History of the bells

The State Government of Victoria, through the Melbourne Festival, commissioned the Federation Bell project in 1998.

They were located as a central feature in Birrarung Marr, a new Melbourne parkland located alongside the Yarra River, between Federation Square and Melbourne’s sporting precinct.

Both the Federation Bells and Birrarung Marr were opened on 26 January 2002. Sir Gustav Nossal launched the installation and the Federation Bells played seven Australian pieces commissioned especially for the Federation Bells.

The original composers and the names of their compositions are:

Neil McLachlan – Opening
Terry McDermott – Rhyme
Anne Boyd – St. Donat’s Morning Bells
Brenton Broadstock – Jagged Tears
Constantine Koukias – Prayer Bells within Lamp Lighting
Anne Norman - Sylvia’s Chalice
Garth Paine - Klangfarben

In 2005 the Federation Bells underwent a structural upgrade to ensure the longevity of the poles.

In 2006, the City of Melbourne entered into an agreement with Arts Victoria to manage the Federation Bells. The City of Melbourne has expanded the number and range of compositions that are played on the Federation Bells, has created special events and has championed greater public access. Check what’s on for events coming up soon.

In 2011 Spring Innovations were engaged to design, develop and manufacture state of the art mechanisms that would allow the full potential of the Bells to be realised.

In April 2012 the new system was launched with live public performances, including the performance of commissions by Deborah Cheetham for voice and Bells, Forces and A Dead Forest Index.

Since then Spring Innovations has collaborated with the City of Melbourne to upgrade the lighting system which now responds to the music being played. A specially modified sign box that incorporates a monitor showing current events and news has been installed.