As our Independence from America Day parade power drummed along Johnson Street, a triumph of colour, a carnival in full flourish, we were greeted by many, many smiles. Tourists produced cameras quick-draw, rushing onto the road, snapping while hanging out of car windows. Young US visitors, wearing 4 July badges, gaped astonished.
Entering the Byron Market we were received like conquering cultural heroes; stallholders waved, cheered and shouted their encouragement. "This is what Byron Markets ought to be about!" one was heard to say.
My old mate Tony Narracott was there too, grinning from ear to ear. Tony had been at the rally in Apex Park and, a long time Byron crowd watcher, he observed that the 200 or so who gathered there were no Byron rent a crowd. A new mix of people this: older folk with sensible shoes and deep concern on their faces and young folk with passion in their eyes.
I like to think that this difference was due to making the Eureka connection in the pre-publicity. The Eureka Stockade story is a remembrance that reaches deep in the Australian psyche, deep to the place where the 'fair go' ethos springs. Honour it was for me to be Byron's Eureka 150 storyteller that day.
Many people created this luminous and exuberant success; many to thank.
All praise and gratitude to the drummers! The carnival band, Samba Blisstas, which came together that day around a nucleus of Paul Barrett's friends and students, was power to the people. What a boon this carnival skill is for the celebratory life of the Rainbow Region!
Gratitude to Cheze for getting us singing together, we who believe in freedom! And to Mandy Nolan for her big heart and wit compering the SpeakOut.
The Better Bush competition, except for a gorgeous feathery fanny hat, was a non event. Maybe next year. Maybe no need,. May the Bush be gone! Independence from America Day though is here to stay, God willing, as the first Sunday in July and next year better integrated into the Market.
Gina Lakosta had the voice of an angel, pure channelling as she spoke the prophecies of the Burning Bush: "Dream! Dream. The ancestors are following behind us, our children running up ahead. To the Garden. To the Garden." Blessed it is to have a friend with such pure voice.
The Independence rally was conducted "proudly and publicly, public liability insurance free" which caused some angst for Janelle Bancroft, the Shire's "Team Leader Environmental Health". May she get over it. Gratitude for the goodwill of Mayor Jan, Cr John Lazarus and Inspector David Larkin.
Praise and gratitude to the publicity support of BAY-FM, The Northern Star and Radio 2LM-ZZZ; and most of all to you, dear Echo. Local and independent, your truthfulness, responsiveness and kindness is the foundation intelligence of the vibrant cultural life we enjoy in this place. The Echo is like a shining gem in a landscape chocker with mediocrity and media control. Thank you for the good work and service you do.
In previous years, the Independence Day rally has had local TV and metropolitan radio coverage. This year media, blackout. The only interview I got on the day was from the student editor of Pulp, the Southern Cross University student newspaper, who was wide eyed at the wonder of it all. Being ignored by the corporate media and noticed by the young is okay with me.
For me the best speech heard all day came Lisa Wentworth, daughter of the old Green warhorse of Byron Shire, Anoudhie. Lisa addressed the grey haired Aquarians in the crowd saying: "We children of the rainbow dream are grateful for the peace work done by our parents. We have been away, living and working in the cities, but now we are back to carry on the work."
You can imagine how my heart took flight. Our children run on ahead.
And we elders delight. Special gratitude is offered to 'Grannie' Gwen Gould who was my host, my helper and my companion during the preparations. Good works gather good hearts and admirable friends.
Finally let me say thank you to all who choose to stand up and be visible.
For peace. For justice. For the Earth!
(written for, but regretably not published in, the Byron Echo 8 July 2004)