Adelaide: UNESCO City of Music

A Creative City, with music as its heartbeat enriching the whole state of South Australia.

Adelaide, designated as the first and only City of Music in Australia, is now a member of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. Network. Australia’s UNESCO Creative cities include; Melbourne – City of Literature, Sydney – City of Film, Geelong – City of Design and designated in late 2020, Ballarat – City of Craft and Folk Arts and Bendigo – City of Gastronomy.

Adelaide joins Melbourne – City of Literature, Sydney – City of Film, and Geelong – City of Design as Australia’s UNESCO Creative Cities.

This is an acknowledgment of the breadth, depth and vibrancy of the city’s music culture, its international reach, its history and its aspirations. Adelaide supports a diverse range of independent musicians, a developing and entrepreneurial music industry, a series of world-class music and arts festivals, as well as leading music education and performance institutions.

The designation was made in recognition of the following factors, among others:

  • Recent investment by both local and state government in the creative economy, and music’s specific role.
  • Quality, quantity and diversity of music making in Adelaide.
  • Collaboration between government, education and private sectors around developing the local music industry across diverse platforms.
  • Historical commitment to music and the arts in Adelaide.
  • Adelaide’s international reputation and experience in hosting world class music and arts festivals.
  • Connection and collaboration with other creative fields, such as film, gastronomy, media arts.

Adelaide Festival Centre led the bid to UNESCO, with the support of the Adelaide City Council and the Government of South Australia’s Department of State Development through the Music Development Office.

Specific highlights

Specific highlights of Adelaide as a City of Music are:

  • The city is home to outstanding and internationally renowned festivals:
  • Australia’s favourite outdoor festival, WOMADelaide attracts attendances beyond 86,000. 45% of its audience comes from outside SA.
  • Adelaide Cabaret Festival is the biggest cabaret festival in the world.
  • Adelaide Guitar Festival is the most significant guitar festival in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • Multi-arts festivals Adelaide Fringe, Adelaide Festival of Arts and OzAsia all include strong music programs
  • Founded in 1883, Adelaide’s Elder Conservatorium is the oldest tertiary music school in Australia. One of its directors, John Bishop OBE, was a leading reformer of music education, and held a position on the UNESCO Committee for Music in the 1960s.
  • Home to some of Australia’s greatest rock bands including Cold Chisel, The Angels and leading hip-hop artists Hilltop Hoods. AC/DC formed Adelaide when they added local Bon Scott as front man, and the music careers of revered singer-songwriter Paul Kelly, Guy Sebastian and chart-topping artist Sia began in Adelaide.
  • Adelaide’s pioneering Music Development Office was established in 2014, envisioning a whole music ecology for the city and placing music as central to the city’s identity and development
  • Australia’s national classical music radio network ABC Classic FM was founded in Adelaide
  • Australia’s newest jazz school – James Morrison Academy of Music – has strong ties with the city

Read more about the Adelaide UNESCO City of Music Activity: 

2017/18 Activity Report
2018/19 Activity Report
2019/20 Activity Report

UNESCO Creative Cities Network

The UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) was created in 2004 to promote cooperation with and among cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development.

The 246 cities across the globe currently make up this network work together towards a common objective: placing creativity and cultural industries at the heart of their development plans at the local level and cooperating actively at the international level.

By joining the Network, cities commit to sharing their best practices and developing partnerships involving the public and private sectors as well as civil society in order to:

  • strengthen the creation, production, distribution and dissemination of cultural activities, goods and services;
  • develop hubs of creativity and innovation and broaden opportunities for creators and professionals in the cultural sector;
  • improve access to and participation in cultural life, in particular for marginalized or vulnerable groups and individuals;
  • fully integrate culture and creativity into sustainable development plans.

The Creative Cities Network is a privileged partner of UNESCO, not only as a platform for reflection on the role of creativity as a lever for sustainable development but also as a breeding ground of action and innovation.

As of October 2019 there are 47 UNESCO Cities of Music. Click here to view the map. 

Mission of the Office of Adelaide UNESCO City of Music

In keeping with the Objectives of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, the Office will:

  1. Enhance and promote collaboration, excellence, diversity and sustainability in all aspects of music making in throughout the City of Music, including urban and regional South Australia.
  2. Build international pathways for the City of Music throughout the UNESCO Creative Cities Network and beyond.
  3. Advocate locally and nationally on behalf of the City of Music and the entire Music sector to fully integrate culture and creativity into policy and sustainable development plans.
  4. Develop and facilitate connection and collaboration for Music with Industry and all other creative sectors.
  5. To foster life-long love for and engagement with Music within our entire community through education and participation.

To read more about our strategic pillars, please click here.

International Projects

Equaliser (EQ).

Equaliser (EQ) is a global UNESCO Creative Cities gender-equality project led by Music SA that connected 13 female and non-binary people aged between 18-25 to write and record a song, and star in their own music video.

