We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Brian Jones (Jonesy) - a beloved member of our community. Please read on for some context on who this great man was.
You'll see hyperlinks throughout this blog which you can click on to read testimonials and anecdotes about Brian, which have been written by a number of members of the community who were close with him.
Brian was the third generation of his family to farm the land around Matong. He new the district intimately, and was deeply knowledgeable about it’s social, industrial and ecological history. He grew up in a close knit community that resisted the mechanisation of farming, maintaining literal horsepower until the 1980’s and coming together to help harvest and build haystacks by hand.
One of the things that Brian loved about Burning was reconnecting to the energy of his childhood. To the joy and exponential possibility of focused collective action.
As a young man Brian left the farm for a time and pursued his love of music, managing and recording bands such as The Sunnyboys and getting involved in putting on parties. Brian was often seen guitar in hand, encouraging others to join in the singing.
Whilst the isolation of rural communities can foster eccentricity, there aren’t so many opportunities to let your freak flag fly. To most folk, Brian looked like your regular farmer. But his straight exterior belied a radical, progressive thinker. A dreamer with the practical acumen to turn thought into physical reality.
Jonesy loved to let his hair down and was energised by the fresh social opportunities that Seed dropped on his doorstep. He was a great host and relished the opportunity to extend his hospitality. He was a skilled, thoughtful conversationalist and a deep listener. He opened his home and land to the Burning Seed community, welcoming visitors for a night or to work alongside him for weeks. ‘Cactus’ has been a home base for Seed from the very beginning.
Brian has been there from the very beginning. One of the first locals to dip their toe in the Kool Aid dam. It wasn’t just the physical support that he gave that was so valuable to us in getting Seed set up and running, although that was immense and he was a bloody hard worker. It was his deep social connections within the district. In conversation with neighbours, at the local pub or down the Main street, Brian always presented Burning Seed as a positive and desirable addition to the local community. He championed the creative potential of the event and tempered rumour with his own experience and an invitation to ‘come and check it out for yourself’. Jonesy’s efforts to normalise and integrate our presence in the community smoothed the way for many productive friendships and partnerships and helped us to understand issues form a local perspective. Here’s Brian at this year’s Seed, talking us up yet again, for local news outlets.
Brian felt deeply connected to the natural world. The seasonal rhythms of the farms and the native ecosystems that fringe them. He was an avid bird watcher and passionate environmentalist, often stopping mid-work to talk about the cycles we were witnessing around us.
Brian generously offered his land as a site for Red Earth Ecology’s biodiversity plantings and was involved in every project over the years - donating watering trucks, preparing sites, clearing weeds and providing an unwavering enthusiasm which kept morale high.
In late 2014 Brian fell ill with Guillain-Barre syndrome, which devastated his body and he had to relearn how to walk. He moved steadily towards regaining health but Jonesy never recovered 100% of his strength and stamina and the process of recovery led him to points of despair and deep depression. He emerged from this time having made some decisions about changes that he wanted to make in his lifestyle and priorities. He significantly reduced his workload and refocused on finding his way back to a place of creative fire and optimism.
2018 was a breakthrough year for Jonesy at Seed. The year that the work became play and he joined the Forest Rising crew to co-create the Friday night Burn. It was such a joy to see Brian in his element, allowing his Seed family to fully embrace him. He was so happy, satisfied and proud of what we had achieved together at Red Earth City.
Jonesy, we used to laugh at the Burner joke “Seed was better last year” and with your loss the words have never felt so poignant. Burning Seed won’t be the same. Then I think about the solid foundation that you helped to lay for Seed. The practical skills that you passed on via your demonstration to DPI and the event’s build culture. The positive influence you’ve had on those who knew your warm, frank openness, humility and adventurous spirit. I know we’ll be seeing you round the paddock for many years to come.
by Jo Roberts