The Esplanade: A meeting place of creativity, stability, and entertainment.

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My first time in St Kilda was determined by the advice of a passenger standing next to me.

“Good afternoon,” I had asked him. “It’s my first time in St Kilda. Where should I stop?”

“Oh,” he said without hesitation. “You should definitely stop at the Luna Park station!”

As someone freshly arrived in Melbourne, I wanted to spend an afternoon in St Kilda. This was mainly because I wanted to see what the beach was like, since I had left France during summer without having had the opportunity to swim in the sea. However, as soon as I got down at the tram stop that the nice gentleman had indicated, I realized that I would go again in St Kilda. And, I have to say, not so much for the sea, but for the particular spirit that dominates the Esplanade.

It is six o’clock in the evening. The weather is agreeable for the time of year, with only a light wind blowing. But, perhaps because night is falling fast, the Esplanade is pretty deserted. There are only a few joggers and some couples strolling by the foreshore making the most of the last rays of sun.

Two buildings on the Esplanade stand out immediately. One of them is Luna Park, a building that’s difficult to miss with its spooky, illuminated giant ‘mouth’. Bravely, I come closer to the frightening face, to discover that behind it lies a very attractive amusement park.

Despite a number of renovations over the years, St Kilda’s Luna Park looks very authentic: the design of the attractions, the drawings of characters inside the park and the colours, all convey the feeling that Luna Park has remained largely unchanged since it was built 1912 – only nine years after the first Luna Park in the world, in the United States.

Left of the great mouth, I read some information about the importance of the Great Scenic Railway, the “principal feature” of Luna Park when it first opened, and still operating after one hundred years of service.

I also read with interest that Herman Loon and Harold Phillips, who ran Luna Park for many years, are also behind the construction of the Palais Theatre – the second building on the foreshore that has me intrigued.

The Palais theatre catches the attention because of its size – it is incredibly imposing, despite the simplicity of its facade. Apart from the frame announcing upcoming shows, the building is not particularly well lit, but still manages to draw your attention.

The inside of the building reflects the façade: everything looks simple; lights are unremarkable compared to the luxurious ceiling lights that can be found in several French theatres, the foyer is not especially big, and the decoration is not colorful. However, the same imposing feeling as the outside façade is conveyed by the large, pale red columns that support the building, and by the overall impression of stability and calm that prevail in this place when the theatre is closed. I can only imagine how impressive it must be to see the theatre full of activity, when one of the big shows is on.

The presence of these two buildings, Luna Park and the Palais Theatre, contribute to making the Esplanade more than a just place in which to stroll by the sea. It is a place where the arts, inventiveness and entertainment meet to create a peaceful and dynamic atmosphere, brightened up by the sounds of birds and waves.

 

by Grégoire Molle

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