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Byron Shire
February 4, 2023

Bruns drumming circle outside capitalist logic 

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A sign posted near the toilets at the park next to Torakina Beach. Photo Tree Faerie.

Eve Jeffery

Local police were in attendance on Sunday afternoon, when around 70 people gathered at the park next to Torakina Beach in Brunswick Heads.

In what was clearly a gathering of like-minded people who all coincidently happened to be in the same place at the same time, police could do nothing as no one they spoke to had organised the gathering.

People were walking on tightropes, juggling, hula hooping, baton twirling, and on any other day you would imagine it was a Christmas party for a group of circus performers.

The individuals that police spoke to said they were not part of a group; they were just there enjoying an afternoon at the park and had bumped into friends while they were there.

In the past, police have been called to disperse people who were drumming, and at that time it was just as much for noise issues as for COVID-19 issues.

Around seventy people concidentally found themselves together in the same place, at the same time, on Sunday at Torakina. Photo Tree Faerie.

Local drummer, Jason van Tol, says the drummers have been moved on several times over the last few months, which included people being fined.

‘The initial reason given for breaking up the music was compliance with COVID-19 conditions, but as these have now been relaxed, the new claim is that the NSW government-run Reflections Holiday Parks manages the land on which the music was being played, and that, according to a sign that was erected two weeks ago, “you are required to obtain a Current License for any event to be held within the Reserve”.’

Integral part of the culture

Mr van Tol says that drumming has been an integral part of the culture of Byron Bay for at least 30 years.

‘It’s not an “event” in any formal way, any more than going to the beach is. This is what the police – who must make a judgment about “eventhood” – cannot, or will not, comprehend’.

Gatherings like the drumming circle can form without any central organisation, yet have a clear unity based on rhythm. Moreover, the drumming defies capitalist logic in that it is not profit-oriented and anyone can join in. 

Reflections say that as the NSW Crown Holiday Park Land Manager (trading as Reflections Holiday Parks), they are bound by the Crown Lands Management Regulation 2018 and that their website has links to apply for a license.

A Reflections spokesperson said that they provide various licences across their 37 holiday parks and 35 reserves across NSW.

‘Some examples include, filming and photography purposes, markets, personal training and yoga, cultural tours, fun runs and the like. 

Each license application individually reviewed 

‘Each license application is individually reviewed and approved based on meeting the requirements within the application process.’

The events and functions which require a license are those that generally engage with the public. 

‘Many are commercial businesses which must have a license to operate under the legislation. There is a fee and this is charged according to the size of the event/function and is basically to recover costs, such as additional rubbish removal during and after the event/function.’

Family gatherings such as birthday parties or barbecues do not require a license. However, they must align the gathering with COVID Safe practices and government health restrictions.

The spokesperson said, ‘Reflections has dedicated staff who review our licenses, and depending on the complexity of the application, turnaround times are quite quick’.

What is the threat?

Mr van Tol asks what is the threat posed by the drumming circle?

‘That people are getting together spontaneously and having fun? If there is a more prominent reason, I’d like to hear it, but whatever logic is thrown at it, it should also apply to the birthday parties, which are organised deliberately, and carried out at the same spot as the drumming, without a license on a regular basis’.

The police who attended the gathering at Torakina last Sunday said they wouldn’t be taking any action.

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  1. Would not this sign be an illegal sign?
    If the Holiday Park is a Government run-Holiday Park,
    the licence arrangement would have to be passed by parliament.

  2. People were walking on tightropes, juggling, hula hooping, baton twirling ….good grief, these people are undermining the very basis of Western Civilisation when instead they could be hooning along South Ballina Beach in their four-wheel drives – all the way to Evans Head in fact! A few quick burnouts on the beach along the way. To spend a peaceful afternoon in a park and not spending money is an outrage against civilised society. What about all those poker machines waiting for their hard earned?. And not getting a skin-full at the local RSL or pub either. Better still, they could be spending hours upon hours looking at TV, especially commercial television, watching all those lovely ads for all those consumerist products that they missed out on buying for Christmas.Having people spending time outdoors, enjoying themselves, respecting others and the environment is just plain un-Australian!

    • So Reflections thinks it’s ok for commercial activity- a 1950s carney to take up nearly a whole park-leaving little room for people to picnic or children to play. It’s ok for thousands to cram into shopping centers, football and cricket grounds, but illegal for people to gather outdoors in a park!

      Things have gone completely nuts when our ‘wonderful’ government believes 21st century capitalism must be protected regardless of the long term cost!

  3. Either deliberate or otherwise, this report fails to capture what led to the signage etc. Drummers may have held a ‘spontaneous event’ and attracted 100s of people to dance etc to their beat but they continued to encourage this in spite of any notion of social distancing etc. Where does the responsibility for that fall?

    Then there was the inescapable noise contours of the drummers. It was heard as far south as Pilgrim Park in Brunswick Heads. Anyone on South Beach Road/Laneway would have had to endure the repetitive beat for hours. Those holidaying in the Terrace would have been been denied any sense of quiet enjoyment. Along Banner Park, the drumming could be heard as a backdrop to the music from the pub. But unlike the pub, who have spent considerable sums of money to truncate the contours of their noise , the drummers showed no such consideration.

    Drumming may have been part of the Byron Bay scene but not that of Brunswick Heads circa 1986 to recently. If they have been moved on several times, then why? What are the signals being given here?

    As for excusing the drumming last Sunday on the grounds that it wasn’t an ‘event’…..I would encourage the drummers to read the wide scoping wording in the Crown Lands Management Regulation. Furthermore, I’m disheartened by the reported attitude of the drummers claiming they are being ‘spontaneous and free fun’ in full knowledge that their event attracts a crowd. To say otherwise reflects badly..

    Personally, I would like to see the drummers using, and this is not my idea but it has merit, Durrumbal Hall which I’m told was built for such a purpose?

  4. The drumming is a repetitive, boring and uninspiring banging that pervades surrounding areas where the majority of other people would prefer not to have to tolerate it.
    Unfortunately they seem to prefer to inflict their egocentric racket on populated areas. There’s no musicality to the sustained drumming, it’s merely annoying.

  5. I manage a crown reserve in byron. Maybe I can get some of those signs and ruin everyone’s fun too.
    At the same time I’ll ask the govt to change our car no. Plates to ‘ NSW the police state’.

    Well thought out management is good ,to many signs are ugly in my book so is the now changed housey
    Shed that used to set a wonderful atmosphere for the park with its old world painted cladding .
    Who are the management of Brunswick reflections anyway that think they can change the character of the town at their whims.
    Since the park was taken over by state govt I Havnt heard a good thing about any of it.
    I wonder if this sort of thing is the norm with the other reflections parks or is just the Brunswick crew.

  6. There’s always solution surely
    Next time drummers could accidentally organise something on private land somewhere or a more remote park where only the wildlife is disturbed, not afternoon nappers and babies on holidays.
    Don’t get me wrong, i’m a drummer myself, but sometimes the beat does go on and on and isn’t always fabulous sounding. Dare I say it, can even be humdrum.
    But hey, the beat must go on. I agree with that.


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