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A history of Luna Park’s Big Top, a venue that rose from the ashes

Very few venues can illicit the feeling that you’re walking amongst a place of cultural significance. In Sydney there are perhaps only a few options, the Opera House being one, and the Big Top at Luna Park being another.

Despite its relatively new status, the Big Top has spent 14 years hosting a score of the world’s most exemplary artists, and Australia’s absolute finest. This New Years’ Eve they’re getting The Veronicas in one of their only 2018 Aussie appearances, and going in to 2019 there’s no doubt they’ll continue to book the best.

big top sydney

The Big Top didn’t just play a key part in the reinvigoration of Luna Park, it set the standard as a mainstay venue in a city where that’s all but impossible.

In 2004 the park had unveiled its long-awaited redevelopment plan after years in the dark, and Sydney was poised with baited breath. Luna Park had a shaky history at best, but its most recent closing had been felt more strongly than ever. Big Dipper or otherwise, the city was wondering – was our only theme park destined for yet another rise and fall?

The new plan restored the rides to comply with modern safety standards, the facilities were upgraded and to cap it all off, Luna Park had a brand new 2000-seat venue. One that we could truly be proud of.

After the initial success of Luna Park’s reopening, an indisputable energy began to flow through those smiling front gates and into the Big Top. It was the venue of choice for Feelgood Festival, Come Together, and even the 2005 MTV Australian Music Awards (you know, when that mattered).

Nowadays the Big Top is a badge of honour any band would be thrilled to pin on their denim jackets. It’s the kind of venue a young muso sees a show at and mutters to themselves “one day, I’ll be up there”.

Some of my most treasured music memories come from the Big Top, from the fabled Gizzfest when all of Luna Park’s rides remained open for free, to the recent Ball Park Music and San Cisco joint headline tour. I was even lucky enough to check into Chance The Rapper’s show which sold out in mere minutes.

This almost indescribable feeling, this idea that you’re part of something, is a product of the venue’s context; the location is iconic, but so were its guests. Stretch back a few years and you’ll find SoundgardenJet, Phoenix, Nick Cave, INXS, and countless others have walked between the venue’s corridors.

Gizzfest 2017. Photo by Dani Hansen

In a city fraught with dialogue about how venues “aren’t the same anymore” or more frequently, “don’t even exist anymore”, we’re happier than ever to have a mainstay in one of Sydney’s most unforgettable locations.

Here’s to a ripper first 14 years, and for many more to come.

 

The Veronicas, Nicole Millar and more will bring in the new year at Luna Park in Sydney on December 31st, 2018. Grab your tickets here.

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November 8, 2018

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