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12 May 2009

Adelaide Festival

REPORTER: Australia at the start of the '60s was ruled by the conservatives. The establishment dominated and nowhere more so than at the very pukka and very rich Adelaide Club. Yet it was from this bastion of order and etiquette that Australia's first arts festival was funded.

ARCHIVE AUDIO: More and more depends on the Chief Executive Officer, Charles Wicks. He needs to be wonderfully efficient and quite unruffled.

OFFICIAL: I declare this festival open, and thereby light a beacon which will shine not only all over Australia, but will cast its beams across the world.

REPORTER: It opened on March 12, 1960. Amazingly, four symphony orchestras performed - a feat financially unimaginable today. The first festival turned in a modest profit, but a major morale boost.

When time came for the second biennial festival, half of Adelaide took to the street.

ARCHIVE AUDIO: The whole city goes gay. Streets and squares get a new look.

This is the world's only chrome masonic tower. It glitters and twinkles to the music and the mood of Adelaide, the festival city.

Rymill Park will be the venue for many open-air light entertainment shows. There'll be folk dancing, jazz, pop, rock and blues concerts, country and western music and art exhibitions.

Even the South Australian Ballet will do its part to keep things moving.

In 1960, when the festival began, Adelaide was really a cultural desert. Australia had very little cultural life. The festival was an oasis of culture in the middle of that desert.
Much has changed. Very much, indeed. Attitudes have changed very much and it's attitudes, more than anything, I think, that the festival changes. Directors come and go, but some concrete results come out of it.

DON DUNSTAN: We eventually hope to have companies of our own of such importance that artists from elsewhere will want to come to play with them, and then we'll have something quite unique in South Australia which isn't going to tour everywhere else in Australia.