In the 1960s, the Adelaide Festival of the Arts started to outgrow the city's existing venues. Liberal Premier Steele Hall saw the sloping banks of the River Torrens as a natural choice for the home of the Adelaide Festival and the cultural heart of the city. During this time, the State Government changed but the drive for a new Centre continued with fervour.
The Lord Mayor of Adelaide, Robert Porter, supported by Labor Premier and arts advocate Don Dunstan, launched a public appeal to raise funds to build a Festival Hall and put Adelaide, along with its fledgling festival, on the global arts map. Most of Adelaide shared this vision and the appeal raised its target within a week. It was soon over-subscribed and the surplus was set aside to create a world-class collection of artworks to grace the new State icon.
Australia's first multi-purpose arts centre was designed from the inside out by architect John Morphett. Work began in Elder Park in 1970 and on 2 June 1973 the Festival Theatre opened. Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, officially opened the venue at a gala performance of Act Two, Scene 1 of Beethoven’s opera Fidelio and Beethoven’s Choral Symphony.
The Playhouse, Space Theatre and Amphitheatre soon followed and Australia's first multi-functional performing arts complex was complete. The flourishing Festival Centre became a role model for many other performance venues as they strove to emulate its functionality and versatility. Since then it has become a place that South Australians regard with pride and a strong sense of ownership. 40 years later, it still maintains its status as a national arts icon.
As well as managing the theatres and surrounding areas of the complex, Adelaide Festival Centre is one of Australia's most active arts centres and presents a wide range of arts activities and performances for the community.
The first-class facilities, dynamic and progressive programming, and range of exciting events have ensured that Adelaide Festival Centre has emphatically placed itself as the heart of the arts.
Adelaide Festival Centre respects the Kaurna peoples' spiritual relationship with their country. We recognise and respect their cultural heritage, beliefs and relationship with the land and acknowledge that they are of continuing importance to those people living today.