AQUARIUS REBORN Article — an Australian Union of Students Arts Festival 1973

Woroni (Canberra, ACT : 1950 – 2007)

Thu 1 Feb 1973 Page 10

AQUARIUS REBORN Article  — an Australian Union of Students Arts Festival — an inter university Arts Festival — a student alternative to the Adelaide Arts Festival — A sophisticated pop festival. That’s how the idea started and these limited and contradictory definitions are largely why it fell on its face in Canberra in May 1971.

This year a new vision. This year a total vision. The question is put ‘why should art and living be considered as separate compartments? The real possibilities of following through alternatives to the inadequate alienating society ‘out there’ and creating a mini, new, counter, and alternative society, are explored. How? Move in, take over a small country town (at Nimbin) for 10 days; A survival festival — this is what Aquarius ’73 will be.

Johnny Allen, one of the people who envisaged the concept puts it this way…. ‘All those of us who have lived through the sixties have caught the glimpse of a dream. It was inescapable. The Beatles sang it, rock music and films picked it up and explored it in a thousand ways. All of us were touched by it in one way or another – whether we remained in straight office jobs or student roles, or whether we leapt into the dream and threw aside the barriers to follow our own paths. The dream was everywhere and the dream was simple — love your brother, discover yourself and lower the barriers. Stop playing games, see through the roles and realise that you are all one with one another. The dream touched all of us with an intensity that changed our lives.

The changes were more colourful clothes, better music. Life styles became freer, a real interest in eastern thought, philosophy and religion was born. Out of it came many larger changes — a swing against the war in Vietnam, against sexual repression and role playing, against deadening school and university institutions. Then came the seventies. If the sixties were the decade of the dream, the seventies were to become the decade of disillusion. After all the explosions, the personal glimpses of a new way, of a new life on the planet, what were we left with? Still the Vietnam war lingered on. The great majority continued in their straight jobs by day, nurtured by the opiate of television in the evenings. The creative explosion of psychedelia became ‘turning on’ as a new wave suburban replacement of alcohol. Somehow, somewhere, some- one had sold out. No one quite knew where to place the blame, where to point the finger.

Rock musicians remained aware of the power of their medium, but unable to focus it. Most retreated to personal salvation in their lives and in their songs, a kind of weary ‘I don’t know what it’s all about, but if I change myself, maybe the world will change’. After the confusion of Altamont, what other direction was possible? But the dream continued — often underground, often damaged and wounded, some- times nostalgic sometimes ridiculed. What else could it do?

Many of us have learnt to compromise with the dream in the face of the struggle to keep our families and ourselves together. In the face of our present ecology, in the face of the repression that still surrounds us, what else can we do? We have become suspicious of dream-makers, a little afraid of the responsibility of our own freedom, a little cynical. The potential is still there, but the potential can go either way. We really do direct our own futures.

It is for these reasons that the May 1973 Festival is important. Our lives are largely determined by the mythology we create. Re- member Ourimbah and Wood- stock, only two or three years ago, the excitement of the discovery of the dream made tangible. — the surprise and reassurance that thousands looked and, alike, and were struggling towards the same life style. Now the struggle is a little heavier. We cannot approach festivals naively, but must think of the way they are going to affect the land. It is up to us to look for alternatives for the future, to some solutions to our personal and group dilemmas.

In 1969 it was enough just to meet. Now we must be able to harness some of the power and energy of that meeting to create the mythology which will enable us to continue. It is possible to get together creatively and spontaneously, to make our own culture and not be sold it. Of course we can solve our own problems of how to feed ourselves, of how to shit and shower with- out a commercial rip-off being set up to organise it for us. And all sorts of incredible things are happening. People involved in Aquarius are talking about planting giant garden valleys, building not one but dozens of outdoor amphitheatres and stages, of a communal village, of a healing centre, of ecologically sound ways of living together.

Dreams, dreams. But dreams and mythologies create reality. The energy of five thousand people is almost unlimited. Between us, really working together, we can achieve anything. The only limitation on reality is our imagination’. Johnny Allen & Graeme Dunstan are not putting on a festival but co-ordinate, communicate the ideas that have flourished once the idea was born. At least 5,000 people are probably going to get together in a country-side of exceptional beauty and ecology — Nimbin — a small village a few miles from Lismore to explore the alter- natives and show that it can be done. To leave the village in its quiet and beauty exactly as we came to it. We will not destroy it.

The style of the Festival — a country fair. The structures and forms that make up its community will be an art form in itself … A total attempt at a cultural experience thru life-styles of its participants exploring the alternatives in harmony with the natural environment. Some thoughts on the structure of the Festival. A Healing Centre: Why is a hospital so difficult to tell from a morgue or an office block? What sort of structure should a real healing centre be? In what way are light and colour and atmosphere a part of the healing process? Media Centre: Various people are thinking of video networks telephone hook-ups, pirate radio. Communications Centre: Given that we are really setting up a workable alter- native small town, what sort of communication can be set up so that people can easily find out what is going on, how to get here, eh? A village nerve net. Atmospheres: There are many Asian-groups interested in participating — serving their food, presenting their music and dance.

Meditation Centre: A peaceful indoor/outdoor area where people can get away from the hustle and bustle of the Festival to go into their own silence. Foods: Why are food areas at Festivals always uncomfortable and unpleasant. Whole food freaks will be involved lovingly in the preparation and serving of food — good to eat and good for you. Power Sources: Water wheels, solar and thermal energy transmitters, ionisation chambers How do we tap the universal energy flow without leaving it in a steaming, drained- out nervous system of dissipated consciousness. Living: To avoid turning the site into a parking lot, special trains will take the participants from Sydney and Melbourne on a magical mystery tour. Come with your people — form into tribal/commune groups of about 20 people capable, self-supporting, participating. There is a lot to learn, to explore and to give.

Take your own accommodation; Domes, tenting, whatever. Food: Some fresh vegetables etc. will be provided in markets, bring your own non- perishables, rice, oats, etc. Cook for yourselves, show others what you can cook. Bring your creative outlets with you and introduce others to them.

If you have a special project get together and produce it, bring it to the festival, let others into what you are. To date * Food is already being planted in preparation. * Domes and other alter- native living structures are being built. * Ideas on child care, de- schooled schools are flowing in. * Recycling methods are being put forward by environmentalists. * A festival currency has been suggested — a system of bartering and its feasibility is being worked on. If you have any ideas for a community of 5,000 — 8,000 people (this is how it has evolved to date — more and more people becoming involved and putting forward ideas) * food supply * water * sewage * healing centres * creche * transport * media * anything else contact Aquarius.

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