The South Australian instalment of the EQ project took place over six weeks between Jan-Mar 2021 under the guidance and mentorship of local female musicians and industry practitioners including songwriting mentors Nancy Bates, ELSY and Elli Belle, photographer and filmmaker Morgan Sette, recording engineer Bethan Maddison and dance choreographer Lauren Pisaniello from Precision Dance. Michael Ross of award-winning duo Electric Fields composed the music in which the participants wrote the lyrics and melody over. Together, the 13 female and non-binary participants shared their individual lived experiences, wrote and recorded a song, and directed and starred in a music video. Other Creative Cities in the global UNESCO network that have participated in the project include Auckland (New Zealand), Hanover (Germany), and Norkkoping (Sweden). The pilot of the project was held in Norrkoping in 2017.

Adelaide is the second Creative City in the UNESCO network to undertake the EQ project.  

Supported by the Adelaide UNESCO City of Music office, South Australia's Music Development Office, the City of Adelaide council and Headspace Adelaide.

Fete de la Musique 2020 - WeRculture

For the first time ever Adelaide will collaborate with UNESCO Cities of Music from across five different continents for a global online event celebrating Fete de la Musique on 21 June.

Adelaide’s curated program for Fete de La Musique features some of South Australia’s most talented musicians including Adam Page critically acclaimed solo multi-instrumental looping performances; Nancy Bates an accomplished Aboriginal singer songwriter performing songs told from a heart connected to the ancient songlines of Australia; Emily Tulloch South Australian musician working as a violinist, arts manager, composer-arranger, and educator. Belinda Gehlert acclaimed violinist and composer, and Gymkhana featuring multi-award winning composer and bass player internationally Ross McHenry with Django Rowe, Brenton Foster, and Josh Baldwin.

Director – Office of Adelaide UNESCO City of Music Rebecca Pearce“Adelaide is Australia’s first and only UNESCO City of Music, recognised for the breadth, depth and vibrancy of the city’s music culture, and history. For the first time ever on 21 June we will collaborate with the UNESCO Cities of Music from across five different continents for a special curated program celebrating Fete de la Musique on 21 June. This is an exciting opportunity for Adelaide to be part of a global event to showcase some of the brilliant and musically diverse talent we have here in South Australia.”

Fete de la Musique - UNESCO Cities  of Music Collaboration

Adelaide UNESCO City of Music and UNESCO Cities of Music

Fete de la Musique - Adelaide UNESCO City of Music Showcase

View the UNESCO Cities of Music International Watch Party

Artists and Songs

Adam Page

  • Intro (0.00- 00.34)
  • Song 1   (00.35 -  10.39)
  • Song 2 – Ode to Adelaide UNESCO City of Music  (10.40 - 14.31)

Nancy Bates and Emily Tulloch

  • Intro and Acknowledgement of Country and Creation Songlines (14.33 – 15.08)
  • Old Black Woman - written by Nancy Bates, performed by Nancy Bates and Emily Tulloch (15.09 – 19.43)
  • Love is Strong - written by Nancy Bates and women at Adelaide Women's Prison, performed by Nancy Bates and Emily Tulloch. (19.50- 23.49)

Belinda Gehlert

  • Intro (23.50 – 24.19)
  • Avalanche - Composer Belinda Gehlert (24.20 – 28.23)
  • Moved Along - Composer Belinda Gehlert (28.24 – 33.50)

Gymkhana featuring Django Rowe, Brenton Foster, Ross McHenry and Josh Baldwin.

  • Intro (34.04 – 35.00)
  • Belonging - Composer Ross McHenry - performed by Gymkhana (35.01 – 41.31)
  • RM Williams Boots - Composer Max McHenry - performed by Gymkhana (42.25- 46.37)

Thanks to Wizardtone studio and Morgan Sette videographer.


Adam Page is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, music educator and record producer. Known widely for his critically acclaimed solo multi-instrumental looping performances, Page has carved his path internationally as a composer. He has written major works for the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra Wellington, Zephyr Quartet and co-composed on numerous occasions with celebrated Kiwi composer John Psathas.

Page co-founded Adelaide's 'Wizard Tone Studios' with fellow Adelaide musicians James Brown and Jarrad Payne.

Nancy Bates is an accomplished singer songwriter from the Barkindji Nation.  Bates bares herself through deep dived words, and a voice that can only be described as a revelation.  Her tasteful guitar lay the foundation for stories told from a heart connected to the ancient songlines of Australia.

Emily Tulloch is a South Australian musician working as a violinist, arts manager, composer-arranger, and educator. A member of Zephyr Quartet since 2005, with the ensemble she has created critically acclaimed and award-winning shows, performed across Australia and internationally, and recorded widely. Emily is the Artistic Director of Nexus Arts, a leader in intercultural arts practice.

Belinda Gehlert is a professional freelance violinist, performer and composer who writes for theatre, dance, live art, ensembles and bands. Her professional creative practice as a musician spans two decades and she was a member of  Zephyr Quartet for 15 years and is a regular musician with the Adelaide Symphony orchestra. 


