If the walls could talk

Produced and Directed by Clare Lewis and Jenia Ratcliffe
ABC Open 2014

The Palace Hotel is a curious beast.

After ambling past the wonderfully-named Oxide, Chloride and Bromide Streets, you reach this infamous mining town’s diamond in the rough. Like a beached ocean liner, she stands on the corner of the main drag, implausibly grand and inexplicably big. The mountainous Line of Lode frames the building, but nothing can prepare you for the interior.

When I first visited Broken Hill five years ago, the hotel had closed down for the first time in its long history. For some reason, there’s nothing like finding a locked door to make me doubly keen to enter! A kindly janitor let me in for a peek and I was greeted with a fantastical and bizarre time capsule that has remained in my imagination ever since.

The colonial architecture is alive with kitsch pastoral scenes; preserved lobsters, falcons and peacocks inhabit every crevice of the lobby; and a painted waterfall cascades down three storeys, an unearthly sight, at odds with the dry flat desert surrounding Broken Hill.

The prospect of this place being lost forever seemed unthinkable, a quirky grotto that might be locked away or stripped of its history. Adding to its mystique was the fact that that no-one could tell me quite why it had closed. The rumour mill of the small town was in overdrive and everyone had a different story.

I began researching the stories associated with the hotel and have started a short film that treats the Palace like a gossipy old dame: collecting accounts from across generations, stories of romance and scandal, tragedy and intrigue.

The new owners recently opened her doors again and, luckily for us, they don’t have a taste for brushed steel and whitewash.

Long live The Palace…and long may her story continue.

Produced as an ABC Open Video Postcard (below) and a short documentary for ABC, screening on Landline with regular features on ABC News 24.

ABC Open