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The Age of Aquarius comes home to Byron Bay

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The Age of Aquarius comes home to Byron Bay

Bangalow Theatre Company to stage Hair, the ultimate ‘Tribal Love-Rock Musical’

By MARGARET DEKKER

It’s crazy to think man that the psychedelic cult classic Hair hasn’t been performed in Byron Bay.

With its celebration of hippie counterculture, anti-convention, anti-war and lots of peace, love and long hair baby, Australia’s own iconic “hippie-town” (well, it was) is the obvious stage.

Even Byron’s legendary welcome sign still tells us today to “Cheer Up. Slow Down. Chill Out.” In between love and peace symbols.

Now finally 56 years on, Northern Rivers theatregoers will get their chance to experience the original, definitive rock musical Hair, in Byron Bay, in all its sensual, rebellious, and pioneering rock glory, with the show coming to the Byron Theatre amphitheatre in March 2023.

Bringing this electric opus to life – which was first staged and controversially-so, Off-Broadway in the 1967 Summer of Love – is award-winning director, Byron Shire thespian (and self-described once hippie herself) Kate Foster and the Bangalow Theatre Company.

“I want it to be really intimate and we’ve secured the Byron Theatre for that reason, it has this lovely intimacy we need for this show,” Kate Foster, Director Hair said.

A solid, 6-month rehearsal schedule is now underway weekly in Bangalow Hall together with Assistant Director Anouska Gammon, to ‘Let the Sunshine In’ by next Autumn.

True to Hair’s own revolutionary roots, Kate Foster is applying similar ‘experimental’ techniques to early rehearsals, uniting a tribe of 15 local, passionate and already transfixed cast members: think improvisational exercises, yoga, candles, incense and evocative Indian ragas in the cast’s very own Bangalow ‘be-in.’

“It was so beautiful, just creating that level playing field with the cast.  Hugging, chatting, then we spent two hours choreographing the open scene, Aquarius.  It was such a good first rehearsal, it was just magic,” Kate Foster, Director Hair said.

“This is a tribe show, this isn’t your chorus and leads show but essentially a tribe of people who are on stage the whole time, transforming, costume-changing, ad-libbing,” Kate added.

Hair was written in 1967 by Gerome Ragni and James Rado to bring to the stage the social revolution the friends saw happening around them in their own streets of New York, in the mid-sixties; rising anti-Vietnam War, anti-conscription sentiment, new Eastern philosophy, hallucinogens, free love .. as a new generation of ‘true patriots’ emerged, dodging the draft and wanting, protesting a better, happier America.  As original producer, Michael Butler said then, “Hair is the strongest anti-war statement ever written.”

Entertainment and theatre portrait photographer

Kate Foster echoes that original view.

“Young patriotic Americans were saying ‘no, we don’t want to go off and die.’  The protests we see in the show are directly referenced, like the assassination of American President, John F. Kennedy.  He was seen as their saviour and he was taken from them, it led to a revolution of youth wanting to take control of their lives.”

Student protests, high school dropouts, flag burning, experimental drugs, sexual repression, racial integration, interracial relationships, and passivism are explored against a backdrop of the previous decade of conservative 1950s.

“It just blew society wide open. Such an electric, explosive time to be alive and these are all the amazing things the show deals with.

“And the show was created to be controversial, like never seen before.  Previously musicals had been straight out of Rodgers and Hammerstein,” Kate Foster, Director Hair explains.

For the first time on stage, Hair challenged taboos of inequality, race relations, corruption in politics, domestic violence, environmental destruction, and human rights.  It may leave audiences today wondering if anything’s really changed in five decades.

“The play itself has become a sort of time capsule. It was written in 1967 by Gerome Ragni and James Rado about their lives and that time of youth revolution in Vietnam War America.  There have been so many rewrites and versions and directions taken but I want this show to be true to Hair’s original intention.  I want it to be authentic, I want it to ring super-true to the 1960s, be a time capsule of 1968 in sound, set, lighting and wardrobe,” Kate Foster, Director Hair said.

