20 Years at the Former Transport Depot

A technical achievement of the 1940s

14 February, 2018 marked the 20th Anniversary that the Old Bus Depot Markets moved to the Former Transport Depot Building. Having started in 11 September 1994, it was a momentous change after the Markets progressively became a staple of the Kingston arts and culture precinct alongside the Glassworks, Fitters Workshop, and now several apartment homes.

Many may not realise that the Old Bus Depot Markets is not actually in the Old Bus Depot Building per se, but the Former Transport Building. Many long-time visitors will also know to refer to it as the old, Old Bus Depot Building since technically the Markets began in a newer bus depot building situated close by but that’s now been demolished.

Yes, it does get a bit confusing trying to put a finger on which is the Old Bus Depot Building historically. And it turns out, that the distinction is worth pointing out for a few reasons including the fact that the ACT Heritage Register regards the building as a technical achievement in design quality for Australia in the 1940s.

As much as we had reason to celebrate being in such an iconic location for so many years, there’s a lot of facts that we needed spelled out. Who better than one-half of the Market’s original co-directors, Morna Whiting? We spoke to Morna about how important it was to be in our current building and she had much to elucidate about the events that led us to where we are today.


“Diane and I fell in love with this building”


What was it like at the first site of the Old Bus Depot Markets?

Initially, the markets were located in the old Transport Building which was further down Wentworth Avenue next to the Printers Workshop. It was surrounded by a business centre and we utilised the space in the middle. It was a really great space.
The markets were opened by Rosemary Follett, the chief minister at that time. We started with approximately 30 stalls and, slowly but surely, we built up in stall numbers and visitation. Diane Hinds and myself had a vision which we held on to throughout: ensuring it was a high-quality handcraft market. This proved to be successful. 


How did you end up in the older Bus Depot Building (aka the Former Transport Depot)?

The initial stages of the redevelopment for the Kingston Foreshore meant that our building was to be knocked down so the next Chief Minister, Kate Carnell, had the idea that we move up to the building we are now in, which is the Former Transport Building. It was in a bad state with pigeon poo throughout, internal walls, and very bad electrics. 
Diane and I fell in love with this building. It was light and bright with many skylights and even had a small amount of insulation. We appreciated the industrial feel of the building and thought it had great potential. 
There are many people in Canberra who love the old building as they spent many years working there. Its social history is one of the main reasons why it wasn’t knocked down in the redevelopment of the Kingston Foreshore.


“There was an enormous amount of change that took place around us”


You must’ve made quite a a few adjustments.

We needed to advertise the new space and re-allocate stallholders into new spaces. It was quite a difficult change for a lot of people but we encouraged the market community to embrace the potential of this new building. 


What challenges did the new site bring?

I guess there was quite a lot of things: having electrics done, having it all cleaned up, demolishing walls, putting in grease traps. There was an expense for us as a very small business.

Over the coming years, there was an enormous amount of change that took place around us as we were initially very isolated in that position. In time, apartments were built up and the Glassworks renovated. We had to manage a lot of change and that was challenging, but we worked very closely with government departments for smooth transitions.


“We were a very tight and happy team”


What sort of activities?

Over the years, the building has been used for weddings, award nights, shows, plays and Christmas parties. It’s a wonderful space. If people use their creativity, the venue can be used for so many things. We are so pleased it remained during the redevelopment.


What do you miss most about running the Markets?

Probably the stallholders and the staff. We were a very tight and happy team. Over that many years we have got to know people very well and we had a lot of people come and go in our life and I probably miss that the most. But also I really enjoy meeting new stallholders and seeing their creativity and being just so surprised and delighted at people’s cleverness.

The markets are a very supportive community so behind-the-scenes it is a happy place and a great opportunity for tourists to meet real Canberrans.


Any lasting thoughts to share? 

It was a very important time of Diane and my life. We’re proud of what we achieved and we were delighted to hand it across to Anthony. It’s great that it’s still going and that Canberrans and tourists still enjoy it. We’re thrilled that the building has remained.

We are very pleased that the building has remained. It does, however, need to be preserved.


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