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Byron Shire
May 12, 2021

Disco Dong gets a swan song with sale of birds used to fund homelessness and the arts

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Byron Bay’s ‘Disco Dong’ may be no more than a distant and (for some at least) slightly humorous memory, but the sculpture’s legacy is set to live on.

The Lighthouse sculpture will be dismantled tonight between 9pm and 3am. Photo David Lowe.

Late last year the Council decided to sell the thousands of metal birds used in the construction of the shiny protrusion and put the money to a good cause.

At yesterday’s full Byron Council meeting it was revealed that every single bird had been sold, raising nearly $27,000.

It’s not quite enough to recoup the $55,000 spent on the sculpture.

However, the proceeds are set to be put to good use, with council allocating half of the money to devising an arts and cultural policy, and the other half to local homelessness services.

‘This is still a matter which is quite, ah, tender for me,’ Byron Mayor Simon Richardson said.

‘But I think we’ve ultimately responded well to what was a community contention and arguably we ended this process better than when we started.’

Labor Cr Jan Hackett disagreed.

She moved an alternative motion seeking to have the entire $26,948 used for the development of an arts and cultural policy.

‘We were embarrassed in front of the community because we didn’t have the background, the expert advice and the supporting policies needed,’ Cr Hackett said.

‘Having corrected that mistake, I can’t see why the money we’ve got out of the sale of the birds shouldn’t go into that big black hole of the arts.’

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  1. The fact that all the birds were sold suggests that council was over hasty in succumbing to the pressure of a small parochial lynch mob. Were they just jealous that the artist was not a local? I feel desperately sorry for him, having poured his creativity into a work of art, only to result in an embittered pile-on. Art ought to be controversial and the council should have showed more courage. We have a few birds on our wall and they look great!

  2. We need an M’Arts type of development in the Arts and industry estate.
    Containers like the M’Arts centre in Murwillembah… affordable rent for artist studio/galleries
    on Council land. Give the Artists a bit of a hand.
    Lets get a bit of art action happening.

  3. Note to Cr Jan Hackett:

    The arts may well be a Good Thing, but spending money on them when we have the highest number of rough sleepers per capita in NSW outside of Sydney is a tad rich coming from those privileged enough to afford the arts. (Echo, 12 December 2019 – https://www.echo.net.au/2019/12/homelessness-getting-worse-byron-shire-say-frontline-workers/ )

    The arts are supported and promoted by an elite who have bargaining / lobbying power; the homeless are powerless.

    Homes first, then luxuries such as the arts. It’s all about priorities: public art might appeal to our tourism-obsessed community members and council, but the sight – the very existence – of people sleeping rough in so many CBD doorways must surely counter that appeal.

    And please, would it be too much to ask that we have COMPETENT, INFORMED people on our arts committees?

    Call me a philistine if you like, but that won’t change my stance.

  4. I’ve decided I will join in on this since I’ve written
    & published 20 odd poetry books, a novel, &
    had a libretto performed by The Seymour
    Group i.e. a section of the Sydney Symphony.
    It is annoying to see ‘the arts’ being treated in
    such a ‘saintly’ manner & tut-tutted by those
    who can’t do or be the golden one. What’s for
    real does not hang out in an ivory tower. I’m
    an artist & designer as well so you can call
    me a philistine too. Sleeping in doorways &
    the ‘why’ of it matters because humanity’s
    on the brink of becoming less so. Dong?

  5. ‘Puritan’ would be kinder and more accurate. Disputes of this kind go back to the early mediaeval period–when kings built very fancy cathedrals, whose architecture still amazes and delights–and were criticised because poor people starved. Mr. Haynes stands in a long line of puritans who have sought to prioritise the alleviation of poverty over even the most splendid of artistic creations.

    Yet the arts do matter, and they should not be accessible only to wealthy people.


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