Location: Bowen Hills, Brisbane, Qld

Opened: 1940

Demolished: Nov. 1982

The main hall of Cloudland Ballroom, photographed by Richard Stringer just before its demolition.
(Photo source: "Vanishing Queensland: A National Trust Exhibition"


Located on a commanding hilltop site in Bowen Hills, Brisbane's Cloudland Ballroom was the city's leading entertainment venue for forty years. The distinctive parabolic laminated arch over the entrance, which stood nearly 18 metres high, was visible for miles, and was illuminated at night. Inside, as the photo above clearly shows, it boasted an elegant Art Deco interior and was renowned for its sprung dance floor, reputed to be the best in Australia. Cloudland was significant both as a landmark, and as a place where generations of Brisbane residents went for entertainment. 

Originally called "Luna Park", Cloudland was constructed in 1939-40 and opened in 1940. A fenicular "alpine railway" was constructed to transport patrons up and down the steep hill where the venue stood. At the time, the builders declared that:

"With its private alcoves, upholstered seating, dressing rooms, and perfect ventilation… the ballroom will be the finest of its kind in Australia."

This was no exaggeration, and Cloudland was without doubt one of the best dance and concert venues in the country. It hosted thousands of dances and concerts from the 1950s to the early 1980s, including some very famous events -- one of its biggest claims to rock'n'roll fame was that it was the venue for three of the six Australian concerts by rock'n'roll legend Buddy Holly, who made his only Australian tour in February 1958 for promoter Lee Gordon. 

Cloudland was used regularly by Australian bands from the '50s to the early '80s. In the early 1960s it was was taken over by promoter Ivan Dayman and for several years it was a major venue for his Sunshine group, which opened a string of dance halls and clubs around Queensland and in Sydney and Melbourne. The Sunshine organisation included artist management, booking agencies, and a string of music venues in major cities and towns (most called "The Bowl"). Dayman also set up Sunshine Records (distributed by Festival) whose roster included top 'beat' bands including Tony Worsley & The Blue Jays, Normie Rowe, Ronnie Burns and Mike Furber.

Although its architectural and cultural significance was unquestionable, Cloudland's prime hilltop site made it a highly desirable target, and sadly it fell prey to rapacious developers in late 1982, during the reign of notoriously corrupt National Party government led by the rabidly pro-development Premier Joh Bjelke Petersen. During Joh's gerrymander junta, Brisbane's lost some of its finest 19th and 20th century public buildings, including the magnificent Bellevue Hotel and Cloudland. 

When plans for a housing development on the Cloudland site were announced, there were strenuous public calls for the building's preservation, but the developers called in the infamous Deen Brothers -- a 'no-questions-asked' demolition outfit favoured by the state government and Brisbane Council for such dirty jobs -- and Cloudland was illegally demolished in the early hours of the morning of 7 November 1982. When Brisbane awoke to find one its major landmarks gone, it sparked a massive, if futile, outcry from heritage groups, while the developers shamelessly claimed that the building was too badly affected by termite damage to be saved. Midnight Oil, who played at Cloudland many times, lamented the demolition in their song "Dreamworld" (from the Diesel & Dust LP) which attacked the thoughtless greed of the pro-development forces.

The architectural atrocity that replaced Cloudland can be seen on the Brisbane City Council website. In what they laughably refer to as "urban renewal", BCC winked at the illegal demolition and rubber-stamped the redevelopment of the site of Australia's finest Art Deco ballroom, which replaced by a $20 million, 125-unit private apartment complex of surpassing ugliness.


- from the "Growing Up In Brisbane" webpage

"Every year, the school had a fancy dress ball at Cloudland Ballroom and Mum slaved at the sewing machine making Rod my brother a pirate or me a little Dutch girl. We would ride up the steep hillside at Bowen Hills in the open tram/train (which ran to the "back" entrance) and walk into the cavernous ballroom with its specially sprung floor for dancing and alcoves for sitting and the place would be full of shrieking kids and clenched-teethed parents and teachers. There was always an official photographer and one year, Rod and I were immortalised in our fancy dress personas, my hair a mass of very unnatural curls. Unhappily, in 1982, this icon from my childhood went literally under the developer's hammer and it took just 60 minutes at 4a.m. one morning to demolish our memories. The site is now covered in a modern luxury townhouse development and not the great arched entry way that dominated the skyline on the north side for over 40 years."
Di Bingham

References / Links

Richard Stringer
"Vanishing Queensland: A National Trust Exhibition"

Di Bingham
"Growing Up In Brisbane" website

"The Dead Heart" - Midnight Oil website