I1929 the St Kilda City Engineer’s Department designed the new St Kilda Sea Baths. A spacious and solid structure, the women’s section had Islamic fretwork screens and Moorish domical towers which echo the pairs of domical towers at the Palais, at Luna Park and elsewhere in St Kilda. The men’s section had arcades facing the shore, with wavy Spanish Mission parapets and decoration. The new Sea Baths opened in 1931, but by then, the concept of enclosed sea baths was already outmoded, and the baths were never successful as envisaged. The building deteriorated due to lack of maintenance, and by 1950 the wings of the baths which stretched east to sea were considered unsafe and closed. After 1955, under a new operator, the deteriorated men’s baths and the decorative parapets were demolished, and the toilets closed.

In the 1970s a sequence of night-clubs operated in the structure including Les Girls where drag shows were regularly performed, and the infamous Bojangles - a bustling criminal hotspot, notorious for its violence and several deaths - only the very brave, hard-core, and out-there dared to venture there at night. However, the notorious reputation didn’t stop entrepreneur Laurie Richards from starting another one of his music venues. This time it was The Electric Ballroom, situated just to the right of Bojangles.

A central part of the St Kilda venue circuit that encouraged a greater mixture of music genres, audiences and local experimentation, The Electric Ballroom was started in 1981 after Richards had finished his tenure at the Crystal Ballroom (perhaps that is why he had called it the Electric Ballroom). Offering free entry before 10pm, as well as free passes to see bands on Thursday nights, The Electric Ballroom was licensed until 3am. This late license provided an opportunity for The Crystal Ballroom crowd to go to The Electric Ballroom to get a free entry stamp, go back to the Crystal ballroom until it closed, and then return to The Electric Ballroom to continue the night (if they dared to venture down there).

Local and interstate punk and post-punk bands played at the Electric Ballroom including Little Murders, INXS, Serious Young Insects, Hunters & Collectors, Dorian Gray, The Models, The Editions and The Reels amongst others.

Click on any image below to view
  • Main Image - The Electric Ballroom promotional material, c.1979 - Source: Required
  • Background Image - Electric Ballroom newspaper write up, c. 1981 - Source: Required
  • Electric Ballroom, 1929 - 1981 - Sources: State Library of Victoria, Port Phillip City Collection, Australian Queer Archives, Rob Griffiths