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The Fairlight Festival 1971

Fairlight Festival Stage
Photo courtesy of ©1971 Greg Dickins

In January 1971 Jands provided stage and effects lighting for the first Fairlight Festival. The equipment consisted of Strand Patt 223 & 123 fresnels, Patt 23 & 23N profile spots and Patt 63 multi-cell ground rows. Kodak Carousel projectors loaded with hand painted sides and 3M overhead projectors with non mixing dyes manipulated in clock faces were used to project a ‘liquid lightshow’ onto three parachutes hung at the rear of the stage.

  • Fairlight video
  • Fairlight Festival lighting equipment


In an article on the Milesago website Terry Stacey writes:

The Fairlight Festival was held (in) 1971 and boasted a strong line-up of Sydney-based bands. Although advertised as “The Timeless Trip”, this early Australian rock festival was in fact a bit of a bummer, and like the ill-fated Mulwala Festival the following year, it was marred by those all-too-familiar festival hassles – poor organization, meagre facilities, bad weather and too much alcohol.

Fairlight is about 10 kms south of Mittagong, which itself is about 100 kms South of Sydney. The site was on a property (reputedly once an Aboriginal tribal ground) about 2 kms east of where the present M4 Motorway crosses the Old Hume Highway. Organisers provided the bare minimum of facilities – no showers, primitive toilets and a few drums of drinking water.

Announcer Jeff Canters ambitiously started the festival on time at 10am Saturday – even though the (Betts) amplifiers had not yet arrived! First up was Jeannie Lewis who did an acoustic set (not surprising given the lack of sound gear at that stage). Once the amps arrived The Cleves did a rollicking set, followed by Khavas Jute who maintained the energy, although their set was shortened as they had to go on to another gig.

However their lead guitarist Dennis Wilson impressed the crowd with his wah-wah guitar work. Steve Phillipson, ex-Velvet Underground vocalist), entertained the restless crowd with a solo acoustic set (a la John Sebastian) later in the evening. He was followed by Sydney band Wildwood who presented a set of Steppenwolf and Three Dog Night covers.

Their improvised lead guitar solo went down particularly well. Blackfeather’s set kept a high going. Tamam Shud who went on at midnight bravely, or madly, depending how you look at it, played on through a torrential rainstorm.

Because of the bad weather, Sunday morning’s planned “Dawn Ritual” was abandoned. Instead a bunch of the musos played a ninety-minute improvised set. This was followed by a jam by Nutwood Rug, but by then most of the 4000-strong audience had left.

The police who attended busted some dope-smokers during the festival but the audience was largely comprised of “drunken yobbos”. Like Ourimbah, a lot of rubbish was left behind after it had finished. Typically, the organisers had made no provision for the possibility of rain which, being the Southern Highlands at Easter, it did copiously, leaving the crowd to slosh around in large quantities of mud on the second day. This scenario would be repeated at Mulawa, held almost exactly a year later. To top it all off the organisers had $4000 stolen.

Reviewing the event in Go-Set filmmaker Albie Thoms commented: “If this was a demonstration of the new life-style, then it was right off.


Jeannie Lewis, The Cleves, Khavas Jute, Galadriel, Steve Phillipson, Wildwood. Blackfeather. Tamam Shud, Nutwood Rug Band.

Jands Crew

David Mulholland, Paul Mulholland, Eric Robinson.


9 responses to “The Fairlight Festival 1971”

  1. Jean -Robert Royon says:

    Out of sight, amazing, I was in this festival, I was 16 years old, I took some pictures but Idid not remember when or where , today I’ve noticed that on my black and white pictures there was the name of the festival and I found you, now I am almost 61 years old, my favorite australian band is CHain ” Toward the blues” and from this festival I close my eyes and I can still see Khavas Jute playing.
    Thank you so much for putting this show for ever on internet.
    Best regards from Paris France
    J.R R

  2. Anonymous says:

    I can remember that it rained and rained not stop.

  3. Dave C. says:

    Just a wee correction.
    I was half of Billposters Promotions who organised Jan ’71 festival and that article from Milesago is actually about the one put on by Jim Henderson at Easter that year.
    The circumstances were so similar it’s very easy to get them mixed up. I had to read the article on Milesago about three times before I twigged what it was about.
    Strangely enough it was suggested to us that we should employ an armed security guard to mind the takings until we could pay everybody out at the end, so we did, and we actually lost about $10,000.
    I think that may have given the organiser of the Easter gig to have a nice loss!
    I’m currently writing a history of Fairlight (about 10 years into it at the moment) and Jands will get honourable mention. Everyone was very understanding when we couldn’t pay the percentages promised, but we did think at the time that the Henderson family did pretty well!
    Dave C.

  4. Peter Manley says:

    Peter Manley the other half of BillPosters two Festivals in one but very different One by BillPosters the other by Jim Barb Henderson (trailer trash on steroids). I had been told by a Dr Henderson that he owned the property known Fairlight and that Jim was his brothers who was untrustworthy and a standover merchant. But we went ahead. It’s clear we’re the money went from Fairlight one

  5. Anonymous says:

    Money taken from Fairlight one run by BillPosters lost on Fairlight two run Henderson’s

  6. debbiep says:

    Does anyone have any more photos of this concert and crowd. Thankyou

  7. Ken Gower says:

    I recall the event reasonably well considering. The rain did make things interesting and we tried to emulate Woodstock as best we could. I had my last drink of alcohol and a conversion to the other side and I have played the guitar ever since!

  8. Richard McCarthy says:

    I have fixed in my mind that Freddie Mercury performed at Fairlight and was booed and heckled owing to his choice of song… untested newly composed Bohemian Rhapsody. I also remember the mud, the rain cascading down the side of a canvas tent and the girls twirling around thinking they were at Woodstock. Perhaps I have it confused with some other festival but my memory is usually good despite my being a boring old fart of 72.

  9. James Anfuso says:

    Richard McCarthy, wrong Festival. You are confusing Fairlight with Sunbury 1974 which was Queen’s first Australian visit.

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