Time Out Melbourne

This event has finished

Step inside Melbourne's most loved creative precinct

The Abbotsford Convent will be swinging its gates wide open once again for their annual open day. You'll have a chance to snoop around the grounds and gardens and ask questions of all the artists and wellness practitioners who rent the old nuns’ quarters and outbuildings. (Pictured are ceramicists from Cone 11 and painter Rick Matear, but there are 400 tenants in all.)

The historical-site-turned-creative-hub is now thought to be the biggest multi-arts precinct in Australia, with 17,000 visitors a week. CEO Maggie Maguire – who trained as a theatre director and previously produced events like Moomba – runs a team of 12 full-time and eight part-time staff. Her office is cluttered with quirky religious paraphernalia that staff and tenants have found around the globe, but Abbotsford Convent is now a secular site – save for the chapel, which remains in the care of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.

After the Sisters officially left in 1975, Abbotsford Convent changed hands a few times before lying dormant for eight years. A community campaign saved it from being turned into apartments and the new team, headed by Maguire who came on board a year later, received a one-off four-million dollar grant from the government to get it up and running. The site is now open every day of the year, with tours on Sunday, but on open day you can take the tour for free. (The Collingwood Farm just outside the grounds is a separate entity, but is thought to receive a thousand times more visitors now that the convent is in full swing.)

Also on the open day program are writing workshops, readings and activities for kids. You can watch the egg-and-spoon race – and other classic fete games – courtesy of the Steiner School, grab a drink at the Shadow Electric Bar, which will also host sets from the Spoils and Ben Salter, and test your skills in a game of ping-pong in the gardens, which will be set up with banana lounges. Snack fiends and foodie friends can get their hands on treats from the Bursaria Pop Up Cafe, Cam's Café, Kappaya, Lentil as Anything, Taco Truck and Mr Burger. The Convent Pop-up Shop will be launching too, so get ready to stock up on lots of quirky, creative gifts.

Cycling to the open day is strongly encouraged – the folk at Squeaky Wheel will even have their bike valets waiting for you, dressed in red and white uniforms and ready to park your precious fixie. Otherwise, a shuttle bus is available to take you from Victoria Park Station – which is a ten-minute walk away.

By Jenny Valentish   |   Photos by Roberto Seba

Abbotsford Convent Open Day details

1 St Heliers St, Abbotsford 3067

Telephone 03 9415 3600

Nearby Stations: Victoria Park

Price FREE
More free events

Date Sun 10 Nov 2013

Open 11am-4pm

The Abbotsford Convent map

Report a problem with this page

Restaurants and bars nearby

The Convent Bakery

Family friendly and environmentally and socially sound, The Convent Bakery...

The Farm Café

150m - The name may conjure up visions of babies sprouting from giant pea pods, or...

Admiral Cheng Ho

731m - The vego loving café Monk Bodhi Dharma  has expanded their operation...

More restaurants and bars nearby

Other venues nearby

More venues nearby


COS - Collection of Style - is at The Strand



Cookie offers a heady blend of children’s books and grown-up drinks

Cumulus Inc

Cumulus Inc

Find cloudy-but-fine dining in Flinders Lane

Readers' comments, reviews, hints and pictures

Community guidelines

blog comments powered by Disqus