This land of no horizon

Adam Gibson is a Sydney writer, performer, lyricist, musician, journalist and artist whose work covers music, songs, spoken word storytelling, installation art, performance works, sculpting, video work, painting and photography… It is fundamentally “Australian landscape-based”, being influenced by the land and travel and the sense of being “in” and/or part of different environments, and the stories of the people who inhabit such land, with Australian stories and language and vernacular turn of phrase being very important.

He performs regularly solo and with his band The Aerial Maps, released a new album titled ‘Australia Restless’ with his new band The Ark-Ark Birds in 2015, has performed and/or exhibited in many venues, galleries and spaces around Australia, China and Finland, was an artist in residence at the Arteles Creative Center in Finland and is actively involved in a wide range of artistic endeavours. His first novel manuscript was shortlisted for the Australian-Vogel Award, he has published three books of poetry, and the Aerial Maps’ first album won the 2010 Overland Poetry Festival Best Spoken Word Release, 2005-2010. He likes raging and long walks on moonlit beaches. And surfing.

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When Peter Garrett ‘signed’ my book

As a young lad growing up in Bondi in the late ’70s / early ’80s I was massively influenced by Midnight Oil. At some point in early high school my best mate Fordy had given me a double-sided cassette with Head Injuries on one side and Place Without a Postcard on the other. And as I sat there on those coastal nights, wondering about the big wide world outside, I listened obsessively to those albums and I felt my mind … changing. I felt my whole view of Australia … changing. I felt myself … changing.

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Having grown up in a family where my dad was a big band leader, I was well-versed in music, but here was a band actually talking about THINGS I KNEW. They were talking about the great mythical “long coast road” of my surfing dreams, they were talking about Lismore in the night, they were talking about frangipani and ocean-sky-blue and “the promise of a swell or a girl”. This was a real revelation to me; it fired my adolescent imagination so much and inspired me to begin my own writing. The Oils gave me the key to suddenly realising I didn’t need to be American or English to be valid – it was possible to be Australian and write/talk about Australian things and give them due credit.

So thus I began writing my own words and ideas and lyrics, at some point getting involved with bands and playing salty beer-baked venues around the place. That evolved and developed and concurrently with the band stuff I began to turn my attention towards that most uncool of artforms – poetry. I ended up initially publishing two poetry books and then began looking at a third, around the early 2000s. As I unashamedly admit that my writing began in a large part due to Midnight Oil, I thought it would be a great idea to see if I could get Peter Garrett to write a “cover line” on the book – like give me a quote that would go on the front.

Having connections deep in the Labor Party, with PG by now being the Federal Member of Kingsford-Smith, I was able to pull a few strings and get the manuscript of the poetry book to him. Then I got word that he enjoyed it and would like to meet me! Oh god. Are you kidding me?!?!? I couldn’t believe it, but soon found myself trekking out to Maroubra Junction one steamy afternoon … going to MEET PETER BLOODY GARRETT! My 13-year-old self would have died at the very thought.

And so I went up to his (pretty crappy) office, knocked on the frost-glass door, and then walked in as his secretary beckoned. She asked me to take a seat in the waiting room while “Peter” just finished a phone call. I think I was actually shaking. As I sat there, I could hear a voice coming through the thin wooden walls. It was the man himself, talking on the phone. I was so bloody nervous, mainly because here was a true hero of mine and I feared I would speak absolute gibberish in front of him.

Then, before I could really think too much more, I heard a shuffling of feet in the next room and the door swung open. That massive frame with the massively familiar head filled the doorway and he enthusiastically called, “Come on in Adam!” and he swung out his hand to shake mine

Oh shit, he knows my name and wants to shake my hand!

So I walked in and just felt like a bloody goose, so nervous and my mind a blank. His first words as we sat down were, “So tell me about the book.” And I am sure what followed was about 20 minutes of absolute blabber … I just rambled on and on and on … and all the while, Garrett sat leaning back with his hand held under his chin, those intense blue eyes just bloody well piercing right through me and those deep lines in his cheeks looking like the terrifying depths of Hades; he fixed me with an unmoving stare that seriously was the most intimidating thing I have ever seen. I was a mess, I was a gibbering fool, I was a metal wreck for cats to sleep in…

He was completely still, he did not move a single muscle as I just hung myself out to dry with what I was sure was nonsensical banter… But then, when I suddenly gained the insight to shut the fk up, he remained completely still, seemed to look even deeper through me … and then leapt forward to say “I LOVE THE BOOK! REALLY GREAT STUFF! LOVED EVERY WORD! Etc etc etc”

Oh my god. Seriously. He told me he loved the poems and really enjoyed reading the manuscript. He was more than happy to flick me a cover quote, of course, he said, and then we went on to talk for about an hour about writing about Australian subject matter, about how important such stuff was, which led to him mentioning when he was “in the band” it’s something they always tried to do etc etc. Wow wow. WOW. He was completely friendly and totally encouraging. I took my leave with another hearty handshake and walked out of there floating on a cloud
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A day later, his secretary emailed me the quote that went on to grace the cover of the book – “Adam writes from the heart, from the street – ripper real words that are well worth checking out.”

I’ll take that, no worries!


‘Cities of Spinifex’ – lots going on

Lots of things happening of late. The new album by Adam and the Ark-Ark Birds will be released early next year. Details of purchase etc will be put up here.

In the meantime, it’s on the way very fast now … the wonderful Fairgrounds Festival is on this weekend (DECEMBER 3), and the Ark-Arks are playing. We are on in a beauty of a timeslot at 2.15pm on Saturday. Hope to see some familiar faces there. Whack on the sunscreen and catch you in Berry.

