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The former Anstey Hill quarry site has been described by some reviewers as ‘the jewel of the Adelaide Festival crown’.
The former Anstey Hill quarry site has been described by some reviewers as ‘the jewel of the Adelaide Festival crown’.

Quarry setting for ‘record-breaking’ show

For the first time, Adelaide’s Festival of the Arts has used a rundown and abandoned quarry as the stage for a hit theatre performance.

The Anstey Hill quarry – approximately 30 minutes from Adelaide and situated in the protected Anstey Hill recreation park  - is said to have been chosen as the site for the sold out season of adapted novel The Secret River due to its ‘picturesque amphitheatre’.

Sitting empty for the last 35 years, it took the local council and Adelaide Festival staff approximately nine months to make the area useable for an outdoor play, removing rubbish and ensuring the rock face was stable.

Seating approximately 800 people, the outdoor play was performed in front of the quarry cliffs and their 20m steep face.

“People said it was worth the cost of admission just to sit there,” The Secret River director Neil Armfield told Adelaide Now.

Armfield also acknowledged that the success of The Secret River gave local businesses a ‘booming trade’ and provided the local council with a ‘massive’ economic boost.

“The quarry is a magical part of the country. [The show] has been great for the awareness of the area – everybody knows how to get to Anstey Hill now,” he said.

Many newspaper reviews also agreed with this sentiment, with one reviewer describing the site as “the jewel of the Adelaide Festival’s crown”.

“The fact that this is a quarry with millennia of the Earth’s work sheared out of a hill to create the towering man-made edifice behind the stage reminds us that thousands of years of history tower over this land,” Adelaide Review journalist John Dexter wrote.

According to reports, Tea Tree Gully – the local council that oversees the area - will produce a report detailing the financial impact of the show in the coming weeks.

In the 19th century, the site was the largest open cut quarry in the area but has since descended into decay. A nearby quarry had been the setting for the Festival nearly 30 years ago, which led Festival organisers to announce their intent to use the area again.

Established in 1989, the Anstey Hill recreation park is 360ha of protected land, home to the quarry site approximately 19 kilometres northeast of Adelaide.

The Adelaide Festival of the Arts ran between 28 February and 19 March.

More reading
Limestone quarry’s second life
Stone as a backdrop to the arts
Monks launch bid to restore quarry

Thursday, 24 January, 2019 12:56am
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