Adelaide Festival Centre’s 50th Anniversary Concert | Review

Adelaide Festival Centre Turns 50

The iconic Adelaide Festival Centre – Australia’s first major arts centre – has celebrated turning 50 in style.

Review by Carla Caruso

Entering your fifth decade has never looked more fabulous. Think Jennifer Lopez, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kylie … and now the Adelaide Festival Centre!

On Friday, 2 June 2023, the centre celebrated the big 5-0 with an anniversary concert to a full house.

The special event was hosted by SA-born singer Libby O’Donovan OAM (a hoot!) and showcased the centre’s five festivals:

  • DreamBIG Children’s Festival
  • Adelaide Cabaret Festival
  • OzAsia Festival
  • Adelaide Guitar Festival, and
  • OUR MOB.  

There were performances by an all-star South Australian line-up, including Adelaide Guitar Festival artistic director Slava Grigoryan, Sharon Grigoryan, Katie Aspel, Michael Griffiths, Counterpoint Ensemble, Lazaro Numa, and the South Australian Primary Schools Choir. 

The dazzling celebration was also dotted with stories from the centre’s past while looking forward to its continuing legacy as “a cultural heartbeat on the national and international platform”.

SA performer and creative Johanna Allen wrote and directed the memorable program. And an after-party followed, featuring cake, cocktails, retro menu items, live music, dancing, and DJs!

In addition to the concert, the Turn Up Your Radio exhibition, celebrating Adelaide’s music scene, also launched. The exhibition features music memorabilia including original handwritten song lyrics, costumes, instruments, photographs, and gig posters from our state’s best-known musicians – hello, Sia, Cold Chisel, Paul Kelly, Ruby Hunter, The Audreys, Little River Band, The Superjesus, Hilltop Hoods, and more.

Turn Up Your Radio is now open to all on Thursdays and Saturdays, from 10am to 3pm, and during show times in the Festival Theatre Galleries – until 12 August 2023.

Also on display at the centre is a one-of-a-kind couture gown by Paolo Sebastian, specially designed and created to celebrate the 50th anniversary.

The Adelaide Festival Centre sure knows how to par-tay. Here’s to another five decades!

Some fun facts about the Adelaide Festival Centre:

  • Adelaide Festival Centre was the first capital city arts centre to open in Oz, preceding Sydney Opera House and Arts Centre Melbourne.
  • With a design by architect John Morphett approved, construction on Australia’s first multi-purpose arts centre commenced in 1970 and took almost three years to complete.
  • The program for the Festival Theatre’s gala opening concert on June 2, 1973, featured Richard Meale: Fanfare, Beethoven: Fidelio Act Two, Scene 1, and Beethoven: Ninth Symphony. Conducting the South Australian Symphony orchestra was Laidslav Slovak.
  • Officials in attendance on 2 June 1973 were Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, South Australian Premier Don Dunstan, Governor of South Australia Sir Mark Oliphant, and Adelaide Lord Mayor Robert Porter.
  • The Festival Theatre had been created for the people of South Australia – a fortnight before the opening night, 40,000 South Australians inspected the theatre in a single day. The queue stretched from King William Road to North Terrace.
  • Today, Adelaide Festival Centre hosts more than 1100 performances and events every year and welcomes one million visitors – and over 70,000 children, students, teachers, and their families attend the centre every year.
  • Adelaide Festival Centre features the Festival Theatre, Dunstan Playhouse, Space Theatre, Children’s Artspace, Festival Theatre Galleries, and Star Kitchen and Bar, as well as owning and operating Her Majesty’s Theatre, which recently underwent a stunning redevelopment.
  • The centre has a special anniversary podcast, The First 50, hosted by Adelaide’s very own cabaret icon, Libby O’Donovan. It features a monthly episode, exploring the careers of artists who have graced the stages of the centre, starting with SA’s own Robyn Archer.

Review by Carla Caruso

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For more information, please visit the Adelaide Festival Centre website.

All photos by Carla Caruso for Play & Go Adelaide (where marked) and the Adelaide Festival Centre.

At Play & Go Adelaide we make every effort to provide accurate information to the best of our knowledge at the time of publication. We recommend confirming times, dates and details directly before making any plans as details may be subject to change.


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