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Sidney Myer Music Bowl

A Bowl for the People

It's been compared to a bird, a plane and an umbrella. Some say its unique aerodynamic canopy was actually inspired by Louis Armstrong's trumpet.

Whichever way you look at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, one thing is for certain: its one of Victoria's most treasured icons.

Since 1959 when it was officially presented to the people of Victoria by the Sidney Myer Charity Trust, the Bowl has hosted music and theatre performances, ballets, operas, cinema, festivals, religious crusades, even ice skating.

Crowd watching a concert at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl with Melbourne city skyline in the backgroundLocated in Melbourne's lush Kings Domain gardens, the Bowl was the city's first major purpose-built outdoor performance venue and to this day, it remains Australia's largest. The design of the tent-like roof, suspended from two tapering masts, was an amazing feat of structural engineering. And aeronautical experts were engaged to fine tune its acoustics.

In February 1959, 30,000 people flocked to the Bowl for its gala concert, but it was a 1967 concert by The Seekers that set an enduring record with 200,000 people - one tenth of Melbourne's population at the time - in attendance.

Part of the Arts Centre Melbourne since 1980, the Bowl has almost become a right of passage for Victorians of all ages with Carols by Candlelight held every year on Christmas Eve as well as many diverse performances ranging from Abba to AC-DC, Paul McCartney to Soundgarden and Bob Dylan to Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.

Upon opening, the Bowl also provided a permanent home for the Sidney Myer Free Concerts (formerly known as 'Music for the People'), an annual summer concert series presented free to the public by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra with the support of the Sidney Myer Charity Trust.

Orchestra playing on Sidney Myer Music Bowl stage crowd watching in the foreground Melbourne city skyline in the backgroundExtensive renovations in 2000-2002 brought the venue's facilities up to international standards and secured it with gates and fencing. Fixed seating now accommodates 2,030 people under its sprawling canopy and there is room for a further 10,000 on the amphitheatre lawn.

With its versatility and diverse programming, The Sidney Myer Music Bowl has changed the face of Melbourne's arts and cultural scene and it continues to honour the goal of its namesake - businessman and philanthropist Sidney Myer - who dreamed of building a 'bowl for the people.'

Whether it's for a rock concert, a festival, performance or even a movie, some 50 years on, the Bowl continues to inspire, entertain and unite everyone who comes under the shadow of its distinctive roof.

Fast Facts

  • The idea to build a music bowl for Melbourne came to Sidney Myer after a trip to the USA, where he visited the famous Hollywood Bowl.
  • The original Bowl took just 11 months to build at a cost of $200,000
  • The stage area is 27.4 metres wide by 19.5 metres deep.
  • The orchestra pit can accommodate 80 players.
  • The total area of the Bowl's canopy is 4055 square metres. At its highest point, it is 20 metres tall.
  • 2009 marked the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Bowl.
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