Over a thousand people attended the day-long gathering to mark Mother’s Day and the 45th anniversary of the Nimbin Aquarius Festival at the Channon Market on Sunday.
The gathering began with sacred chants, sitar and tabla grooves and ended with a monster drum and dance circle. In between, punters were treated to a smorgasbord of music stretching from jazz to alternative rock, Bollywood dance, poetry and performance celebrating the region’s cultural diversity and alternative roots.
Addressing the gathering Graeme Dunstan, director of the Nimbin Aquarius Festival of 1973, said: “We were dreamers setting out to build a city on a hill, dreamers in search of a new dreaming. We Aquarians didn’t find Nimbin as a venue for our Festival. Rather Nimbin, ancient initiation ground, pulled us in, led us on as if by angels in a sense of magic, serendipity and auspicious meetings. ‘We were stardust, we were golden…’ and we were finding our way back to the garden.”
He said, ‘The magic we were shown then, that magic exists for dreamers and seekers today, as it did 45 years ago and as it did for the first peoples 100,000 years ago.’
Natalie Meyer, manager of the Nimbin Neighbourhood andInformation Centre, said: ‘Part of my role has been to build on the legacy of the Aquarians, the most significant of these being a commitment to social justice, respect for the first peoples of this land and a rejuvenation of the local natural environment.’
‘As the Aquarians sadly leave us, and we have lost so many even in the past five years, the land they have been protecting for the past 45 years or so is now changing hands and we need to take steps to ensure that all the work they have done rejuvenating and regenerating their own land is not undone and the environment continues to thrive.’
‘Luckily around Nimbin we have many MOs which are reasonably safe for the moment at least. But what of all the freehold land? The eyes of profit-driven developers are upon it. As are the eyes of the government as they run out of logs in the State forests. StandUp4Forests. Forests4Ever’
MC Binnah Pownall concurred: ‘We’ve done a lot to be proud of and our different direction has been vindicated over the years. Though it is not over yet. We all need to activate just one more time to stop the destruction – or it WILL be over for all beings…’
23 year old Maddy-Rose Braddon, an activist since she was 17, first with the Australian Youth Climate Coalition and now with the young Greens locally, has studied environmental and marine science at Southern Cross University. Her message to youth was: ‘Get out there, enrol to vote, let your voice be heard. Whatever it is that you’re passionate about will be nurtured by our Northern Rivers community. Whether it’s Stop Adani, the Time2Choose campaign, Standing Up 4 Forests or planting trees in your local landcare group – there’s ways you can help make a difference.”’
She said: ‘Let’s focus on what we CAN do, not all the doom and gloom.’
And SistaGurl Nadine Smith sang:
‘Stand in your power
A rare breathtaking flower…’
The Bollywood Sisters invited punters to try out some bhangra moves; Neil Pike, from The Pagan Love Cult, billed as ‘the last of the long-lost hippies’, sang of peacocks shedding ‘a tear of crystal blue’; and spiral dancers made shapes on the grass.
The standout performance was by Byron indi band The Babe Rainbow, who regaled punters with their unique blend of ‘monkey disco’, psychedellic-and-surf-inspired happy tunes. As the day, bathed with winter sunshine, turned golden, Angus Dowling, the baby-faced lead vocalist of the band and his crew of retro pranksters, sang their way into everyone’s hearts:
‘Reality is a technicolour dream
Makes me feel like you’re floating upstream
Through the door before the angel rows
You’re one of them
Moves are already afoot to send The Babe Rainbow as musical representatives from the Rainbow Region to the US for the 50th anniversary of Woodstock in 2019.
The gathering was also addressed by Shelli Lipton and Nathan Koenig, cultural ambassadors from Nimbin’s sister village Woodstock, a link they had a key role in establishing. The fact that it did happen at all is a testament to their resourcefulness, and to the persistence of local activists like Benny Zable, as the Woodstock Town Board was, at first, nonplussed by the sister village request sent by the Nimbin community. Here, Lismore City Council too was none too happy at first, fearing anything to do with hippie Woodstock. The Nimbin-Woodstock sister village link is hippie ingenuity at it’s best, hopscotching over bureaucracies to establish people-to-people connections that have endured. ‘Nimbin is more Woodstock than Woodstock,’ they quipped.
Another feature of the day was the Rainbow Dreaming exhibit – which toured the US for the Woodstock 40th anniversary – exploring the alternative culture of the Rainbow Region, and a book with archival photos and stories from the exhibition.
Robert Corowa and Steve Didge performed a Welcome to Country on behalf of the Wiabul/Widjabul custodians of the land. And then it was over to the mayhem of the Channon Market drum circle, the Mother of all Drum Circles in the Rainbow Region.
The day was a fundraiser for the Nimbin Aquarius Foundation, who have planned a two-week program of events to mark the Aquarius 45th anniversary. For program details see Nimbin Good Times. It was generously supported by Byron Neighbourhood Resource Centre (BNRC), Sustainability Research Institute, The Channon Market and Christopher Dean.