Interview: The Last Bastian
Unions: High and Dry
Security: Liquid Borders
Industrial: No Bully For You
History: Radical Brisbane
International: No Vacancies
Economics: Life After Capitalism
Technology: Cyber Winners
Poetry: Do It Yourself Poetry
Review: Hard Labo(u)r
The Locker Room
The Premiership Quarter
How To Run Society
With a revealing foreword by Humphrey McQueen and featuring 336 pages of Bribane's hidden history and illustrated with over 120 historical and contemporary photographs and maps reproduced on high quality art paper, Radical Brisbane is a monument to those who have struggled for political and social justice throughout the past 200 years.
Readers will be amazed at what is hidden behind the facades of Brisbane city and its surrounding suburbs.
With sections on many buildings and locales of Brisbane. We reproduce here, with permission:
No. 43. FOCO, Second Trades Hall by Raymond Evans
IBM Building, Turbot and Upper Edward Streets
Underground developments in the late 1960s among students and radical youth culminated in an exciting new 'youth club' venture conducted every Sunday night at the Trades Hall, named after the Foco revolutionary cells of Che Guevara and Régis Debray. Calculated to bring together young students and workers at a regular cultural venue, brainchild of progressive elements in the union movement, acting in concert with the Eureka Youth League and student radicals, FOCO burned like a brilliant comet on the Brisbane Sunday night sky-line for just over one year, before it was snuffed out. Billed as 'a communication centre', it actually operated as a weekly multi-media event, long ahead of its time. Beginning on 3 March 1968 with a solid showing of 400 original members, its numbers swelled to 650 within a fortnight; and then to an amazing 2500 by mid-July 1968. Joining rights were actually suspended for a time because of this membership surge; and, because of the crush on the third floor of Trades Hall where the club met, entry was restricted to 600 per week. 'We have to take these measures so that members can enjoy themselves without having to battle their way for a breath of fresh air, ' the Executive explained.
Sundays in Brisbane in 1968 were otherwise 'dead' entertainment-wise. Antiquated laws, giving a monopoly of the action to the Christian churches, disallowed any entertainment venue from charging entrance fees - unless it was a club. FOCO therefore required members to join for an annual fee of thirty cents. The entry fee, weekly, was also nominal and, for this, members could choose between activities in three rooms. The first was a large format 'disco' with live music illuminated by the 'Acme' Light Show. This music was invariably supplied, week by week, by the fabled Mick Hadley and the Colored Balls, after Lobby Lloyd's equally legendary band, The Wild Cherries, had first kicked things off explosively in March. The Living End and Light also filled in from
time to time. Some of the most popular evenings occurred, however, when New Zealand's Max Merritt and the Meteors galvanised FOCO audiences on successive evenings in July.
Competing often unsuccessfully for attention were poetry readings and folk singing (organised by Diane Neale) in Room Two. Yet this room too could often hold its own: the actor Jack Thompson, Tom Shapcott and Graham Rowlands all read there, as did many others. International poets' work was also heard - Dylan Thomas, Günter Grass, Yevtushenko, Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg were heavily featured. Leading folk performers like Margaret Kitamura, Declan Affley, Don Henderson, Sylvia Burns, Shayea Karlin, Chris Duffy, Harry Robertson, Chris Nicholson and Barbara Bacon; the blues performers, Matt Taylor, Paul Johnson and Terry Hannagan and flamenco guitarist, Brian Crawford all appeared to great acclaim. The Red Belly Stompers Jazz Band, The Ram Jam Big Band and the Rammita 'P' Jug Band were also very popular.
Public forums were held on such diverse subjects as the US Civil Rights movement, rock music, the global press, Brisbane architecture and the environment, Australian folklore, Catholicism, Transcendental Meditation, the Vietnam War, and the European Student/Worker Movement. On sale for the first time in Brisbane were Global 'underground' newspapers like The Village Voice, as well as Peace News and the International Times. Workshops in art, drama and dance briefly flourished and a performing group, The Dire Tribe (afterwards the Tribe), was born. This experimental group gave performances of Samuel Beckett's 'dramaticules', Come and Go and Play, as well as Harold Pinter's The Black and White, the controversial Motel by Jean-Claude van Itallie and Wymark's Coda. Audience participation was encouraged.
