Midnight music in Malvern

There is a short ‘coming out of the Tardas’ moment as you hop off the train at Malvern. A little time-warp of disorientation. Has the train set you down in a retrofit future or have you reverted to a futuristic past?

Melbourne Vintage Speakers is perfectly housed in the jewel-like Royal Exchange and Assurance Building. Built in 1856, the shop originally housed the Norwich Union Fire Insurance Society which started to rake in premiums as the anxieties of loss of fortune through theft, fire and accident gripped the newly affluent colony. The insurance business also became part of the building boom in Melbourne with this shop an early showcase of the wealth to come.

The crafted lead-light coping and warm copper window frames of the 1850s building, which survives almost completely intact, make the perfect encasing for the imaginative wares of a pair of new-age tinkers.

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The lads, who established the business in 2011, create their speaker boxes – ‘V-cases – from are range of handy objects including school bags, bowls cases, sewing machine cases, projector cases and more. The beautifully recycled materials are given a steam punk-like makeover to live again as portable high technology.

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Some objects are a fascinating play on your perceptions – are they a lost technology from an early industrial age or a newly crafted work of brilliance?

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Dagel Fogel, who writes about such philosophical matters, says steam punk is hard to pin down but describes it loosely as an anti-consumerist “punk” self-sufficiency bent. So it’s nice to find this shop in the heart of commercial, consumerist Malvern.

But Malvern is no stranger to invention and experimentation. From the beautifully informative Malvern Historical Society page – The famous Malvern Star bike was created on 185 Glenferrie Road, Malvern by champion cyclist Thomas Finnigan in 1903. World champion cyclist (Sir) Hubert “Oppy” Opperman joined the business after it was sold to (Sir) Bruce Small in 1920. The partnership of “Oppy” and Small made Malvern Star a household name and the business grew to become a bicycling empire unequalled in the Southern Hemisphere. 
Other Malvern architectural landmarks which nurtured creativity have not been so lucky. The fine Convent of the Good Shepherd built in 1883 as a moral compass for young women was once revered as a site where fine needlework and embroidery were created. The entire site was razed in 1985 to create the monstrously awful Chadstone carpark so we could drive to buy badly made mass imported goods – rather than trust to the work of our own hands.
So bravo to the Melbourne Vintage Audio shop for its reassertion of the handcrafted, the recycled and the repurposing of objects giving them another life of utility.
For a little more about interesting architecture in Malvern see here
For exciting information about the history of insurance mergers, acquisitions and other fun in early Australia (yes I’ve put insurance and exciting in the same sentence!) read on..
For fledging flâneurs read how to start your journey of discovery
using the magical Saturdays in Melbourne map >>
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6 thoughts on “Midnight music in Malvern

    • Oh thanks Kate – I’ll have to have a look at that one. Did you see that show ‘Bespoke’ which was on a little while OK – really enchanting story about people in the middle of nowhere crafting marvellous things.

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      • It might have been SBS? The loveliest story was an old guy – a blacksmith – who literally lived in a shed with a furnace in the middle of Tassie who made chef knives and sold them all over the world. What a life – a one man factory with a worldwide market.

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