There has been a bit of discussion of the good old days in Brisbane on a couple of my favorite blogs, so I thought I’d better have my say on the matter too. The upcoming Pig City concert has got a lot of people remeniscing.
At the Bush Telegraph – Pig City: “they shut it down, they pulled it down” http://bushtelegraph.wordpress.com/2007/05/14/brisbane-town-they-shut-it-down-they-pulled-it-down/#comment-1416
At the Bartlett Diaries – The Ups & Downs of living in Pig City http://andrewbartlett.com/blog/?p=1571
Although spending my formative years as a Melbournian, I have been, more or less, in Brisbane for decades, including during the now mythical “Pig City” era and the movement against old Joh Bjelke Petersen.
Two other people who were in Brisbane in the good old days were Ian Curr, who runs Bush Telegraph and Senator Andrew Bartlett who runs the Bartlett diaries, my two favorite blogs. I have never been particularly close to either of these men although I have known them both for a long time. I have a great deal of respect for them both and am always curious to see what they are up to. However, politically, they are very different, even contradictory in their political position.
Ian runs his blog as part of his lifelong campaign to support the rights of workers. He was one of the militant leaders of the right to march demonstrations (When premier Joh outlawed political marches). I remember Ian running around in the late seventies with one of those old bulky black and white video outfits (it was too big to be called just a camera). He has also been involved in publishing works sympathetic to workers rights for years and it is good to see him experimenting in cyberspace.
Andrew was a long haired gothic haunting the dungeon-like 4ZZZ studio when it used to be at the Qld. University. He was a stalwart of the ZZZ scene and played in a number of bands. One of his bands played at a school holiday program I was running way back then. Somewhere, somehow, he managed to become a social worker and ended up working for centrelink. (Ian worked at centrelink for a while too). Andrews sense of proper process and fairness, with an often evasive commitment to the middle ground, lead him predictably enough into the Australian Democrats, though the gothic thing clashed a bit. I (again) came across Andrew when he was running the office of Democrat senator Rev. Senator John Woodley when he was assisting some Aboriginal elders business on Stradbroke Island. Andrew was the first federal politician to have a blog and is frequently mentioned amongst Australians top political bloggers.
So back to Pig City,
It would be wrong to analyse this era in terms of radicals (Ian) or moderates (Andrew), though at the time that is how I did perceive the schisms. In retrospect however, there are some people politicised in Queensland during the 70’s and 80’s who have gone into many different political directions, but have continued to be involved in bettering the world for the last few decades. Then there is the vocal majority who were just into the music and parties, who were attracted to the intense energy of the resistance movement especially at university campuses, and fully absorbed all they could in terms of political rhetoric and clever things to say at dinner parties. These people are revolutionary for a year or two or until they finish their degree but quickly became absorbed into the very mainstream that they so colourfully resisted in their youth. But these old conformists still have fond memories for the time, especially the music, which reminds them of when they were young and wild.
In the 70’s and 80’s the resistance movement to old Joh and the National Land Rights protest of the Commonwealth Games did indeed come together with the Brisbane underground music scene . This is because of the structure of 4 ZZZ. All the music trendies played what they liked in ther shifts on air, but then the various community groups that had their own shows also played what they want and ZZZ became a mouthpiece for a range of groups including the Aboriginal community, Latin American community, Gay communities, feminist organisations and prisoner organisations as well as the various campaign shows that popped up from time to time. The ZZZ audience was exposed to the cutting edge of both the music and political worlds which defined the nature of the social scene of the time. However, the small ZZZ punk bands are now superstars such as the Saints and their version of the good old days will be one that, it seems, is the one to be repackged and generalised as folk history. The radical politics of the time has seemed to either fade away or fill the blogs of disillusioned old political dinosaurs.
This link is to Ciaron O’Reilly’s book “the revolution will not be televised”. http://www.takver.com/history/brisbane/freespeechqld.htm
It is about one campaign, the right to speak on a soapbox in the Queen St. Mall (Brisbane) in 1982, focusing on the Commonwealth games in Brisbane which involved new authoritarian laws being imposed in places like the Queen St. Mall to prevent political activists (like us) from doing their thing.
Ciaron and I don’t usually see eye to eye, and that is the case with this book too. It is more an imposition of Ciarons philosophy onto the events of the time. However he was a key player in this campaign and as such his book is a primary source for historians of the time.
Ciaron and I had a civil cup of tea together a couple of weeks ago, I think we both got a surprise by that.