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Brisbane's Festival Hall Demolition Shots Unearthed

23 October 2023 | 10:40 am | Staff Writer

These heartbreaking photos of Festival Hall's demolition have been unearthed after two decades.

Festival Hall Demolition - 2003

Festival Hall Demolition - 2003 (Credit: Tony Giacca)

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Few Brisbane icons stand taller in music industry folklore than Festival Hall. A beloved institution that held shows for everyone from The Beatles to Grinspoon, the inner-city Brisbane venue was demolished for apartments in 2003, breaking the hearts of music fans across the country.

Tony Giacca, photographer and guitarist in iconic Brisbane acts 6 Ft Hick and Gentle Ben & His Sensitive Side, grabbed his camera and took some pics as the walls came down on the venue, but they have been sitting hidden on a hard drive until they were unearthed this week.

Shot from the roof of a nearby car park, the photos show the gravitas of the venue, even as it is reduced to rubble.

Opening in 1910, Festival Hall had a near-century run as Brisbane’s most popular arena venue. Originally called Brisbane Stadium, the venue was also used for boxing and other sports. It hosted Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole in the 1950s and hosted The Beatles for four concerts in 1964.

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The who’s who of music cycled through the venue across the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. The advent of the Brisbane Entertainment Centre saw many larger concerts heading to the outer-suburban venue, which could hold more than triple Festival Hall’s 4,000 capacity.

The Entertainment Centre has long been maligned by music fans, however, with developer and music fan Scott Hutchinson famously offering to bulldoze the venue based on its location and acoustics, stating in 2011, “It mocks our whole town”.

Following Festival Hall’s demolishing, Hutchinson put his money where his mouth is, funding the 3,000-capacity Fortitude Music Hall to fill the hole the heritage venue left behind.

A new 18,000-capacity venue, Brisbane Live Arena, is currently in the planning stages to be built at Roma Street as a replacement for the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.

Regardless of what came after or before, Festival Hall will be synonymous with live music for a generation of Queenslanders.

Ending its life with a show from Michael Franti and Spearhead on August 9, 2003, Festival Hall was replaced with Festival Towers apartments, a sad metaphor for what was happening to the thriving live music scene of the 80s and 90s, not just in Brisbane, but across Australia.