Remembering Cloudland

“Il sòcul dal civàl al tociarà la ciera, lizèir coma ‘na pavea, e al recuardara se ch’al è stat, in silensiu, il mond e chel ch’al sarà.

“The horse’s hoof will touch the ground, light as a butterfly, and it will remember what the world has been, in silence, and what it will be.”
– Pier Paolo Pasolini, “The Recession“.

In the early hours of November 7th 1982, Cloudland Ballroom, which was said to be the finest ballroom in all of Australia, was demolished by the Deen Brothers. They rolled in with 15 men and four excavators, which by sunlight it was all gone. At the time the demolition took place in a time where there were strenuous public calls to have it preserved. The building was listed on the National Trust and there was no permit to have it demolished.” – Passing Time

I remember real estate agents and property developers having their eye on the Cloudland site for years. I remember one in particular, Roger Barnett who worked for ND Wilson Real Estate in Taringa in the early 1970s, trying to raise funds to buy the Cloudland ballroom so that he could knock it down and build luxury apartments for the wealthy.

Although Barnett never realised his dream others did and some, no doubt, made a fortune.

Archbishop Duhig at the opening of St Clement’s Melkite Catholic Church, South Brisbane, 1936

Property developers are not the only ones who benefit from hilltop developments. It has been folklore in Brisbane’s catholic community that Archbishop James Duhig, on behalf of the Church of Rome, made sure he bought up prime land on hilltops for churches and schools. Along with other churches, Duhig even built colleges, Duchesne and Leo’s, at the University of Queensland. For his efforts he got a building named after him, the University Library. Yet Duhig supported Mussolini’s invasion of Abyssinia! Italy claimed that its annexation of Abyssinia was to provide land for Italian migrants denied immigration access to the USA and Australia.

Many school kids sat for their scholarship, junior and senior matriculation exams in the Cloudland ballroom. Uni students also sat for their exams in this place. So Cloudland was a ballroom, a music venue, and part of the fabric of our education system.

That Brisbane City Council and the Queensland government could allow it to be demolished is a crime. But then these two institutions have always served property developers and the private ownership of public spaces like this one. The pictures below tell the story.

Ian Curr
3 Aug 2022

Cloudland at Montpelier in Brisbane/Meanjin
Funicular up to Cloudland in the 1940s

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