La Mama History: The Fire

In the early morning of Saturday 19th May 2018, the iconic double-storey red brick building on Faraday Street, which had been La Mama Theatre’s home for more than half a century, was gutted by fire. By the time firefighters arrived, the roof was gone, the floor which divided the top storey from the bottom gulped up by flame, and the walls were threatening to collapse. It took a crew of 54 to get the fire under control, narrowly saving nearby buildings and preserving the building’s façade. When the smoke had settled and it was possible to survey from above the inside of the structure via the cabin of a cherry picker, it was confirmed that the fire, caused by an electrical fault, had ripped through the building so fiercely that almost nothing within had survived.

In the following days, with the walls propped up to prevent their fall, La Mama staff stumbled together amidst the wreckage, but though they were able to retrieve a few scorched keepsakes, an enormous trove of assets and archives were lost, ashes in an empty shell.

Past Media:

Screenshot of La Mama on Channel 9 news. Click image to view original news segment

La Mama Theatre looks to the future after smashing its fundraising goal Beat Magazine 27 November 2019

The Stage Show Radio National talks to Liz Jones 26 November, 2019

La Mama readies for rebuild after raising $3.1M ArtsHub 22 November, 2019

Fire-ravaged La Mama theatre ready to rebuild after raising $3.1m The Guardian By Jane Howard 21 November, 2019

La Mama was razed by fire. Now they’ve raised $3m to rebuild The Age by Hannah Francis, 21 November 2019

La Mama’s spirit lives on: lunch with Liz Jones. The Sydney Morning Herald 

Philanthropists Contribute $1M to rebuild La Mama by ArtsHub

La Mama Theatre within arm’s reach of its fundraising goal by Beat Magazine, 25 June 2019

Here’s how you can help rebuild Melbourne’s beloved La Mama Theatre. Time out

Conversations: Liz Jones and the fire at La Mama, ABC Radio National, 5 June 2019

Plans for new $3 million La Mama Theatre Revealed by Rachel Wells, The Age, 5 June, 2019

La Mama Theatre calls on the community’s help to rebuild following devastating fire by Laura Egan, Il Globo, 3 June 2019

La Mama is calling on the local community to help rebuild the fire-ravaged theatre by James Robertson, Beat Magazine, 29 May 2019

Triple R: Breakfasters , 22 May 2019

Small Stage: La Mama Theatre, ABC Radio National, 21 May 2019

The Conversation Hour with Jon Faine, ABC Radio, 21 May 2019

Phoenix rises from ashes with new theatre design Arts Hub

‘Simple and restrained’ post-fire rebuild of Melbourne’s La Mama Theatre by Editorial Desk, AAU, 20 May 2019

Rebuild La Mama: campaign to bring beloved theatre back to life by John Bailey, The Sydney Morning Herald, 19 May 2019

La Mama Theatre: One year after its devastating fire, and raring to go by Richard Watts, Daily Review, 19 May 2019

La Mama Theatre gutted by fire: sector shocked By Richard Watts, Arts Hub, 19 May 2018

Media Release: La Mama Rebuild Update 5 November 2018

MEDIA RELEASE: Monday 21 May 2018 By Liz Jones & Caitlin Dullard

La Mama Theatre destroyed by fire, vows to move forward By Beat Magazine

Electrical fault identified as cause of La Mama blaze By Richard Watts, Arts Hub, 21 May 2018

ABC Radio National: The Hub on Stage, Fire at Melbourne’s La Mama Theatre presented by Michael Cathcart: LISTEN, Monday 21 May 2018.

Screenshot from La Mama Chair Richard Watts Facebook. Click picture to go to original post
Screenshot from Peter Kahlil MP responding to the fire on Twitter. Click picture to see original post

La Mama is a Melbourne masterpiece, a critically important part of our theatre history and living performance ecology. It can and must rise again though its new form is yet unknown. The message to our dear friend Liz Jones and the La Mama team is that when you have finished grieving deeply as you must – and we all grieve with you – it will be time to gird the loins, harness the support that wants to be told how to give, and begin the journey to some better future. It is a very hard road – there are false starts, dead ends, muddy crevasses and seemingly impossible peaks to be scaled in the midst of appalling storms – but many will want to help you along the way. Find the trail or make the trail and ask for help. You have lost so much, but kicking through the stinking black ashes you will discover new green growth.

– Daily Review, Carrillo Gantner, 2018