MILL STREET STUDIOS – an idea to hard yakka renovations


Mill Street Studios is an exciting new dance space I opened on the 24th of January Mill Street, Goodna. Goodna is smack bang between Brisbane and Ipswich, and a few minutes walk from from the Goodna train station.

Mill Street Studios – How it happened?

Mill Street Studios came about very quickly in December last year. It wasn’t something I was planning to do, but in short, Mill Street Studios came about because:

1. I was at the right place at the right time.

2. I saw the potential in the situation, potential in the space, and

3. I had an existing long-standing connection with the local dance community.

Below: the white space at the end of renovations.


I had always imagined how great it would be to have my own space, but as an independent artist it’s not really financially viable. I was aware that I’d needed to work out a long-term solution to making my practice more sustainable, particularly because of my increased focused on making high quality projects, rather than ‘commercial’ freelance work.

My independent projects require a significant financial commitment. Even when I’ve been fortunate enough to have support in the form of funding, private investment, or fund raising, I usually don’t pay myself. I try to make ever dollar stretch as far as it can.

Commercial jobs such as choreography and movement coaching for TV commercials, music videos and workshops have funded a large part of my projects, and a lot of money has been spent on hiring venues and rehearsal spaces. Ausdance Qld has greatly improved this situation by subsidising spaces, but there is a limited number of spaces, and timing can often be a problem.

For example, rehearsals for my dance film Ward of State were held in seven different locations, and one venue cost more than $100 per hour to hire.


Why was Mill Street Studios established?

There was demand – I had taught at the previous dance school that existed in the space for a few years and had built a great relationship with the students. However, in November the studio principal announced that she was closing the school. A few students and their parents asked if I’d consider taking over the school. Initially, I didn’t think it was the right idea. Teaching is a big responsibility and although teaching is something I enjoy, I wasn’t prepared to give up my practice as a choreographer to take on the role of a full-time dance studio principal – teaching every class. That said, I had a very strong desire to continue teaching and remain connected to the students.

I needed rehearsal space – In October I started looking for rehearsal space for my work SlowDive, which was performed at the Australian Preforming Arts Market (APAM) in February 2014. Most spaces were very expensive and could not accommodate the props  and large set pieces used in the show.

I needed storage space – After 15 years, one acquires a lot of props. Four years of storage space hire for SlowDive cost more than the funding I had to make the work. It’s something no one thinks about when they submit a funding application. Unlike most independent artists, a company usually has a base and some storage space. Transport costs can also be significant. Mill Street Studios provided the much needed rehearsal space and an on-site shipping container meets most of my storage needs for just $2.20 a day!

Light bulb moment- About a week after the announcement of the closer of the school in November,  I had the ‘light bulb’ moment. Maybe I could lease the space for my own projects and continue to run the dance school – leading it, rather than teaching all the dance classes. I could re-shape the school and apply my industry experience in terms of the content and context of learning, and select a diverse team of high-quality teachers to teach a variety of dance styles.

It was a matter of putting two and two together: a space for rehearsing my own projects and the business partnership potential of managing the school. It was the perfect combination!


OUTCOME:  After a few busy months of renovations, and planning, and setting up all things business related, Mill Street Studios became home to the following:

Claire Marshall Projects – Mill Street Studios is my new base as a freelance choreographer and independent artist.

Test Pressing –is a new youth dance project group for 18-30 year olds, with a focus on projects that engage the local community.

DANCE 4300 – DANCE 4300 is an exciting new school of dance that resides at Mill Street Studios under my direction with specially handpicked teachers & staff.

More info about the above later, this post is about the realisation of the idea to renovating the space.



With lots of help from family and friends, Mill Street Studios was renovated between December 2013 and January 2014.  It was important to re-brand the space and make it my own.

Here’s some photos of the journey of the renovations.

December 2013:

studio 2

Sanding the floors. The floors were already in existence, and had been rebuit after the 2011 floods. But they were in need of a sanding and repairs. I recruited the help of “Robert Floor Sander” to help. Robert and his team (of family helpers) did a terrific job.


