What a way to start the 2017 Festival - cold, wet and windy. But, as our CEO Greg says, onwards! The rain is doing nothing to dampen the HF Team's enthusiasm!
My name is Britt and I have joined the team this year. I have set myself a challenge - 31 events in 31 days! My current to-do list has me visiting 35 events, so we will see how I go!
To kick off this year's Festival I started with a tour of a building extremely significant to South Australia - Adelaide Town Hall. This was my first visit and I could not wait! At 9:45am I walked into the foyer and mingled with a group that was growing larger by the minute. It was great to see so many people keen to explore a beautiful building and learn about its importance in South Australian history. I was ready to learn, but also really wanted to stand on the balcony next to George, Ringo, Paul and John (missioned accomplished). Our tour started bang on 10am with the wonderful Glen at the helm. Glen has been volunteering and leading tours at Adelaide Town Hall for 25 years, we were certainly lucky to have such a knowledgeable and entertaining guide!
Opened in June 1866, the Town Hall has been an important venue in Adelaide for concerts, civic receptions, public gatherings and meetings ever since, from playing host to meetings foreshadowing Australian Federation, to hosting the pop band ‘The Beatles’ on the balcony above a crowd of thousands (if you didn't get my earlier reference!). One of the only 'town halls' in Australia (others were name 'City Hall'), it was designed by Edmund Wright of Wright and Woods architects as a result of a competition in 1863. Wright had originally chosen Tea Tree Gully freestone, Dry Creek bluestone and redbrick for the exterior of the building, however this was not a popular choice so further funds were sourced so that it could be constructed using local stone from the English and Brown quarry at Tea Tree Gully. The Albert Clock Tower was added to the front of the building, creating a unique veranda that extended right to the edge of the street. Glen also pointed out that the scale model of the building (found in the foyer) is incorrect - the actual clock tower only has 3 faces (which were installed in 1936), as it was thought no one would be looking at the clock from the rear of the building. The model in the foyer has a clock face on all four sides of the tower.
Glen talked about the architecture of the building as we went. The beautiful Macclesfield marble staircase was an addition in the 1950s and the bells still toll on special occasions - they were rung last Thursday at 5pm to celebrate the 225th birthday of Colonel William Light. The Town Hall hosted many famous faces include Pope John Paul II, the Dalai Lama, Hilary Clinton, Queen Elizabeth II, Diana Princess of Wales and of course, The Beatles. The auditorium, still used today for events and concerts, is home to a beautiful organ. The original organ arrived in 1877 and now lives in Tanunda where it is still played. As part of the History Festival, every Wednesday the Friends of the Hill & Son Grand Organ offer tours to show off the inner mechanism and workings of the amazing 1877 Grand Organ. You can hear a short talk about its history, from the Adelaide Town Hall to its complete restoration/reconstruction in Tanunda and taste the stunning sounds of the Grand Organ in a live demonstration. For full details, click here. The organ currently in the Adelaide Town Hall auditorium cost $1.3 million was constructed in England. It has 4,500 pewter lined handmade pipes and was shipped over to Australia in pieces - it took six weeks to rebuild!
The next stop on our tour was the beautiful Banquet Room, again designed by Edmund Wright in the 1880s. One curious feature about this room is that by the time it came to add the wooden panelling, the funds had run out - the rest of the decoration had been extremely elaborate. Wright paid a painter 40 cents a week to 'paint' the wooden panelling around the walls. Standing in the centre of the room, the 3D effect is amazing, it is only when you are right up close you can see its 2D.
Down the hallway there are portraits and photographs of all of the past mayors, including the two female mayors: Wendy Chapman (1983-1985) and Jane Lomax-Smith (1997-2000). It must have been a requirement in the early days that you had to have a very bushy well-kept beard and/or moustache! Glen then led us into the newly refurbished Queen Adelaide Room, used for functions and mayoral receptions. Glen spoke about Adelaide's life, how she became queen and the work she did to help young children in England after her husband died. Across the hall we were lucky enough to get a sneak peek into a room used by the Lady Mayoress. The current Lady Mayoress, Genevieve Theseira-Haese, is currently researching former Lady Mayoresses and their lives to bring to light the notable women who have held the position and to be able to share their stories.
Next was the Colonel Light room which is used as a Council meeting room and workspace. This room features a variety of objects (including a lock of his hair!) and paintings belonging to and painted by Light before his death. Light was originally buried in the West Terrace cemetery before being exhumed and reburied in Light Square where he still remains today. The last stop on our tour was the Public Gallery which is used regularly for Council meetings and other important events. It features beautiful furnishings and a large stained glass window depicting King Edward VII at the rear of the room.
I thoroughly enjoyed the tour - it is a beautiful building and it has been at the heart of much of Adelaide's history. The Adelaide Town Hall tour is running every Monday during May at 10am and takes approximately 60 minutes. If you are an Adelaide local and you haven't ventured in - it is definitely worth it!