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Sets, bugs and rock ‘n’ roll

FATTY Lumpkin, Johnny Farnham and Cold Chisel were just some of the soon-to-be-famous musicians rocking the crowds and upsetting the neighbours at the Parkerville Amphitheatre during its halcyon days in the 70s. Documentary filmmakers Jenny Crabb and Susie Conte have delved into the history of the lost Perth icon, the creation of local poet and playwright John Joseph Jones. “By the mid-1980s a rollercoaster of debt, scandal and council woes had all but ended John’s dream, and for the next decade the amphitheatre was slowly reclaimed by the bush,” she said. “Much of the construction work was done by inmates of nearby Barton’s Mill Prison and prisoners being used for a private enterprise caused some controversy in itself,” she said. “Its demise was exacerbated by traffic problems, drunkenness, crowd control, changing fire regulations and public liability, and problems with bikies in the late 70s,” she said. “There was also an incident when two young men were paralysed when they jumped into the Jane Brook while attending an event. “It all added up to a giant problem for council. “The amphitheatre was once a place where people went to see local bands and theatre and it is now almost completely forgotten and will soon return to nature.” Ms Crabb said her curiosity about the amphitheatre was piqued by a friend who stumbled across the decayed remains of the site while they were working on a short film together in the area. “I spent several weeks trying to research the site, before stumbling across a Facebook page for one of the Jones family members, Mix Margaret Jones,” she said. “It was the first step of a two-year journey that brings us to where we are today.” Mix Jones, who was interviewed for the documentary, said it was 1966 when her father purchased the mostly untouched block of land at the end of Falls Road, and proceeded to build an amphitheatre. “The official opening was a season of public corroborrees by the Mowanjum Aboriginal dancers from the Kimberley in January 1971,” she said. “The amphitheatre held the first open-air rock ‘n’ roll, blues and folk concerts in Western Australia, beginning in 1970 the year following Woodstock.” Mix Jones said a year after her father’s death in 2000 the land was sold to a Chinese businessman who is understood to be building a health and wellness centre. Ms Conte said the privately-owned bush amphitheatre was a bizarre and enchanting snapshot of Perth’s arts scene in the 60s and 70s. “John Joseph Jones bound his destiny and that of his family to keeping the dream alive at whatever cost. “It is a remarkable story of a man, his remarkable vision, and a social and cultural legacy that has not yet been fully acknowledged.” The independent producers hope to pitch the documentary to the ABC. “If we are unsuccessful we plan to target independent film and documentary festivals around the world.” she said. “We’ve turned to Kickstarter to help us fundraise for a professional sound mix and to purchase the rights to use crucial ABC archive taken at the amphitheatre in the early 1970s, the only footage we have been able to find.”

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