A pure interpretation of the script is an unusual tack for the typically experimental, unconventional Foster who in 2017 was awarded a Gold Coast Area Theatre Award for ‘Best Director of a Community Theatre Musical’ for her contemporary take on the stage classic, ‘Little Shop of Horrors,’ again with Bangalow Theatre Company.

“I’m approaching the script with respect.  I don’t want to mess with it,” Kate Foster, Director Hair told The Northern Rivers Times.

As for feeling any pressure in staging this truly original and almost ‘sacred’ rock musical, performed everywhere from the West End in London to Gorky Park in Moscow and countless countries in between, in its 55-year reign;

“Nothing creative comes out of fear,” Kate Foster said.

Performance has been Kate’s life since she was four years old; as actor, choreographer, short film cast member, Performing Arts degree holder, talent scout, committee member and director.  But it’s Hair that’s always been her dream show.

“I went and saw the show six times when I was seventeen, at the height of my own ‘hippie phase’ (laughs.)  Hair transported me into this world I’d never been to before, as a young adult wanting to escape .. I was absolutely transported to an era I wished I’d been a part of, that free, open-hearted world of the late 1960s .. it absolutely captured me. Ever since then I’ve been in love with it.  And I’ve tried to bottle a little bit of that feeling and release it into this show.”

“Me directing the show now, you could say has been 30-years in the making,” Kate smiles.

There is no ‘Tribal Love-Rock Musical’ without the skilled interpretation of Galt MacDermot’s Grammy Award-winning score by Bangalow Theatre Company’s Music Director Margaret Curtis and her local live band, with Choreography by Shir Manu.

It’s important to stress, the entire show is staged by tireless and highly skilled volunteers.

“The Bangalow Theatre Company has an amazing network of volunteers who are very excited and can’t wait for this show to start.  It’s really important to acknowledge the thousands of volunteer-hours that go into bringing this show to the community, so we hope the community comes to the show to make sure local theatre continues to happen,” Kate Foster, Director Hair said.

And by 2023, the show aims to lure a whole new generation of audience, to its new-age of Aquarius ..

“Everyone who’s aged 40-plus knows the show from 30 years ago, it’s now the younger generation I’m hoping to attract, to have the same powerful experience I had 30 years ago,” Kate Foster, Hair Director said.

As for her staging the definitive hippie musical in the definitive hippie town?  Even Kate Foster can’t believe the .. dramatic irony and her luck.

“Byron is a perfect place to stage Hair .. it’s Byron!” Kate Foster laughed, out loud.

For the latest information on the show and ticket sale dates, visit Bangalow Theatre Company:  bangalowtheatre.com.au

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Byron Shire Council Unveils Inaugural Furry Friends Festival

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Byron Shire Council Unveils Inaugural Furry Friends Festival

 

Byron Shire Council is thrilled to introduce the Furry Friends Festival, a vibrant community event celebrating pets and their owners. Scheduled for Saturday, June 15th, at the Bangalow Showgrounds, this inaugural festival promises a delightful array of activities, expert advice on pet care, and opportunities for socializing—all while promoting responsible pet ownership and environmental stewardship.

Byron Shire Council is delighted to announce the launch of its inaugural Furry Friends Festival, set to take place on Saturday, June 15th, at the picturesque Bangalow Showgrounds. From 9am to 12pm, pet lovers and their furry companions are invited to join in the festivities and partake in a day of fun, learning, and camaraderie.

“This is a fun community event to celebrate the Byron Shire’s furry friends and their owners while providing some practical advice and assistance with pet ownership,” remarked Ms. Sarah Nagel, Council’s Manager of Public & Environmental Services, highlighting the festival’s dual focus on enjoyment and education.