Also, this wonderful bit of press appeared in Rolling Stone the other day. A nice preview of the new album, including a preview of a track from it, titled ‘Belanglo, Byron and the Road Between’. Enjoy.

http://rollingstoneaus.com/music/post/adam-gibson-ark-ark-birds-belanglo-premiere/5207 

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‘Cities of Spinifex’ – New album, coming soon

Yes, ’tis true. The new album ‘Cities of Spinifex’ by Adam and the Ark-Ark Birds is coming soon.cropped-87310025.jpg


New album in progress

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We’ve started recording a new Ark-Arks album.

We intend to have it released by the end of the year.

We intend to do a tour around its release.

Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney.

Where else should we go?

Lemme know.

ADAM AT YARRA


Bondi Hoarders story – BBC

End of days for junk house of Bondi Beach

In a suburb known for its version of Australian glitz and hipness, the Bondi hoarders’ fame stands apart for all the wrong reasons.

They are a reminder that behind sunny Australian facades there lies a darker space where people who’ve fallen through the cracks reside.

The Bobolas family – Mary and daughters Elena and Liana – are no ordinary residents. For more than two decades they have been engaged in an ongoing battle with the local Waverley Council and nearby neighbours.

At issue is the extraordinary amount of junk at their property, just an eight-minute stroll from Bondi Beach.

In a suburb of skyrocketing property prices, the Boonara Avenue house, bought for A$25,000 (£13,400; $18,500) in 1970, has long been piled high with the family’s collected items.

Plastic bottles, cardboard boxes, children’s toys, car hubcabs, milk crates, mattresses, assorted rubbish, even old surfboards – you name it.

Dream home with a catch

Since about 1990, the council has been attempting to cajole, coerce and compel the family to clean their dilapidated residence.

Various court orders and decrees have been issued to force a clean up. On around 15 occasions council workers, sometimes equipped with Bobcats and mechanical excavators, have been mobilised to tackle head-high piles of junk ,to the clear displeasure of the Bobolas family.

On every occasion, sometimes after only a few days of relative cleanliness, the rubbish has begun to pile up again

Such cleaning operations don’t come cheap. The family has been billed as much as $350,000 for clean up costs over the years, which includes legal fees as the Bobolas’ have fought for their right to hoard.

But it’s a bill that the council is intent on recouping. On three occasions it has sought orders to have the house forcibly sold and the money recovered. However, on each occasion the family has been able to stave off proceedings and hang on to the house at the last minute.

The first attempt was in February last year, where a bill for $180,000 was covered just prior to sale. On the second occasion, a procedural legal technicality saw the auction again cancelled.

Another attempt sale was scheduled to take place on June 9. The advertisement for the pending auction said the property was “positioned in one of the suburb’s most conveniently located streets” and gave potential buyers “the amazing opportunity to build your dream home (subject to council approval)”.

But there was a catch. The new owner would be responsible for removing the Bobolas family from what is presumably their existing dream property.

Plastic bags of cash

Just 50 minutes before the auction was to begin, the family applied for a stay of proceedings. The next day an extraordinary scene played out in a Sydney court when the family arrived with plastic bags they said contained enough money to cover the currently outstanding clean up costs and legal fees – about A$177,000 in cash.

Mary, Liana and Elena told Magistrate Joanne Keogh the money had been provided by friends to help them keep the house. Whilst Magistrate Keogh was sympathetic to their situation, she said there was still “some peril as to whether the debt will be paid” and dismissed a further stay on the grounds that she didn’t believe the family truly had the means to pay the sum owed.

Those familiar with the story weren’t surprised by this turn of events. The hoarder house is an ongoing saga that’s a source of irritation, bemusement and yet some sympathy in the Bondi community.

Formerly a largely working class area, Bondi has become red-hot property in the past 30 years, with dingy houses and flats which once housed local families selling for a fortune.

A recent picture of the Bobolas family's houseImage copyright ADAM GIBSON
The hoarder house has been cleaned up a number of times, but the junk has always returned

While many older residents have sold up and taken the cash, for some their property may be all the wealth they have – and they remain intent on holding onto that.

‘Clearly some issues’

“Old Bondi had all sorts of people in it, all kinds of characters,” one Boonara Ave resident, who asked that his name be withheld, said. “Years ago they probably would just be another of the eccentrics in the area, but Bondi has changed and they really obviously stick out now.

“It’s really quite an amazing situation to be happening in the heart of modern Bondi. You have to feel sorry for their direct neighbours because the place has just been a nightmare for years.

“But on the other hand, you have to feel sorry to some extent for the family because there are clearly some issues going on there.”

For its part, Waverley Council insists that the core of the matter is a health issue, with all the junk attracting pests and vermin.

But underlying this is a genuine concern for the Bobolas family; the council, as it has done on numerous occasions, is offering the women professional support.

Walking past the house, there is considerably less garbage piled up than at previous peaks. But the Sheriff’s Office will almost certainly press ahead with attempts to sell the house, which is expected to fetch around A$2m.

It seems that the hipster haven of Bondi has no room left for the Bobolas family’s version of genuine eccentricity.

Adam Gibson is a journalist and author who was born and bred in Bondi. He has published three books of poetry about Bondi, including Bondi Poems.


Fairgrounds Festival show

Played at the Fairgrounds Festival in Berry on Saturday. Damn it was a good event! A wonderful little show and a wonderful little festival. More extensive report coming … soon.


How this works…

The beauty of this being a personal blog – and not a public forum – is I get to moderate comments. In that light, I can approve them as I wish and I can dismiss them as I wish. Basically, if anything I view as offensive is written in the hope of being controversial or personally offensive, I can and will immediately consign the message to the bin … with a corresponding “f^*k off” being uttered. It’s pretty simple, how this works…

– Adam