Gymkhana is a new project featuring Django Rowe, Brenton Foster, Ross McHenry and Josh Baldwin. Born out of a shared love of rock, folk music and jazz improvisation, this new collective is inspired by big skies, wild landscapes and the soulful guitar music of the great singer-songwriters

Ross McHenry is a multi-award winning composer, bass player and producer whose work forms a part of the ongoing international discourse on original creative music, its history and it’s future. Ross has performed at leading arts events including Glastonbury, The Sydney Festival, The Adelaide Festival, WOMADelaide, the Falls Festival, Wellington International Jazz Festival and the Melbourne International Jazz Festival.

Django Rowe is a guitarist and composer and has performed with such bands as St Morris SinnersMax Savage and the False Idols and Funkomatic 3000. His first two solo albums were released on the local Wizard Tone Records label.

Brenton Foster is a vocalist, pianist, composer Winner of Best Jazz Album at the 2017 The Age Music Victoria Awards. He was the 2018 PBS FM Young Elder Of Jazz and presented his new work, Love, As We Know It, a collaboration with American poet, Christopher Poindexter, at the 2018 Melbourne International Jazz Festival. 

Josh Baldwin is a well-known an award winning jazz drummer, having received Helpmann Academy and Elder Conservatorium jazz awards. Josh’s solo album is soon to be released. 


weRculture is a new initiative undertaken by the network of UNESCO Creative Cities around the world. Following the Global Call to Creatives by the United Nations to encourage the public to behave responsibly and respectfully in this difficult COVID-19 situation via video messages. With the appeal “Think Respectfully. Act Responsibly. we R culture” international artists and creative workers are creating video messages of support and hope.

Adelaide Musician Ross McHenry shares his message and performs
Bach Cello Suites
Suite 1: Allemande (excerpt) 

Fete de la Musique - Voyage of the Drum

Adelaide participated in Fete de la Musique on 21 June with 17 other UNESCO Creative Cities of Music for the global music project Voyage of the Drum: celebrating the African Diaspora around the world, and demonstrating how the influence of African rhythms is felt through many world music cultures. Showcasing Adelaide is Bortier Okoe and African Soul. Bortier is a master drummer from Ghana West Africa. He sings in the Ga, Twi and Ewe languages of Ghana as well as English. His message of peace and love for the people of the world is in tune with the UNESCO culture of peace. (‘1.12). 


Asia-Pacific Creative Cities Conference

23 - 26 October 2019

Representatives from UNESCO Creative Cities, Australian and Asia-Pacific cultural and creative industries, cultural diplomats, artists and creatives from Australia and the Asia-Pacific region and experts in the field of cultural and creative industries attended a four day conference to discuss indigenous arts, language and culture, sustainable development, entrepreneurship, bilateral partnership and tourism and marketing. Bolstering regional connections, fostering partnerships and planning for the future.

Read more

In My Neighbourhood

Sydney and Adelaide artists Jane Beeke and Jennifer Greer Holmes are taking street art, soundscapes, storytelling and skateboarding to Singapore Design Week (March 4 to 17) to represent the talent and potential of Australia’s UNESCO Creative Cities and developing links between Singapore and Australia. Read more

Primary Schools’ Music Festival

Read more

Adelaide: UNESCO City of Music walk trail 

Curated by Adelaide City Explorer Team, The South Australian Government through the Music Development Office, & Music SA

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Gabriella Smart

Artistic Director of Soundstream: Adelaide New Music, Gabriella Smart, had a residency in Poland with fellow UNESCO Creative City, Katowice.

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International Jazz Day

A global celebration of jazz as an artform. Musical Director/Arranger/Saxophone: Adam Page, Drummer: Kyrie Anderson, Double Bass: Bonnie Aué, Pianist/Composer: Jonathan Crayford, Saxophone: Helena Kay, Vocals: Emma Pask, Trombone: Thomas Voss.

Presented by Adelaide Festival Centre, supported by City of Adelaide and COMA (Creative Original Music Adelaide).

Read more

Asia-Pacific Creative Cities Conference

To be held during OzAsia Festival, 23 – 26 October 2019.

We invite representatives from UNESCO Creative Cities, representatives of the Australian and Asia-Pacific cultural and creative industries, cultural diplomats, artists and creatives from Australia and the Asia-Pacific region and experts in the field of cultural and creative industries to register their attendance.

Read more

Local Projects

City of Music Mural

MusicSA, a not-for-profit key music industry body in South Australia, approached local muralist Dave Court and local film maker Lewis Brideson in late 2018 with the idea to create the largest public mural in the Adelaide CBD highlighting the excellence, diversity and cultural history of Adelaide as a City of Music, and to give the city a sense of pride about our UNESCO designation.

Watch the trailer

City of Music laneways by City of Adelaide Council

The City of Adelaide recently unveiled the new City of Music laneways which include Sia Furler Lane, No Fixed Address Lane and Cold Chisel Lane. Each Lane has a commemorative plaque honouring the musician and telling the story of their legacy and connection to the City, and also boasts a stunning artwork celebrating the musicians and interpreting their impact on fans and our City.   This great initiative celebrates Adelaide’s music history and our designation as a UNESCO City of Music. Also check out the City of Music Laneways Spotify playlist, please visit: City of Music Laneways | City of Adelaide

More Information

For more information about Adelaide as a UNESCO City of Music, please click here.




Other materials

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