Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Right Note Column - 5 NAMBASSA

Mike and Geoff Chunn of Citizen Band
Gary McCormick on his own portable stage
Grant Bedford, leader of the New Zealand Marijuana party outside the Police HQ
Queues of cars and a couple of guys making their way to the entrance.
The BOP Times front page, where some of my pics appeared

Nambassa Festival

One hot, dry weekend during mid-summer 1979, thousands of cars, buses, and house-trucks descended on the tiny town of Waihi. Their destination was a green and rolling farm on a cliff top overlooking the sparkling Pacific Ocean – site of Nambassa, a unique music, craft and alternative lifestyle festival featuring workshops and displays of alternative medicine, natural foods and all the associated, groovy, hippie kinda stuff.

My parents didn’t have a snowflakes chance in hell from stopping me attending this festival (unlike the Ngaruawahia festival a few years earlier!) I had left home and taken the first steps of being responsible for my own life now, and had started my apprenteship at the Bay of Plenty Times.

Nambassa was a series of 3 hippie festivals held between 1976 and 1981 on a farm in Waihi.

New Zealand in the 1970’s was about 10-15 years behind the rest of the world in just about everything, which was a drag in some respects - especially when it came to obtaining new technology like TVs and Stereos etc or watching Coronation Street (if that was your thing!), but in other respects it was kinda cool because we got to have a go at experiencing our own Woodstock 10 years after the fact!

I found out about Nambassa because I spent a lot of time in a shop called Calico Mill. Now, of all the shops in downtown Tauranga, and I’m talking about the days when downtown was the place to go shopping - when EVERYBODY went downtown on a Friday night just to walk around and around, or sit on the metal railing on the corner of the Red Square outside the Star Hotel - there was only ONE cool shop.

It was situated at the bottom of Devonport Road, just before you went round the corner into what is now the Red Square.
Janice Mathews was the owner, and it was a revolution to the young people of Tauranga. The shop sold Batik skirts and bedspreads, insence, herbal cigarettes and all kinds of groovy, ethnic stuff that we had never seen the likes of before. Before Calico Mill arrived, if you wanted jewellery, you had to go to a jewellers. Not now! Calico Mill introduced the funkiest ethnic silver rings and bangles at affordable prices, and when you were only earning $28 a week this was awesome.

Whilst waiting for my girlfriend on one of her shopping marathons, (she must have purchased one of EVERYTHING from there at one stage or another!) I picked up a booklet with some freaky artwork on the front cover and started reading.

I took one look at all the bands appearing, and purchased my ticket there and then.
I told Ross Brown, Chief Photographer at the BOP Times, that I was going to Nambassa, and he handed me half a dozen rolls of black and white film, a Camera, and a press pass, and shoved me out the door, and said bring back some pictures for me, which I did, and they appeared on the front page of the BOP Times Monday 29th January, 1979.

Apart from the odd international headliner, these festivals were a major opportunity for homegrown talent to play on a big stage to a crowd of music-lovers.
Bands such as Golden harvest, (who had a major hit with a song called “I need your love.”) Progressive Rock band “Living Force.” and Schtung, not to mention Citizen Band and Split Enz, were playing on a level equivalent to that of anywhere in the world

I recall being one of the 5-10 thousand hippies, led by the leader of the Marijuana Party, one Tauranga resident, Mr Grant Bedford, who converged upon the police HQ, threatening to storm it if the arrests for smoking cannabis did not cease (there had been 58 arrests).

For a while the situation was very volatile. The organisers arranged a meeting with the police and advised them that they had made their point.

He told them that if these petty arrests continued then he too, would join the civil disobedience campaign and have the police removed from the festival. A deal was struck and potential disaster avoided.

The huge body of people then withdrew from the police compound, but not before a certain hippie-version of santa-clause - lollie scramble style - threw hundreds of bags of dope out into the sea of waving arms.
Another Tauranga character by the name of Kenny Shaw captured more than his 15 minutes of fame being broadcast on national TV smoking a monumental Marley-sized spliff.

No further arrests were made, and at the post festival de-briefing the police issued a press release congratulating the organisers for the way they managed the festival, and the 75,000 festival patrons for their good behavior.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would love to get hold of the photo of Gary McCormick, second photo down. How can I do that please?

11:23 am  

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