout the process by Y. Reid
  • 4 informal music nights following the return of the Arnolds to Warrandyte
  • Painting classes, pottery classes, Crafts, Junior painting, dancing and drama
  • Outdoor Art Shows
  • Involvement of WAA in the Centenary Celebrations of the City of Doncaster & Templestowe
  • WAA creates 80% of MI Hall revenue
  • $6,000 grant from the City of Doncaster and Templestowe – largely as a result of presentations to Council by WAA
  • Following an approach from WMI, desire of WAA to take over the Hall


  • Information to come


  • Information to come


  • WAA held another New Australian Play competition


  • Formation of the Craft Group followed by monthly meetings – spinning, weaving, later branching out into other crafts




  • The Paul McDermott String Quartet performed in the Hall
  • Lecture on modern development in music given by Keith Humble


  • John Kennedy with Mack Jost


  • WAA held a New Australian Play competition


  • Cellist John Kennedy performed in the Hall with Nancy Weir
  • Tenancy of the Bakery terminated. Reg Preston & other members of Potters Cottage offered the group permission to build a Pottery Studio in their grounds. Members bought debentures to raise the cash, plans were drawn up and the Potters moved into Potters Cottage on 27th May. There followed plenty more fund raising activity.


  • Graham King was tutor for evening painting classes – hugely popular, followed later by Christine Aldor until her untimely death.


  • Children produced a large panel for the Red Cross and were invited to Government House
  • Membership in the early 60s was 250


  • Extensive Bush Fires in Warrandyte – tragic loss of homes – as well as WAA records
  • But resilience of members and creative activity continued with Drama, Music, Painting and Pottery, as well as Children’s dancing, drama, painting and pottery. The children had their own Art Show
  • A Camera Group formed, led by Merv Naughton
  • A Poetry Group was formed by Dorothy Rush



  • Potters also working from Walsh’s Old Bakery, tutored by Elsa Ardern, then Doris Grainger. They dug their own clay from the Kangaroo Ground Quarries


  • Production of “A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream” – great success
  • Many meetings on policy and direction for the group


  • Continuation of the established routine
  • Group took part in the Moomba Celebrations
  • Junior Drama Group directed by Judie Irving, produced “The Ring of General Macias” and won the VDL Festival.
  • WAA took over the Old Bakery as its home.


  • Music Group presented a lecture series with Dorien le Gallienne, Paul McDermott and Verdon Williams
  • Art Group introduced Len Annois, Arnold Shore and John Brack to its members.
  • Potters worked in various huts
  • Another NG travelling exhibition
  • Group exhibited at Buring Cellars as well as holding a Bargain Sale and an Annual Exhibition
  • Drama Group talk by Harold Baigent, drama director of the CAE
  • May production of “Picnic”. Veranne Irving was so impressed with the production that she offered to give some classes under the financial auspices of the CAE as well as producing for the group. She came to live in Warrandyte and did a lot for the group, as did Harold Baigent.
  • August production of “ Book of the Month” – so successful it was repeated in 1958 and taken to Traralgon & Red Hill
  • Nov: Drama Group competed in Vic Drama League Festival with “The Rose and Crown”
  • Children’s Dance Group First performance in Nov
  • Funds raised for seats for Hall by a “Variety Entertainment” in June
  • Repeat of the Christmas Spectacular in.


  • The Drama Group was constituted, with Ron Golding as chairman & Enid Bird as secretary – plans for year included regular play readings and a performance of “The Happiest Days of Your Life” – directed by Tony Doogood, who also directed “Deadlock”. Gus McLaren built the set and became responsible for most of the sets in ensuing years. Some lighting equipment purchased and some alterations made to the stage.
  • A series of lectures on stagecraft given by Veranne Irving
  • Feb: The Music Group formed & arranged a celebrity concert for the same month and a record night for the next month. They needed a piano
  • March: An Art Group formed with Harry Hudson as its first chairman. They fitted up a studio provided by Mrs Crabtree’s.
  • The Pottery Group was born following a talk by Alan Lowe from the Ferntree Gully Arts Society. They started in Meg Nicholas’s shed in Osborne Rd, with Betty Hipwell and Reg Preston organising the purchase of a kiln and wheel from Ferntree Gully.
  • Outings, sketching days and instruction by and for the painters, but a desperate need for studio space.
  • The first WAA Art Show opened at the end of October in the Supper Room of the Hall, with help from Music and Film groups
  • March: Film Group formed – needed a projector
  • September: Dance Group for Children formed, by Yvonne Reid (Mitchell) and Sonja Wolf (Stewart)
  • Newsletter produced
  • A constitution drawn up, subs fixed and a govt grant of $50 received
  • John & Lexie Emery undertook wider publicity in neighbouring press and interviews on 3DB
  • Also in first year: Music group gave their first concert, a sponsored performance of “Danes and Music of Spain”, plays by visiting rep groups from Heidelberg and Mitcham, a Travelling Exhibition of Modern Paintings from the National Gallery,
  • Hired the Main Hall for the Art Show at end of year, having to set up between 12 noon and 3pm on Sat and clear out after the closure at 10pm on Sunday!!!
  • First AGM in Nov: Erik Westbrook as guest speaker.
  • Year culminated in the “Christmas Festival”, devised and directed by Allan Aldous at the recreation reserve. All groups involved. An unprecedented success with 5,000 attending.


  • WAA was born at a meeting was called for 22nd Nov 1955 to address the growing cultural needs of the community (previously productions and performances under framework of the CWA – ie all women). Vern Davidson as president, Joan Golding as secretary. (WAA Presidents during the first 20 years)