The 25th anniversary of World Expo 88 is almost upon us. The six-month party, where South Bank is now, opened on 3o April 1988 and if you were there, it’s time to reflect and celebrate all over again!

Expo was, as Lord Mayor of Brisbane Graham Quirk described it at the opening of the Museum of Brisbane’s Expo exhibition Light Fantastic, a “game-changer” for our city.

It opened our eyes to a world beyond Bribie Island, it introduced us to the concept of being out at night – even during the week! – and, along with the Commonwealth Games six years earlier, it gave us confidence that “big country town” Brisbane could perform on the world stage.

Naturally our clinging to Expo puzzles those too young to remember. I saw this tweet the other day from @Sleemol: “Brisbane’s obsession with constantly reflecting on Expo confuses me. It sounds like it was a good event – in 1988. Let’s move on. Surely this city’s best days are yet to come? The Expo nostalgia feels a bit like we’re conceding nothing like it will ever happen again.”

That was greeted with this response from @Bundynelle: “No, leave us to enjoy good memories. I get sad when people tell us ‘oldies’ to move on.”

So has there been another Expo-like experience since 1988? Sure, there was the 2001 Goodwill Games but – apart from the bridge named in its honour – it’s rarely mentioned.

The G20 meeting of world leaders later this year might be a huge coup for Brisbane but with the street closures and motorcades, it’s not likely to leave us feeling like we’ve all been to an amazing party.

The 2018 Gold Coast (and Brisbane – some of the events will be held here) Commonwealth Games is perhaps our next chance to tap that Expo feeling.

Certainly for a generation not old enough to remember the 1982 Commonwealth Games or Expo, it will form memories to last a lifetime but the six-month party that was Expo 88 will still take some beating!

When I began pondering this topic on Facebook, Chris Williams offered: “No event has been larger. It was where we learnt how to queue, how to start up a conversation with a stranger and, most importantly, how to thoroughly enjoy ourselves!”

My Expo memories? Well, I was only 16 so I certainly never went inside the Munich Festhaus (that’s not to say I didn’t learn the Chicken Dance that year!) However, funnily enough, 25 years on, I get to visit every weekday. The ABC studios at South Bank have been built on the exact location of the Festhaus!

Mum worked in the Queensland Pavilion. She could get me VIP access to any pavilion which – given the length of the queues, especially for the New Zealand Pavilion – was quite simply the best Expo perk!

What I loved about the Queensland Pavilion itself was the Reuters news wire on computers in the main entrance. Geeky at the time, but understandable given where I’ve ended up in life, I used to call in on my way home from school (I would catch the train from Central to Manly) and sit there in school uniform scrolling through the breaking news stories! Not too many others will include that in their Expo memories, I bet!

It goes without saying that I also enjoyed the concerts (who could forget the Seekers singing The Carnival is Over on the last night?), the high-tower diving, the monorail and the myriad street performers.

I was also one of the students chosen to line the Queen’s route as she walked through Expo on opening day, 30 April. I’m not sure I actually saw the royal party – we had to face the crowd – but I did my bit. I protected Her Majesty from her masses!

If all this has you reaching for your Expo memorabilia – flicking through your passport or pulling out your season pass – you should take a trip to the Light Fantastic exhibition at the re-opened Museum of Brisbane in City Hall. Entry is free and 612 ABC Brisbane has an Expo 88 Memory Booth there, where you can tell me your story for replay on 612 Breakfast.

Sorry Gen-Y, I guess you had to be there!


As seen in bmag issue 256