Friday, February 19, 2010

Festival Hall

What do Drew Barrymore and Brisbane's Festival Hall have in common? Well, not much really - it's a tenuous link at best. Barrymore has recently directed her first movie, and it is called "Whip It", sounding vaguely like a bondage piece, when it is in fact about the "Roller Derby". Festival Hall (RIP - it has been "redeveloped" too) was the host of roller derby games in Brisbane back in the day. You don't remember the roller derby? It is sort of like football, but the players wear roller skates and chase each other round an oval track. I'm sure that if you go and see the film you'll catch on pretty quickly. Festival Hall was Brisbane's multi-purpose entertainment venue of yesteryear. Situated on the corner of Albert St and Charlotte St, this is what it looked like in 1959.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #79168)

Originally known as The Stadium, Festival Hall was built in 1910, and was extensively refurbished and renovated by the State government in 1959 for Queensland's centenary, when it was renamed. My father used to go there to see boxing matches in his youth, and boxing was still happening many years later. Tony Mundine (Anthony's father) fought there, and so did local favourite Hector Thompson. The influence of second-rate American television "entertainment" brought the aforementioned roller derby to the Hall, along with professional wrestling and its cast of pantomime characters such as Killer Kowalski and Andre the Giant. But Festival Hall's greatest memories, I think, abide in the shows by well-known performers such as The Beatles, Neil Diamond, and The Police to name a few. I didn't see The Beatles, but I saw the others, and I did go and see Paul McCartney and Wings when they performed there. Here is a photo I took of Neil Diamond when he was appearing at Festival Hall in 1976.(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

Festival Hall was demolished in 2003 to allow the construction of the residential block Festival Towers, below.

(Photos: © 2010 the foto fanatic)
In fairness, there was no aesthetic reason to keep Festival Hall, and its capacity of about 4,000 meant that it was far too small to continue to attract top-line performers. And, all is not lost - if you walk through the sliding glass doors at the entry (above), you can check out the Walk of Fame (below), a photographic roll-call of some of the acts and performers from across the years, nostalgically surrounded by what looks to be woodwork from the
original seating. Yes, even the roller derby and the professional wrestlers have their mementos there.

(Photos: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

The close-up (above) is of one-time Brisbane boy and long-time entertainer Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees. Judging by the haircut, it dates from back before he started to sing falsetto.

Click here for a Google Map.


tff

Next: Gift from Queen Victoria

14 comments:

  1. only band i saw there was the Robert Cray band in 1989 (or thereabouts)

    used to go for the boxing as well

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  2. i saw most of my live music at the Roxy - twould be nice for a post on that place ;-)

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  3. You are quite right... the 1959 version of Festival Hall was ugly. Was the original 1910 version any better?

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    1. I reckon the 1950s hall looks fantastic! The original period detailing on the facade is fantastic!

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  4. I don't know too much about the Roxy...

    The Stadium was refurbed when I was only nine or ten, so I don't recall what it looked like. But there are a couple of pix at SLQ - Here's a link to one. I can't decide whether it looks more like an old-fashioned sports ground or a prison!
    http://hdl.handle.net/10462/deriv/3801
    tff

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  5. I first went to the stadium to see Chubby Checker and Bobby Rydell way back in the 60s also Johnny O'Keefe i must have seen a dozen shows there over the years including the beatles.

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  6. Anyone know what year Niel Diamond apeard at the festival hall on Friday 20 Feb?
    I have the Ticket stub with that date on it but no year

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  7. I believe it would have been the Hot August Night tour of 1976.

    He was at Festival Hall on February 18, which was a Wednesday, so I assume that he did a few concerts.

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  8. Saw The Angels, Flowers (before they were Icehouse)and Dealer there in 1979 or 1980, anyone remember?

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    Replies
    1. I saw the Angels there in 1979. Excellent stuff.

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  9. There used to be a website that listed all the concerts held at Festival Hall throughout its history. But of course I didn't bookmark it. Does anybody happen to have its location?

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  10. I saw Hole play at Festival Hall in 1999 (i think) and Courtney Love was making fun of her guitarist because he'd broken up with Drew Barrymore, and she kept going on and on about Drew (they were bickering a lot). So there's another connection haha.

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  11. Thru privilege, my father and John Wren Jr, i had comps for abt 15 years, couldn't recall all. Carpenters when eight (i think) Status Quo, Dr Hook, U2 ('85), Joe Cocker, Wings... just a few. Despite seeing some other amazing gigs: Elton John's YBRd at Milton Tennis Courts, David Bowie's Station to Station gig at Lang Park when 13, and Bruce Springsteen and the E St Band at Chandler '85 -- and Coldplay last month -- as good as I've seen was Toni Childs at Festival Hall, very early 90s. Haunting and powerful, mesmerised, goose bumps on back of neck whole gig -- and, for those days, I was unusually completely straight!

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  12. I recently found a photo of myself at 18mths with my dad (Australian roller speed skating champion) with the American champion. We are all wearing skates. The year is 1963 and my dad said it was festival hall and he even remembered the American guys name. I thought his recollection was off as I didnt know they had skating there!!!

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