corner Charlotte and Albert Streets, Brisbane

Stadiums Ltd

1910 as "Brisbane Stadium"
Reopened 27 April 1959 as "Festival Hall"

29 August 2003

ABOVE: A rare WWII-era colour photo of Festival Hall in its original incarnation as Brisbane Stadium
BELOW: Brisbane Festival Hall, photographed on the day of its closure in 2003.

(Photos courtesy of Peter Dunn's Australia At War website)


Festival Hall was originally known as the Brisbane Stadium. It was built in 1910 by boxing champion and promoter Reginald "Snowy" Baker and his brother Harald. The Bakers had been partners with the builder of the original Sydney Stadium, boxing promoter Hugh D. Macintosh. They bought out Macintosh in 1912 and built more stadiums in other capitals. In 1914 the Bakers joined forces with Richard Lean and prominent Melbourne business identity John Wren, becoming the principal shareholders in a new company that controlled the venues, Stadiums Pty Ltd (usually referred to as Stadiums Ltd).

Wren is a legendary figure in 20th century Australian history. He made millions from illegal SP bookmaking and racing and is said to have been a close associate of notorious Melbourne gangster Squizzy Taylor. His wealth and influence also made him a key figure in the Victorian ALP in the 1930s. Shortly after his death in the late 1940s, he achieved nationwide notoriety when it was alleged that Wren was the real-life subject of Frank Hardy's controversial 1950 novel Power Without Glory. Hardy's book describes the rise to wealth and power of its anti-hero, John West. The book not surprisingly outraged the Wren family, who claimed that the West character was a thinly veiled portrait of Wren, and it became the subject of one of Australia's most famous libel case (which Hardy won). The Wren family are believed to still have an interest in Stadiums Ltd today.

As the 1940s photo (top) shows, the original Brisbane Stadium was a brick-and-corrugated-iron building, very similar in style to Sydney Stadium. Sydney Stadium was demolished in 1971 to make way for the Eastern Suburbs Railway, but the Brisbane Stadium was extensively renovated in the late '50s, as part of the celebrations for the centenary of Queensland's statehood and it reopened as Festival Hall on 27 April 1959.

Like its sister venues in other cities, Festival Hall had been originally been built as a boxing stadium, but as the popularity of boxing and wrestling waned after the introduction of television, it began to be used more often for other forms of entertainment, including the imported American sports craze "Roller Derby", and as a venue for concerts and theatrical presentations.

Brisbane Festival Hall was the city's primary indoor venue for more than forty years and hosted the Brisbane performances for virtually every major tour by visiting overseas artists, until the venue's closure in August 2003. As well as overseas tours (of which the list below represents a small sample), Festival Hall was a regular venue for Australian acts, and literally hundreds of Aussie acts performed there.

Brisbane Festival Hall closed on 29 August 2003, and the building was subsequently sold and demolished to make way for an apartment development. The final concert held there, Michael Franti & Spearhead, took place on 9 August 2003. The seats from the venue were sold off as souvenirs in lots of three.


Do you have more information about Brisbane Festival Hall or about concerts there between 1964 and 1975?
If so, please EMAIL us and we'll be happy to add your contribution to this page.



The Beatles (Jun. 1964)

'Big Show' package tour (Mar. 1965)
Cilla Black / Sounds Incorporated / Freddie & The Dreamers / Mark Wynter / Merv Benton / Noel Tressider

Thelonious Monk (Mar. 1965)

Dave Clark Five (Jun. 1965)

4BC Sound Spectacular (Dec. 1965)
The Easybeats/Tony Worsley & The Fabulous Blue Jays / MPD Ltd

Bob Dylan & The Band (Apr. 1966)

The Johnny Young Show (Dec. 1966)
Johnny Young / Tony Worsley & The Fabulous Blue Jays / Ronnie Burns / Peter Doyle / Mike Furber / Ross D. Wylie / Thursday's Children / Graham Chapman / Greg Anderson / The Escorts / Marcie & The Cookies / The Pleazers / Julien Jones and & The Breed.

The Animals / Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky Mick & Tich / Paul & Barry Ryan / The Loved Ones / The Mixtures (Apr. 1967)

The Who / The Small Faces/ Paul Jones / The Questions (Jan. 1968)

The Bee Gees (Jul. 1971)

Elton John (Oct. 1971)

Mary Hopkin & Tom Paxton (Jan. 1972)

Creedence Clearwater Revival (Feb. 1972)

Led Zeppelin (Feb. 1972)

John Mayall (Mar. 1972)

Jethro Tull (Jul. 1972)

Cat Stevens (Aug. 1972)

Black Sabbath (Jan. 1973)

Yes (Mar. 1973)

Frank Zappa (Jun. 1973)

The Jackson Five / Sherbet (Jun. 1973)

Status Quo (Aug. 1973)

Jethro Tull (Aug. 1974)

Mahavishnu Orchestra (Nov. 1974)

Black Sabbath (Nov. 1974)

Status Quo (Dec. 1974)

Eric Clapton (Apr. 1975)

Paul McCartney & Wings (Nov. 1975)

AC/DC (Dec. 1975)


ABC-TV: Dimensions In Time
"Death of Festival Hall", broadcast 20 May 2002

Christie Eliezer
Music & Industry News

Peter Dunn
Australia At War website

Bendigo Live: All About Australia



Niall Brennan
John Wren: Gambler. His Life and Times
(Hill of Content, Melbourne, 1971)

Hugh Buggy
The Real John Wren
(Widescope, 1977)

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