MILESAGO - Industry - Light Shows

UBU was the pioneer of the psychedelic lightshow in Australia, and alongside their contemporary Ellis D. Fogg, the UBU collective was Sydney's leading lighting provider for dances, discos and other special events.

Formed by Albie Thoms, David Perry, Aggy Read and John Clark at Sydney University in 1965, UBU FILMS was Australia's first group dedicated to making, exhibiting and distributing experimental films. Although these four were the key members, the wider UBU circle included many young film-makers who were to become very prominent in later years -- Matt Carroll, Peter Weir, Phillip Noyce and Bruce Beresford.

UBU's move into multimedia and lightshows was in many respects a natural extension of their background and interest in experimental theatre and film, and they were undoubtedly also inspired by the growth of psychedelic lightshows overseas, particularly on the London and San Franciso underground. UBU began doing lightshows mainly as a means of supplementing the funds for their film activities, but the popularity of their shows soon made it a major source of income and it effectively became their "day job". It also naturally brought them into close and regular contact with leading underground rock groups on the Sydney scene, particularly Tamam Shud, The Id, Tully and The Nutwood Rug Band.

Throughout the 1965-70 period, UBU produced Australia's first lightshows, published the country's first underground newspaper, Ubunews, and persistently agitated for the reform of Australia's archaic censorship legislation and the need for government support for the arts.

"Flamboyant, controversial and resolutely independent, UBU FILMS instigated an extensive network of underground activity at a time when Australia's cultural and political landscape was in transition. For a brief six year period, UBU established a viable proposition that film, performance, painting and political action could coalesce into a vibrant cultural community."

The collective effectively ceased operation in early 1970 (it was officially wound up in 1972) but many of UBU's members and activities continued under the aegis of the newly-formed Sydney Filmmakers' Cooperative. From mid-1970 until late 1971 several members of UBU -- Thoms, Read and Phil Noyce -- were closely involved in the famous Yellow House in Potts Point, created by Martin Sharp.

The UBU story was not widely known until recently, but we are fortunate that it has been meticulously recorded by Australian film academic Peter Mudie, in his exemplary book UBU FILMS: Sydney Underground Movies 1965-70 (UNSW Press). This lavish softcover book is a comprehensive chronological account of the UBU story, chock-a-block with rare photographs and film stills, posters and other images, many in colour. It is absolutely essential reading for anyone interested in the history of this vibrant period of Sydney's cultural life.

Sadly, Aggy Read (who was also a champion lawn bowler!) died in 1998 after a short battle with cancer. [Read Peter Mudie's obituary for Aggy]


References / Links

The Censored and Celebrated Film Festival

Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery exhibition

Peter Mudie
UBU Films: Sydney Underground Movies 1965-70, UNSW Press, 1997

Peter Mudie
Ubu Films’ 30th Anniversary Beginnings of Australian cinema’s avant-garde
MESH No. 7, Summer, 1995

Pooters Psychedelic Shack - Lighthows