Monorail Expo ’88 Brisbane | Image Source: Flickr (public domain)
I thought it was time for a bit of nostalgia because it’s been a while since my last I REMEMBER WHEN post back in June 2021!
WORLD EXPO ’88
Remember when the current Southbank Parklands here in Brisbane used to be a huge international exhibition site – World Expo ’88? There is SO MUCH I could write about this fabulous time in Brisbane’s history but this post would get too long, so I will try and touch on just the main things I remember.
The theme of Expo ’88 was Celebrate 88. It ran for six months, opened by the late Queen Elizabeth II on Saturday 30 April 1988 and it closed on Sunday 30 October 1988. The event focused on one particular aspect of human endeavour – “Leisure in the Age of Technology”.
Queen Elizabeth II, World Expo 88 Brisbane, Australia | Images Sourced from Flickr (Public Domain)
I was 23 and 24 years of age when Expo ’88 was on. I’d been married for just over 3 years and was living in our first home. We had season passes so could go to Expo any time we wanted and it became a big part of our lives. This was BC (before children) so we were free agents. We’d go with friends on weekends. As we worked in Brisbane City, just across the river from the Expo 88 site, we’d go during our lunch breaks and after work with work colleagues and/or friends. It was such fun times!
I remember my cousin and her husband coming from where they lived in a country town in NSW to stay with us. They had three day passes and we spent three full days with them at Expo and had a ball.
These were the days before mobile phones and I wasn’t so much into taking photos back then so I don’t have many (if any) photos from that time. I can’t remember, and I would have to go digging and unfortunately I’m a bit time poor right now. I’ll do my best though with a few stock images & YouTube videos.
EXPO ’88 LOGO
Two official logos were used interchangeably for Expo ’88 – the ‘globe boomerang’ logo and the later introduced ‘sun sail’ logo.
The boomerang logo combines two boomerang shapes forming an ‘x’, which is then linked to the numerals ’88’ located within the circle with the letter ‘P’ – thus spelling the word ‘eXPo’, superimposed on a wire-frame image of the globe. The boomerangs refer to the fact that World Expo ’88 was an Australian Exposition – and commemorating the 200th Anniversary of European settlement to Australia. The globe signifies that it is a world event – with World Expo ’88 – Brisbane – in the centre. Finally, the ‘green’ and ‘gold’ colour scheme refers to the official sports colours for Australia – representing the green of the land and the gold of the sun (and beaches).
The ‘sun-sail’ logo, also popular, and used extensively in the final lead-up to the opening of Expo, captures the joy of the Exposition as a grand cultural festival – projecting the major entertainment themes onto an image of one of the major icons of the Expo – the massive sun-sail canopies – portraying from left to right – circus; the visual arts; marching bands; the performing arts; theatre; all under the Queensland sun.
Ken Cato of Cato Purnell Partners designed the iconic ‘Sun Sails’ logo which was used on all promotional and souvenir material as well as extensively throughout the Expo site.
TOGETHER WE’LL SHOW THE WORLD
Expo 88’s theme song was Together We’ll Show the World. It was written and sung by Carol Lloyd.
The theme of the Expo was “Leisure in the Age of Technology”, and the mascot for the Expo was an Australian platypus named ‘Expo Oz’.
The Skyneedle (seen in the video above) is a prominent feature of the Brisbane skyline which was constructed especially for World Expo 88. The 88 m landmark was earmarked for relocation to Tokyo Disneyland. However, hairdresser Stefan Ackerie stepped in and purchased the Skyneedle, which was then relocated to the Stefan HQ at South Brisbane. It still takes pride of place as an architectural beacon of West End. Its rotating light bulb was eventually removed, and some neon rainbow rings added to the spire to reflect Brisbane hairdresser Stefan’s logo. Stefan recently sold the tower after a checkered decade of refurbishments and electrical fires, and the monument will be retained as part of a new residential apartment complex being built in Edmondstone Street.
PAVILIONS, ENTERTAINMENT, EATERIES & PASSPORTS
A map and guide of the Expo ’88 site in Brisbane can be found HERE and shows the extensive range of pavilions, performances, parades, comedy and artwork on show. Guests could experience over 50 restaurants filled with flavours from around the globe. Over the six months, Expo drew in crowds of more than 18 million people which was an average of 100,000 people a day that entered the gates.