If the floors needed sanding, then why not paint them before the top coat? There’s only a few colours in my vocabulary. So black it was! The only problem is that you can’t buy black floor paint in Australia. There’s a UK brand, that can’t be imported. I tried staining the wood initially, but it wasn’t black enough.


Determined to find a solution, it was suggested that I use an exterior paint. And it looked spectacular with the semi-sheen!


There was just one problem: It didn’t dry! The paint remained tacky for over a week. Time was limited with a deadline to open the space in January.  But it was back to square one.


Sanding the second time took a lot longer than the first time… because the floor was essentially still damp.  The dramas with the floor meant getting a different sort of exterior paint and starting from scratch. It meant missing out on my brother’s new years eve party and spending the time at Mill Street Studios painting. This time using a different brand of paint and using a low sheen exterior decking paint. I made sure I did thing properly – which meant starting at the edges of each panel of wood. Happy New Year indeed!

floor attempt 2

Recruiting more help (thanks Fran & Will), once the floor was painted, we undercoated the walls. Hospital Grey undercoat wasn’t exactly inspiring. I couldn’t wait to see them painted black!


And black it was!


The last thing was the top coat on the floor which made it look shiny. I was so happy with the result that I wanted to hug the floor. So i did. Nice floor.



Simon Cook rigged my lights that had been sitting in storage. He did a spectacular job!


The intention with the black space was that is could be used for small scale showings and performances as well as for regular classes and rehearsal. At the launch, a demonstration of how the space could be adapted was shown.

Here’s some of the other spaces at Mill Street Studios:

The White space before re-vampifications commenced (December 2013)


A freshly painted floor:


Like the black space, there were issues with the white space: the floor yellowed, and unfortunately it needed to be re-sanded and painted with a non-yellowing top coat. This was a massive set back, but we powered on and had both spaces ready just in time for the launch.

DSC_3057 IMG_7606

The checkered space:

The Checkered space wasn’t always a checkered space. It was once a green space. I quite like green, but green is just not black ;-):



The Kitchen:

In its former days, the kitchen was used as an office.


Whist pretty much everything in Mill Street Studios was formerly a prop or set part from a show, I did lash out and purchase some 2nd hand orange retro chairs for a bargain and recruited some help by Sarah and Cassy to restore them.


I should also mention that whist all the floor sanding, painting, re-sanding, re-painting was occurring, in my realisation that time was slipping behind, I needed to call in some additional help – the big guns of renovators: my parents! My Mum and Dad are DIY renovating legends. I have to say that I was well trained in the ways of renovating – I remember spending time in the school holidays helping with renovations at home. I enjoyed it, and I learnt so much from my clever parents. I have to admit that my Mum and Dad originally agreed to help in the garden, but got roped into helping with lots of other things and were spending almost every day at Mill Street Studios to help get it finished.

Here’s outside before they started work:


My Dad and brother helped build the screen and Mum and Dad panted a lovely selection of plants.


I had initially wanted to put astro turf inside, but it seemed to suit outdoors.

Reception area:


Mill Street studios requires the time and skills of some business minded people.  I was fortunate to be connected with Kerri who is a huge part of Mill Street studios and the operations of the school there. The reception area is important as it’s the first point of contact with visitors. So I wanted to make it look special.

Another thing I remember helping my Mum and Dad with was wall papering. Feeling confident about knowing how to do this , I recruited the help for Fran and Will with the wall paper. The chandelier was a prop from a show called Video Set that I created in 2011. Good to see it being put to use :)



Upstairs: I think that upstairs was formerly used for storage. A good idea, but i needed somewhere for office space.


The floors were sanded and painted by Mr Robert Floor Sander.


More of my lights that were previously in storage were put to use by Simon Cook. Not bad for an office!



During the 8 week renovation time frame I was spending between 16 – 18 hour days at Mill Street Studios. Various people would show up to work on certain aspects of the renovations at certain times. On a low DIY budget, most of the work was done by family and friends, with only a few ‘trade’ jobs  required. At about 5am on the 24th of January I finished painting the foyer floor, and hoped it would be dry in time for the launch that night.






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