One of Queensland’s most unique concert halls, which has seen INXS and Midnight Oil gracing its stage, is struggling to keep its doors open due to COVID restrictions and border lockdowns.
- The Kuranda Amphitheater was built in the rainforest in 1980 and its first live performance was Don Burrows in 1981
- The place is managed by volunteers and all the money raised during the concerts is reinvested in the operation and maintenance of the amphitheater.
- Over the past 40 years he has seen artists like INXS, Midnight Oil, Missy Higgins and John Butler perform on the rainforest stage.
The Kuranda Amphitheater is a sculpted botanical amphitheater located next to the World Heritage-listed rainforest of Barron Falls National Park, west of Cairns.
The idea for the amphitheater was first discussed in 1978 when a group of residents approached the Mareeba Shire Council about building a community hall and performance space for the village of La tropical forest.
The amphitheater was built in the rainforest in 1980 and its first live performance was Don Burrows in 1981.
Now that the venue is celebrating its 40th anniversary, the call is on to keep the doors open.
The site is community-run, receives no government funding, and relies on events to fund maintenance and pay bills.
Due to COVID, the last major concert to take place at the amphitheater was Xavier Rudd in 2019 and three major concerts were canceled in 2020.
Funds are dwindling
Liza Dewey has been president of the Kuranda Amphitheater Society (KAS) for 5 years and says outdoor theater has always been community-driven.
“Administration, maintenance, repairs, reservations, everything is done by volunteers,” she explains.
“We don’t get any funding, we just rely on concerts to raise money to help maintain the venue.”
Ms Dewey said it costs around $ 60,000 a year to keep the place open and pay the bills.
“It doesn’t matter if we have events or if the venue is just sitting there, it’s at least $ 60,000 a year to keep the doors open,” she said.
“We were fortunate last year to get a live music support grant, which paid our bills for six months, otherwise we probably would have closed before now.”
As well as being simply a concert and performance venue, Ms. Dewey says the Kuranda Amphitheater is important to the small rainforest village, which has been hit hard due to the border closures.
“The amphitheater has been the heart of this community for over 40 years,” she said.
“When everyone comes together, there is no separation of class, race or age.
A stellar history of performance
For the past 40 years, the amphitheater has seen the who’s who of Australian music perform on the rainforest stage including: Midnight Oil, Missy Higgins, John Williamson, Paul Kelly, Archie Roach, John Butler and INXS .
The amphitheater has also hosted international artists like The Wailers, George Thorogood, Mumford and Sons, UB40 and The Band.
“One of the most memorable concerts was that of John Butler about six years ago,” Ms. Dewey said.
“There was a cyclone coming and the organizers wanted to move it indoors in Cairns.
“All the punters went on social media and bombed John Butler not to move him and keep him in the amphitheater.
“We need a big concert”
Mareeba Shire Mayor Angela Toppin said the amphitheater has a rich and proud history of bringing the community together.
“The Kuranda Amphitheater is a unique place located in the middle of the rainforest in Kuranda,” she said.
“The volunteer committee can boast not only of bringing world-class shows to the Far North, but also of playing an important role in the community by organizing community events and providing a space for non-profit groups to. host their activities.
Mrs. Dewey says the situation is now getting serious and they are in desperate need of help.
“We are short of volunteers on the ground,” she said.
“People can help financially by donating because we are a registered charity or if there are any businesses that wish to donate, that would be of great help.
“We also need a big concert.”
Kuranda’s Spring Festival, 40th anniversary and fundraiser takes place on Sunday, October 3.