Expo 88 Brisbane, Australia | Images Sourced from Flickr (Public Domain)
Expo 88 Brisbane, Australia | Images Sourced from Flickr (Public Domain) Also see many more Expo ’88 images at this link
The first experience the visitors encountered when arriving at the exhibition hall of the Australian pavilion was the word ‘Australia’. The massive A-U-S-T-R-A-L-I-A letters designed by Ken Done, one of Australia’s most well known, popular artists at the time, the letters vibrantly evoked Australia’s heartland, indigenous art, palm, trees, sun, sand, surf and Southern Cross constellation. There were actually two Australia signs – one stacked and one long. One set of letters (stacked) stood at the entrance of the Australia pavilion and the other (long) formed a sculpture at the exit.
In March 2018, the Caboolture Historical Village in Queensland received word that a private donor was gifting them the two iconic AUSTRALIA signs from Expo ‘88.
We all had our Expo ’88 Passports where you would get a stamp from every pavilion you visited and it became an obsession to collect them all. There was lots of queuing involved but we were young and I don’t recall the queuing bothering me too much. Anything to get my stamp and see the pavilion! I’m sure that we still have our Expo ’88 Passports stashed away somewhere but again, it would require a lot of digging around and so here’s some photos showing the Expo ’88 passport and some pavilion stamps as shared by John Gravenor on the Facebook Page ‘World Expo 88’. See the full post HERE.
WHAT REMAINS FROM EXPO ’88?
‘SOME’ of what remains includes:
The Nepalese Peace Pagoda. It features 80 tonnes of hand-carved Nepalese timber and took more than 160 Nepalese families two years to build. It is also one of only three Nepalese peace pagodas in the world to be located outside of Nepal.
The Plough Inn (a much visited pub by many during Expo) remains but was in fact on site prior to Expo having been established in 1864 and functioned under the same name since that time.
The River Stage remains (new location though), loads of wonderful memories for so many people, and much more I’m sure!
Just a short walk over the Goodwill Bridge, the City Botanic Gardens is the resting place for the Riverstage – a floating concert venue that kept Expo crowds entertained daily. Many big acts of the day made an appearance – John Farnham, Icehouse, John Denver – and Judith Durham and The Seekers played the closing concert, ending their set with The Carnival is Over, which became an unofficial anthem for the end of the celebrations. Today, Australian as well as international touring artists perform at the Riverstage such as Florence + The Machine, Lauryn Hill and John Butler Trio – and it’s also the location for the annual Lord Mayor’s Christmas Carols concert in December.
Here’s our much loved John Farnham performing “You’re The Voice” on the Riverstage at Expo 88 as part of his Expo ’88 ‘Age of Reason’ concert. John of course is currently recovering from mouth cancer surgery and like all Australian’s I wish him a speedy recovery.
KODAK BEACH – NOW CALLED STREETS BEACH
A beautiful beach and lagoon area was built ‘after’ Expo ’88 opening I think in 1992. Originally the beach was called ‘Kodak Beach’ then ‘Breaka Beach’ and currently called ‘Streets Beach’.
Streets Beach is a South Bank icon and a must-visit while you’re exploring the 17-hectare South Bank Parklands. Australia’s only inner-city, man-made beach boasts a sparkling blue lagoon surrounded by white, sandy beaches and sub-tropical plants. Streets Beach is an oasis in the middle of Brisbane City.
Next to Streets Beach are two other aquatic spaces – the Boat Pool and Aquativity, an interactive water-play park for children.
Streets Beach is free to use and is patrolled by qualified lifeguards all year round. The lifeguard’s hours change throughout the year, so it’s a good idea to contact the South Bank Visitor Centre to see when they are patrolling.
WHAT EXPO ’88 DID FOR BRISBANE
It provided fun and culture and pride and socialisation and basically it transformed Brisbane physically and culturally. The expo also helped to create South Bank Parklands – a 40-hectare site that is now the city’s most popular leisure precinct.
However, this nearly wasn’t the case as the original legacy plan conceived pre-event was to sell the Expo site and create a tourist oriented precinct typical of those that now dominate the world’s post-industrial waterfronts. In the Official Souvenir Programme the organisers proudly announced that “a proposal has already been accepted to transform the Expo site on the South Bank of the Brisbane River to include a residential area, a luxury hotel, a world trade centre and a retail section”.
The success of Expo 88 though forced the new Government to change the legacy plans. After public consultation, a revised Master Plan was conceived which designated half the site as publically accessible open space. The idea was to provide public parklands, including an artificial beach, in a design similar to that used in theme parks. This was no coincidence as the company chosen to develop the 1991 Master Plan (Media 5) were specialists in theme park design. Their plan resonated with people and politicians because it reminded people of the Expo. THere was further tweaking over the years which now provides us with our beautiful South Bank Parklands.