Room Three was given over to film showings (again organised by Diane Neale), which often experienced trouble competing with the explosive sounds of Cherries, Balls and Meteors in the adjoining room. Here, movie classics by Chaplin, Ernst Lubitsch and Orson Welles appeared week by week alongside other films never previously seen in Brisbane outside the small, local Movie Club: Polanski's Knife in the Water, Ray's Apu Trilogy, De Sica's Bicycle Thieves and Umberto D, Marker's Le Joli Mai, Chukhrai's Ballad of a Soldier, Ichikawa's The Harp of Burma, Renoir's The Vanishing Corporal and Richardson's Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, among others. These were interspersed with left-wing documentaries on the Sharpeville massacre, the San Francisco hippie scene, the Vietnam War, Peyote culture, the Aldermaston anti-nuclear campaign in Britain and the plight of Spanish political prisoners. Experimental 'underground' films from UBU and pioneering Brisbane filmmakers, such as Nick Orton, were also previewed. Brisbane film-goers had never experienced such a mind-expanding smorgasbord of alternative world cinema.
FOCO's explosive success, however, soon encountered the inevitable backlash from worried conservative elements in Brisbane - particularly the local Liberal Party. In September 1968 it was attacked in federal parliament by Don Cameron, a self-proclaimed karate 'expert' and Liberal MHR for Griffiths, as a cell of subversive Communist propaganda and drug-taking. Brisbane's youth, Cameron maintained, was being 'corrupted' by 'the most evil and repugnant night-spot in Australia'. As this cry was taken up by the local radio, television and mainstream press media, suburban parents began to take fright and many forbade their teenage sons' and daughters' attendance at such a den of iniquity. Numbers rapidly fell away to as few as 200 per night, even though the club attempted to counter the attacks with reasoned media responses and 'FOCO LIVES' stickers. Parents were invited to come and view proceedings for themselves - but to little avail.
FOCO required attendances of at least 300 per week to remain solvent - and soon it was financially floundering. On top of this, the largely volunteer force, headed by Larry Zetlin who ran the club, was becoming exhausted by its never-ending demands; and ideological struggles were breaking out between pragmatists and dreamers over the future direction that FOCO should take. By Christmas 1968 it was all clearly unravelling. There was a brief rally in December when the Colored Balls returned after a brief absence; Bruce Petty came to show his film on Vietnam, Hearts and Minds, as well as to speak and draw cartoons; a Bob Dylan extravaganza night was planned and Matt Taylor played the Blues.
But the FOCO Newsletter of 26 February 1969 pronounced the death knell:
BONG!! And like the clash of a million tingling temple bells - there was FOCO and the scene was good and the People happy and they laughed at the Happy Things and we all felt good at the Good Things happening. Then the grey days came and the rains and the winds all the while and the cancer. The slow death which tore at our souls; but we cried 'Foco Lives.' FOCO IS DEAD. But FOCO is still living in the hearts and minds. FOCO LIVES!!!! The time has come to kill FOCO the monster, the bureaucrat, the authority, but from it will come FOCO the imagination, FOCO the spearhead.
It was $900 in debt; but on the last night, entry was free and free food was distributed to all. The Colored Balls kept on playing to the end. Subsequent attempts at revitalisation over following months fell foul of internal political wrangling and exhaustion and came to nothing.
It had all been rather too much for this city. Remember, this was all happening in the state that had banned the musical Hair; where traditional African dancers were forced to 'cover up' onstage; and where the actor Norm Staines had been arrested while performing in Alex Buzo's Norm and Ahmed at the La Boîte theatre in 1969 for uttering the phrase 'Fuckin' Boong!' which closes the play. 'Boong' apparently was fine with the arresting constables, but 'Fuckin' remained an intolerable public obscenity.
Brisbane had never experienced anything like FOCO before and, really, never has since. Tuning in on Sunday nights to SBS television, welcome though it was when it arrived, could hardly compare. But FOCO did live on, as predicted, in the street theatre of The Tribe, the establishment of the Schonell Theatre for alternative film and 4ZZZ for alternative music (both brain-children of Jim Beatson), as well as John Jiggins' satirical Cane Toad Times later in the 1970s. And it lived on also in the minds and future activism of Brisbane's more experimental and progressively aware youth who had 'done places and been things' at FOCO, which would forever change their lives.
edited by Raymond Evans and Carole Ferrier
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