Makers & Growers
When local journalist and writer Stephen Pigott saw The Lost Ones’ Camp Street building three years ago, he immediately had an idea.
Although he had no real plans for shaping the spaces, the sixmetre high ceilings, the hidden film projection box and the dark underground rooms inspired him. Stephen set about creating the kind of place where he would want to go – turning the upstairs into a contemporary art gallery and performance space, and the downstairs into a rich and warm den of fine spirits and cocktails.
“Everyone is lost at some point, even the most confident amongst us,” explained Stephen. “So as a team we decided to create a space for ‘The Lost Ones’ – those of us who find ourselves seeking something new, something different and something genuine.
“It’s all about the rare, the interesting and the nerd in all of us.”Stephen Pigott, The Lost Ones
“This is an easy place to be in,” he said. “It’s the kind of place where everyone is welcome. We don’t have a ‘scene’; we just have interesting and interested people.” The Lost Ones is a grown-up venue where you can be guaranteed to try something you just can’t find anywhere else. From raucous live music, cocktail making, drawing classes, to a quiet night of card games and performance poetry. There is even Bar Spotto where patrons can look for the religious conga line and other symbols from the building’s Masonic past. “We wanted to make a place that everyone would have an interest in and no one feels like they can’t walk through the doors.”
The Freemasons had abandoned the building long before Stephen and his team got their hands on it, but there’s still enough in place to feel the ghosts of those who’ve used the building before.
The contemporary art gallery upstairs makes good use of the high ceilings of the ceremonial room – hosting exhibitions from both local and established national artists. The Basement Bar is in the Mason’s Dining Hall, complete with the original wood paneling, open fireplace and wooden seating around the walls. Filled today with plush velvet couches and an intimate stage area, the Basement Bar is quickly becoming a Ballarat favourite.
“We wanted to blend some of the things that Ballarat is known for – its rich and layered history, its celebration of the arts and creative makers, and fine food, great wine and spirits,” said Stephen. “It was important to us to bring this all together. We see this building as a living, breathing example of what the city does everyday.”
As part of their commitment to Ballarat’s creative ecology, The Lost Ones Gallery upstairs is known for supporting local artists through exhibitions and trading shows. The most recent show featured, amongst others, the works of celebrated local artist Deborah Klein, whose careful printmaking and painting was carried in a group exhibition dedicated to local energies and makers.
“It is important to recognise that Ballarat has strong creative heritage,” explained Stephen. “Artists seek out places like Ballarat, because there is an extensive network of like-minded people here, all of them making and creating. We provide a space for artists of all colours and flavours to exhibit and perform.”
But The Lost Ones is also committed to bringing the world to Ballarat. The Basement Bar is an exclusive partner bar in the city for the international single malt, single cask Scotch Malt Whisky Society.
“If you want to experience true whisky, there is only one range of whisky you need to try,” explained Stephen.
“We are fortunate enough to have a partnership with the Society who shares highly limited editions of whisky bottlings with us. We may get one or two bottles out of a possible 300. When those pure, non-tampered bottles are gone, that whisky is gone forever. The Society perfectly matches with us – it’s all about the rare, the interesting and the nerd in all of us.”
The Basement Bar is home to a myriad of regular workshops and experiences – sing in a choir of strangers, listen to original poetry recitals, watch movies that are out of copyright and draw a nude dude who stands still for you in the middle of the room.
“Being at The Lost Ones is being able to try things that you’d never thought you would,” said Stephen. “Who wouldn’t want the chance to craft their own gin with Kyneton-based Animus Distillery? Choose your favourite botanicals, such as wattle or lavender, and add them to a base. You leave with a bottle of your own personalised gin.”
The one thing that Stephen is grateful for is that his team has created a special place for so many people. The Lost Ones now employs a team of willing bar staff, workshop operators and event coordinators.
“This is a very happy accident,” explained Stephen. “But it’s one that is immensely satisfying. We wanted to make a place where we would enjoy hanging out, and I think we’ve done that. We can’t do what we do without the people we work with. Our team has enthusiasm, skills and experience. It’s not just one person’s vision. It’s their vision too.
“Ballarat is a city of untapped potential. It just requires creativity and bravery and sometimes stupidity to put your shoulder to it. The Lost Ones is a big operation but it’s also a big adventure.”
All year round
Play Bar Spotto
Out of Copyright Film Night
Sunday Sessions live local music
Draw the Nude Dude