The year 1970 marked 200 years since Captain Cook’s voyage to the Pacific and along Australia’s eastern seaboard. In Townsville in June 1970, a new chapter in Pacific relations was being written, with the help of an inaugural festival aimed at strengthening cultural ties in the region.
|Parade in Flinders Street, outside the Post Office.|
Designed to focus on cultural, artistic and environmental aspects of life in Pacific countries, one of the Townsville Pacific Festival’s main aims was to help create greater friendship and understanding between Australia and other countries in the Pacific region.
In its first year, the festival attracted performers and exhibits from countries such as Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Malaysia. By the time the third Pacific Festival was held in 1974, ten countries were involved in an exciting exchange of cultural ideas and knowledge.
The programme of events planned for the inaugural ten-day celebration included theatre productions, ballet performances, a Fun Fair, Mayoral Ball, a film festival, lectures on Cook’s voyages, and local displays of Barrier Reef corals, beach shells and gem collections. There were also a number of sporting competitions held as part of the festival, such as sailing regattas, ocean yacht races, power boat races, swimming carnivals, a fishing competition, football matches and even a go-kart championship.
A variety of open-air concerts were held at a temporary sound shell in Anzac Park, which included the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Australian Infantry Band, the Townsville Citizens’ Band, and an “International Concert” featuring singers and dancers from Greece, the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Ghana, Scotland and Ireland.
Another concert was called “Sounds on the Sand” and featured local pop groups Madison Avenue, Mode, Mainline Connection, Banned, Link and Klub.
The festival culminated in a street procession with over 30 decorated floats, witnessed by thousands of locals, followed by a mardi gras in Flinders Street.
|Pacific Festival parade, Flinders Street East, August 1987.|
The Townsville Daily Bulletin reported that the President of the Townsville Pacific Festival Board, Mr John Raggatt believed that the success of the inaugural festival had proven that Townsville could present a festival of “national and international stature”.
“I believe we have created something of which Townsville can be proud,” Mr Raggatt said.
It was estimated that 100,000 people had attended festival events, including 27,000 people at concerts in Anzac Park and 13,000 people visiting the Festival Arts Centre.
“I am quite sure that attendances such as this have never been given to presentations of this nature anywhere in Queensland,” Mr Raggatt said.
“Townsville has proved that it can present and support a major Australian festival,” he said.
Mr Raggatt felt that the festival’s success was due in no small part to the widespread community support the festival had received.
“As an inaugural festival it was a resounding success and this was due to a co-operative effort not only by the organisers but by the people of Townsville and this region.”
While in Townsville for the festival, the Bulletin reported that a visiting official from the Malaysian High Commission, Mr V. Kukathas, had said that the staging of an international festival was probably the most dramatic way of creating understanding among people.
Mr Kukathas believed that “half the trouble in the world today occurred because people did not know each other properly” and that exhibitions of the kind being held in Townsville created a “general understanding between people”.