La Mama History: Forecourt

When Betty first came to 205 Faraday Street, in 1967, the space in front of La Mama was an unpaved, vacant lot. The land had previously been occupied by two small brick and timber shops, the brick factory that became La Mama theatre was located behind these two buildings, at the rear of the site. In 1959-60 the buildings fronting Faraday Street were demolished as part of the ‘slum clearances’ of inner-city Melbourne.[i]

Michael and Rose Del Monaco purchased the site in 1972 and became La Mama’s landlord. The Del Monaco’s used the vacant lot as a car park up until 2008 when Rose Del Monaco passed away and La Mama purchased the site. In 2011 the carpark was renovated into a brick paved forecourt.

Between Betty’s arrival and 2011, the alluring and enviable space of the carpark was often harnessed by La Mama to stage productions, erect tents for birthday celebrations, hold wakes, launches and community meetings. In 1967 there wasn’t a gate in the front fence, entry was via a gate at the side, from the laneway now called Del Monaco Lane. Over 40 years, Liz Jones gently nudged the La Mama fence line forward, claiming small portions of carpark to enhance a growing courtyard. The fence and gate became ever more articulated allowing for greater connection between the two spaces. Regardless of its exact location and positioning of gates, two elements remained a constant, that the fence was always made from humble corrugated iron, and that artists advertised their shows by putting posters, or painting on the fence. Over the years various versions of the La Mama sign board evolved and the art of poster making, and sign painting became another art form inspired and supported by La Mama.