Expo 88 redefined the city as one oriented towards cultural and leisured consumption, and helped to effect and signal the transformation of the city ‘from provincial backwater to world city’. The expression ‘coming of age’ is often used to describe the significance of the Expo 88 of the host city. The event changed the way that Queenslanders feel about their state capital, but also the way urban space is used and navigated.
WHEN IT ALL ENDED
Oh dear. It was sad. Most of us felt withdrawals. However, the legacy of what Expo ’88 gave Brisbane lives on. It gave us confidence in what our city had to offer the world and made us a more leisure oriented city. It also created an outdoor dining out scene which we love to this day and we had the excitement of the refurbishment of the site into what is now our beautiful Southbank Parklands.
There’s so much about Expo 88 that I didn’t cover here (or else it would’ve been a thesis). Did you go to Expo 88? What are your memories? Please do share them!
Ciao for now,
Linking up with Denyse Whelan’s ‘Wednesday’s Words and Pics‘
What a great ‘I remember’ post Min! Love your ID and photo :). I had my third child in 1988 so we didn’t get to Expo 88 but many of my family did and they loved it all. Such a great time, thanks for sharing your memories of this huge event. It’s also good to know what happened to the site afterwards, I had no idea!
Thanks Debbie! Such a shame you didn’t get to Expo – it was amazing and so much fun! You’d have been busy though with three small kids. The site there at Southbank was quite ugly before Expo ’88. It was old hotels, light industrial buildings and boarding houses. Then we had Expo ’88 and now the beautiful Southbank Parklands. Expo ’88 really was the catalyst for positive change for Brizzy!
I worked at Expo Min so remember it well, but I actually didn’t visit much. I’d deferred from my Commerce degree at Uni (well, failed some subjects) and got a job in the accounting team there about 6mths before Expo opened. It was fun in the early days as we got involved in all sorts of weird stuff. Parade in town for the Brisbane Festival or whatever used to happen. I remember getting very unattractive white tracksuits to wear. We also got some early visits on-site.
It was certainly a city-changer for Brisbane. (And I think they’ve done a pretty good job with using the site post-Expo.)
Wow Deb – how exciting to have worked at Expo! I’m sure you have some fabulous memories from that time. Even if you didn’t visit much it sounds like you had loads of fun with the projects involved with the work you were doing. Shame about the ugly white tracksuit! LOL I truly think that Expo ’88 was the best thing that ever happened to Brisbane. Southbank Parklands that we have now are gorgeous, along with the cultural precinct (QPAC etc).
It must have been a fun time for sure! I had no idea what this even was and had to go and do a search. I do remember some Expo in Milano but that was some kind of food festival. A 6-month festival like that in Brisbane must be a great opportunity to bring people together and offer good activities. How lovely that they kept the site to create a park!
I’m glad you’re aware of it now Susanne. It was a fabulous time in our city’s history and was the catalyst for so much positive change. I’m so glad I was around to experience it and I love how they’ve transformed the site into what is now our Southbank Parklands.
oh yes the memories … We didn’t go very often to Expo, maybe 2 or 3 times. But we were an official/unofficial BNB during Expo. Somehow the council just decided to ignore their own rules and let anyone be a BNB for that time. We met so many weird and wonderful folk!!
Hi Sherry – so glad you too have great memories from that time. I’m still trying to work out what BNB is? Do you mean B&B as in Bed and Breakfast? They were fun times that’s for sure. I’m pleased it was back then when I was young and could take full advantage of all it had to offer!
I did go. I loved it. I went with a friend from Uni. We had such fun.I loved the little hologram guide in the japanese pavillion and we went to the Australian one when there was a parade or something so we could get in without waiting in the big line. We took all sorts of funny photos with statues that had to be developed well after the fact and really must have seemed a bit daft back then (now days it is pretty normal). It’s funny, I haven’t thought about it for ages. It’s like some big fair without rides, which is sort of weird, when you think about it.
It sure was fun wasn’t it? I think you remember much more of the details than I do. I couldn’t tell you what I saw in the pavilions. I just can’t remember! I remember I had fun, did lots of queuing, loved collecting stamps in my passport, enjoyed a vast array of entertainment and eateries and there was always something to do!
This was a trip down memory lane of my parents going and taking our son, then 9 with them to Qld for their usual retirement stay and he got to go, with them and other friends; grandson. He was sent home by plane after a week as they stayed on.
My memories are of Mum enjoying it very much. Must ask my now 43 yo son, does he remember it. You did a great memory sharing there Min!!
Thank you for sharing your post in the Wednesday’s Words and Pics link up for this week and being part of the #WWandPics Community.
Hope to see you next week too.
Hi Denyse, thank you! Shame you didn’t get to Expo yourself but it’d be interesting to hear whether your son has memories of his visit back when he was 9 years of age!