The Furry Friends Festival boasts an exciting lineup of attractions, including complimentary face painting for children, enticing giveaways and stalls, a mouthwatering sausage sizzle, and a captivating photo booth for capturing cherished moments with pets. Attendees can also avail themselves of nail clipping services for their furry companions and engage with local veterinarians for expert advice.

Moreover, the festival offers a unique opportunity for pet owners to learn from experienced dog trainers, with informative talks scheduled throughout the morning. “Bring your furry friends along for some nail clipping, talk to our local vets and sit in on dog trainer talks happening throughout the morning,” encouraged Ms. Nagel.

As a ‘dog on lead’ event, the Furry Friends Festival prioritizes the safety and well-being of all attendees. “Having all our pets on leads will help everyone enjoy a safe space and the morning’s activities,” emphasized Ms. Nagel, underscoring the importance of responsible pet ownership.

In alignment with Council’s commitment to environmental conservation, the festival also aims to raise awareness of the Dogs in Public Places Strategy. “We’ll also be promoting our Dogs in Public Places Strategy, reminding people how to find information on dog areas and why it’s important to stick to the rules to avoid fines, but most importantly, to protect our beautiful environment and wildlife,” Ms. Nagel affirmed.

In essence, the Furry Friends Festival promises to be a delightful celebration of the bond between pets and their owners, fostering a sense of community spirit and promoting responsible pet ownership and environmental stewardship.

 

For more Byron Bay news, click here.

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14 projects share in $300,000 Community Building Partnership pool

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14 projects share in $300,000 Community Building Partnership pool

 

STATE Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin today (Friday, 7 June) announced that 14 projects had been successful under the NSW Government’s Community Building Partnership program for 2023.

Ms Saffin congratulated this round’s recipients and encouraged local organisations developing worthwhile projects to applicants to sign up for alerts about the CBP program so they are notified when information about the next round is confirmed.

“Remember that there is only $300,000 to be spread across the entire electorate each year so please be realistic with the amount of funding sought,” Ms Saffin says.

“The Premier’s Department has introduced strict probity measures around this grant program, including the overlay of independent assessment.”

Recipients of CBP funding for this 2023 round include:   

Lismore City LGA:

The Lismore Soup Kitchen Incorporated – towards improving amenities for volunteers and the hundreds of customers of The Good Pantry Lismore – new cool storage will be purchased and installed. — $33,350.

Lismore Memorial Amateur Swimming Club Incorporated – towards capacity building of competitive swimming in Lismore – $19,353.

Northern NSW Helicopter Rescue Service Limited – acquisition of night vision goggles (NVG) for its Lismore base – $18,970.

RSL LifeCare Limited – towards commissioning a local artist to install a mural as a war memorial/commemorative space at Chauvel Village Goonellabah, honouring Sir Harry Chauvel, of the Australian Lighthorse. — $5,000.

Tenterfield Shire LGA:

Tenterfield Chamber of Tourism Industry & Business Incorporated – new Tenterfield Visitors Information Centre – shopfront fitout, purchasing and installing free-standing equipment in a newly-leased building – $30,000.

Mingoola Hall Management Committee Incorporated – towards enhancing facilities at Mingoola Hall (fire exit side access to toilets to building code, installing a water tank) — $29,439.

Kyogle LGA:

Kyogle PA&H Society (Kyogle Show) – towards repairing the showground’s three arena surfaces to make them safe for competitors and exhibitors as the ground has become uneven and sloping. – $30,000.

Bonalbo and District Community Hall Association Incorporated – towards removal of ceiling tiles which pose a risk to volunteers and hall users, replacing them with new ones – $16,000.

Country Women’s Association of NSW – Tabulam Branch – towards supplying and installing a 4.5 kw grid connect solar system including panels, inverter, mounting rail and balance of system — $7,700.

The Girl Guides Association of NSW – Kyogle Girl Guide Hall kitchen upgrade (purchase stainless steel materials to replace a kitchen which was destroyed by flood – $5,500.

