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Celebrating 100 Years of The Hordern Pavilion

From raves, rock concerts and runways to major sporting events, gala dinners and film premieres, The Hordern has seen it all

The Hordern Pavilion


Sydney has had a long love affair with live events. It’s no surprise, considering we’ve played host to some of the biggest international artists, dance parties, iconic sport events, cultural celebrations, and parades. 

And for the last century, a single building, The Hordern Pavilion, has been at the centre of it all.

This year marks 100 years since Northern Sydney architecture firm Trenchard Smith & Maisey designed the iconic venue, which officially opened its doors on April 2nd, 1924. The venue was named in honour of the enterprising retail family, Anthony Hordern and Sons, and Sir Samuel Hordern, who was president of the Royal Agricultural Society from 1915 to 1941.

Back then, you’d take a horse and cart or motor car to see the Sydney Royal Easter Show, which was the original purpose for The Hordern as demand grew for a bigger exhibition space in the early 20s. 

Image: Dua Lipa performs at Mardi Gras Credit: Jordan Munns

Pretty quickly though people realised the potential of the space, and the following year the first covered tennis courts in Australia were constructed in the venue. 

By the 1950s, rock ‘n’ roll music was on the rise and air travel made Australian tours more tempting for international artists. The Hordern was converted from an exhibition hall to a multi-purpose venue to host bigger music and sporting events, with the addition of a bar and box office. That transformation sparked decades of epic concerts and performances by the biggest names in music, including Frank Sinatra, Dolly Parton, The Jackson Five, Coldplay, Billie Eilish, Nirvana, Queen, Lorde, The Rolling Stones, Dua Lipa, and Elton John.

Image: Billie Eilish performs at The Hordern Pavilion Credit: Jordan Munns

Over the years, The Hordern became more and more synonymous with major Sydney events – used for film premieres, gala dinners, major boxing matches and the Mardi Gras After Party. It even had a stint as a bulk store for the Australian Army during WWII. 

In the 80s, the historic venue played a role in the birth of Sydney’s rave scene, a place to come together, to celebrate, dance and be free. It was the golden days, and The Hordern was a safe space to play – even hosting 5,000 people for the annual Sleaze Ball in 1985, a night of debaucherous fun and dress ups. 

For architecture buffs, the building itself is impressive even without the long list of events and headline acts who have graced its stage. Designed in the Inter-War Academic Classical Style, The Hordern features classic detailing inside and out, like Greek-inspired fluted Doric columns, a parapet, and a vaulted roof with lantern tower. 

And it’s only getting better with age. Recent renovations, including a multi-million-dollar seating upgrade, show a commitment to modernity. It’s clear The Hordern is evolving with the times, in 2023 hosting events like the ARIA Awards and the TikTok Awards, plus Fred Again’s Warehouse Rave, which sold out in 32 seconds. 

Image: The ARIA Awards at The Hordern Pavilion Credit: Jordan Munns

Playbill Group Managing Director, Michael Nebenzahl, is thrilled to celebrate The Hordern’s 100 year birthday, emphasising the many people in the art, music and sport scenes who have been brought together by the venue over the years.   

“Everyone has a story about their first concert at The Hordern, which only adds to the importance and significance of the venue,” he says. 

In its 100th year, more memories are set to be made, with a celebration year of concerts from Simple Plan, Tate McRae, Macklemore, Lany, 6lack, Fletcher, and more. 

Check out the artists performing in 2024 and get tickets at thehordern.com.au