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Our History

First-class facilities, dynamic programming, and range of exciting events place Adelaide Festival Centre at the heart of the arts in South Australia.

A fish-eyed view image taken in 1974 of Hajek Plaza in front of the Festival Theatre

Adelaide Festival Centre on the Riverbank 

In the late 60s, Steele Hall, who was the Premier of the state at the time, had the vision of creating a new home for arts in the city on the sloping banks of the River Torrens.

While the government and premier changed soon after, the vision remained and The Lord Mayor of Adelaide, Robert Porter, and the new Premier Don Dunstan, began the process of raising money to build a new Festival Hall.

Don Dunstan was a big advocate for the arts, and his enthusiasm was obviously shared when the public appeal to raise funds reached its target within a week! In actual fact, they raised more money than they needed so they set the extra funds aside to create a world class collection of artworks for the centre.

The goal was to put Adelaide and what was a fledgling festival at the time, on the global arts map. The rest, as they say, is history.

The curtain rises in 1973

With a design by architect John Morphett approved, work on Australia’s first multi-purpose arts centre began in 1970 and took almost three years to complete. On 2 June 1973 the Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam officially opened the venue. The first ever performance that evening was 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.

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 in South Australia.

Since then it has become a place that South Australians regard with pride and a strong sense of ownership and even all these years later, it maintains its status as a national arts icon.  


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