Cloudland 40 Years On - The Death of a Brisbane Icon - 96five Family Radio

Cloudland 40 Years On – The Death of a Brisbane Icon

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the demolition of Cloudland, when the Brisbane architectural and cultural icon was razed by the Deen Brothers.

By Justin RouillonMonday 7 Nov 2022CultureReading Time: 2 minutes

It was the dark and early hours of November 7th 1982, when the Deen Brothers moved in with excavators to wipe Brisbane’s iconic Cloudland from the Bowen Hills skyline.

Living up to their motto and leaving only the memories, the hilltop ballroom with its famous arched entrance was flattened by dawn, sparking public outrage across Brisbane.

Only three years before, the Deen Brothers had demolished another Brisbane icon in the dead of night, with the Bellevue Hotel removed by the Queensland Government to make way for new buildings to house the public service.

The then government, led by Joh Bjelke-Petersen, showed little regard for Brisbane’s heritage, with the Premier authorising the demolition of dozens of Brisbane buildings.  It wasn’t until 1992, that Queensland would enact laws to protect heritage buildings, with the anger felt after the demolition of Cloudland a driving force in the recognition of the importance of Brisbane’s history.

Aerial view of Newstead in 1954, with the prominent arch of Cloudland atop Bowen Hills.

Built in 1940, the ballroom came into it’s heyday after World War II and was an important part of Brisbane’s nightlife.  Over the years Cloudland played host to balls, dances, school functions, and concerts, with Buddy Holly playing three of his six Australian concerts at Cloudland on his 1958 tour.

The Queen even made a stop, at a state reception during her Silver Jubilee tour of Australia in 1977.

In its later years Cloudland was an important venue on the local rock scene, with bands like Cold Chisel, The Go-Betweens, The Saints, a young Keith Urban and Midnight Oil all gracing the stage.  On their 1987 record Diesel and Dust, Midnight Oil spoke out about the destruction of Cloudland, along with other examples of Queensland’s built heritage on the song ‘Dreamworld’.

Tucked into the hillside in a tiny patch of green space is the Cloudland Memorial Arch.

The Cloudland Apartments now sit atop the hill once occupied by one of Brisbane’s architectural icons.

Dr John Wilsteed, formerly of The Go-Betweens and now an academic at QUT, is critical of what was put up in the place of Cloudland.

“They didn’t replace it with something dramatic; they took away something dramatic and gave us something mundane,” Wilsteed told The Guardian in 2018.

“Because it was a timber building it was very easy and quick to knock down; I think it’s a symbol of with what regard progress was held.”

In 2009 the Queensland Government compiled a list to celebrate the states 150th anniversary, with the demolition of Cloudland being listed as one of the defining moments of Queensland’s history.