This exhibition – the society’s contribution to the 2012 National Trust Heritage Festival – explores the ‘Amazing Stories’ of Willoughby’s contribution to the Australian entertainment industry. The municipality is well-known for its central role in the birth of the Australian television industry, but it has also been a centre for invention and innovation across many branches of the industry:
- The first open air cinema was on Chatswood Oval in the summer of 1908-09.
- The first formal cinema in Willoughby was the Dreadnaught, which opened on 1912.
- Australia’s first public broadcast station, 2FC (Farmer & Company), commenced broadcasting from what was claimed to be the world’s most powerful radio transmitter located in today’s suburb of Castlecrag on 14 December 1923.
- The first live musical radio broadcast in Sydney was of the Wurlitzer organ in the Arcadia Cinema in Chatswood over station 2FC in 1926.
- The Arcadia Cinema was the first on the North Shore to introduce sound – ‘talkies’ in 1926.
- The Haven Scenic Theatre, designed by Walter and Marion Griffin, opened beside Middle Harbour in Castlecrag in 1932. Its plays received wide acclaim in Sydney until wartime restrictions forced its closure 1941. Following rebuilding by the local community, it reopened as The Haven Amphitheatre in 1976 and continues in operation.
- Australia’s first television broadcast was from TCN-9 in Willoughby on 16 September 1956. The ABC’s station ABN-2, also based in Willoughby, was inaugurated by Prime Minister Robert Menzies on 5 November 1956.
- Formed in 1959 as the Chatswood District Band, the Willoughby Band has been the leading Senior and Junior A Grade band in the state for over 25 years. The Senior Band has won the State Championship 18 times and been runners-up four times, while the Juniors have been victors 23 times and were runners-up thrice. The bands have also won numerous national championships.
- The Willoughby Symphony, founded in 1965, has long been recognised as Australia’s finest community orchestra.
- Australia’s first stereo radio station, 2MBS-FM, commenced broadcasting from Chandos Street, St Leonards (in Willoughby), on 1 February 1975.
- The Concourse in Chatswood, opened in 2011, features the finest recital hall and theatre facilities in regional Australia.
Many of these achievements, together with the contributions made by various community musical and theatre groups, are covered in the 2012 exhibition ‘That’s Entertainment: Willoughby in the spotlight!’ at our museum. The active involvement of the many active local groups in the entertainment industry has enabled us to bring together our largest exhibition to date. It opened on 15 April.