A history of the Ekka

A history of the Ekka
Seven Network
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This clip from a Seven News Brisbane special includes early footage from the Royal Queensland Show, or Ekka ('Exhibition') for short.

The annual agricultural show is a Queensland institution and the state’s biggest event attracting over 400,000 visitors.

First held in 1876 it was inspired by other international showcases such as the Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851 in Britain.

Although short, this clip skilfully evokes memories of the Ekka by pairing silent archival footage of people enjoying rides with old-fashioned carousel music.

Stills of the first exhibitions at the Brisbane Showgrounds show the scale of the event and underline social historian Dr Joanne Scott’s comments about the Ekka’s role in putting Queensland on the map.

Scott’s research reveals there were 1,700 exhibits in more than 650 classes at the first Ekka. Items displayed included stained-glass windows, dugong meat, embroidery and artificial limbs.

Today there are best in show prizes for animals, agriculture, horticulture, education, arts and cookery. Live music, exhibitions, fireworks, food, rides and showbags are also now part of the Ekka experience.

The Ekka has only been cancelled four times to date – 1919, during the Spanish flu pandemic; at the height of the Second World War in 1942; and 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This excerpt comes from the Seven News Brisbane special Queensland: Flashback 150 Years, broadcast on 30 May 2009. It was produced for the 150th anniversary of the state of Queensland. Queensland formally separated from New South Wales on 6 June 1859.

Notes by Beth Taylor