Tweed Shire LGA:

Uki Sporting Horse Association – towards all weather multi-purpose sand arena (to resurface arena with long-lasting road base and sand, providing a flood-free, safe, all-weather, multi-purpose facility – $30,000.

Coolangatta-Wollumbin (Mount Warning) Dragon Boat Club Incorporated – Wollumbin Transport Vehicle (purchase a vehicle for towing dragon boats to training and regattas. Current 4WD vehicle is old and near the end of its life – $29,000.

Tweed Regional Museum – towards accessible drinking water for Tweed Regional Museum (provision of two accessible drinking fountains, indoor and outdoor, for visitors to the museum – $11,175.

Byron Shire LGA hinterland:

Federal Community Children’s Centre Incorporated – outdoor blind installation and soft fall repair and extension – $34,513.

Electorate-wide total — $300,000.

 

For more local news, click here.

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HOW TAFE NSW BALLINA IS HELPING FUTURE PROOF NORTHERN RIVERS NURSING WORKFORCE

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HOW TAFE NSW BALLINA IS HELPING FUTURE PROOF NORTHERN RIVERS NURSING WORKFORCE

 

The national peak body for nurses has highlighted the important role TAFE NSW Ballina is playing to address a skills shortage in the Northern Rivers region and helping future-proof the local nursing workforce.

The Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association (APNA) said there was never a more important time to invest in the future of nursing, saying training providers like TAFE NSW were critical.

Research by Health Workforce Australia found that due to an ageing workforce and growing population, there could be a national shortfall of 100,000 nurses by 2025.

APNA CEO Ken Griffith described TAFE NSW Ballina’s role in training the next generation as a “positive sign for Australia’s health”.

“It’s essential that nurses entering the health system are trained well and can have the opportunity to develop their skills where we need them most, particularly in primary health care and in rural and remote settings,” Mr Griffin said.

“The increased interest in studying nursing at TAFE NSW is a positive sign for Australia’s health.

“We know that nursing is a fulfilling career. The role that Enrolled Nurses play in the health care system is vital and this will only grow over the coming years.”

The NSW Government is investing $3 million over the next three years to upgrade nurse training facilities at TAFE NSW campuses across the state.

Brett Swalling is one of many TAFE NSW Ballina graduates armed with the practical skills and work experience to make a running start into his nursing career. Brett graduated with a Diploma of Nursing in 2023 and now works as an enrolled nurse at Lismore Base Hospital, one of only 10% of Australian men in enrolled nursing. He is advocating for more young men to choose a career in health.

“Nursing is a great lifelong career that can take you anywhere and you meet so many new people. TAFE NSW offers practical, hands-on learning, and the teachers are so supportive. I want to help remove the stigma for men in nursing and I encourage more men to consider it as an incredibly rewarding career path.

“Through my placements during the course, about the complex issues faced by our ageing population and the practical skills to help me hit the ground running. Since graduating, I’m continuing to learn so much now working in orthopedics and acting as a leader and a mentor to other graduates coming through.

“There’s many opportunities for future leaders – like many industries, nursing is about knowing your personal strengths and finding a pathway that will fulfil your skills,” Brett said.

Data from Economy ID reveals the Health Care and Social Assistance workforce is the largest industry by employment in the Ballina Shire, generating over 4,000 jobs in 2022/2023.

TAFE NSW Nursing Lead Dr Zach Byfield said TAFE NSW worked closely with health providers and organisations such as APRA to help ensure TAFE NSW was keeping pace with workforce needs.

“We meet regularly with all our industry partners to come up with new and innovative ways to keep learners in communities and create a constant pipeline of new nurses,” Dr Byfield said.

“Nurses are an indispensable part of the healthcare system, as was again highlighted during the pandemic and TAFE NSW is committed to continue training the nursing workforce of the future.”

 

For more local Ballina news, click here.

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