My first time meeting Jonesey was not at this burn but at a previous one sitting on top of the container and I was impressed completely at how thrilled he was looking out over Burning Seed. Here was a Local Bloke lounging above a huge party, drinking his Coopers and chatting away about motorbikes and grinning from ear to ear.
This year Glenn and Aidan were having so much fun at Brian’s place it was hard to get them on site. Once I heard about all the fun out at the farm, collecting the wood, and watching Brian in action, I was very keen to get out there.
On the first day visiting Brian’s we were gathering and loading timbers and it was very exciting to see Brian a man of action, going to it. He was just doing a days work but he was excited to be involved, in the Brian way. Driving the Hino truck was fun for me to, and an enduring memory of the build. Those first days of the build and seeing the timber still standing in the forest, selecting trees, Brian dropping them, and imagining how we can work with the gnarly logs were great times.
Brian like many farmers is a doer. And there were few tasks that he didn’t hold the skills to perform. Brian seemed continually impressed by our crew, who put up their hand to learn a new skill or simply dived in and did one. This was Brian the Doer’s acknowledgement. He was happy to relinquish a task to you, watch you do it, suggest a way that might be easier on his tools, perhaps tell you at the end how it could have been done a lot more easily. Brian was one of our crews’ main motivators. More than once late in the day when we were tired and the end of light was upon us it would be remarked that Brian would be coming out early in the morning, with a particular tool, truck, skill, or wood and that such-and-such would need to be done so that he could get to work. We couldn’t have Brian on site and not be ready. Brian came into our crew, thanks to Glenn, pushing him to exercise his confidence. Initially somewhat shy and wondering how his role of wood gatherer would be extended. He steadily grew out of this and was a fixture on site, a trusted machine operator, eventually moved his swag into the stockade, and began to play. He gelled with our build crew and was visibly brimming with pride at the techniques he imparted and at the entire vision of Glenn’s coming to fruition.
Brian really appreciated the company and the camaraderie of the Burning Seed crew. He was always very appreciative of staying for a meal and it seemed he enjoyed the company and the fire barrel society as much as his tucker. And he really enjoyed that. Brian was never holding court around the fire or gregarious. Instead he would, if you sat with him, tell you an interesting story or listen to yours and gauge quietly – rolling cigarettes, a paper dangling on his lip, drink a Coopers green, or two. Brian knew many of the personalities and characters from the crew and he had an enormous respect for anyone involved in Burning Seed.
Brian’s skill collecting nature was evidenced when – and sadly this did not happen – he asked if he could do some work in the crew kitchen and perhaps learn some recipes.
On the afternoon of the Forest Rising burn night, at the fire safety meeting Brian had us chuckling. Before the meeting began we went around the circle of crew and various officials to introduce ourselves, and our role. Brian had always been simply called Brian, by us. But to his friends and associates he was Jonesy. He stated his name and role. Jonesy; Local Bloke. This was typical Brian understatement but in fact genius as his role as Local Bloke was not actually down playing his immense involvement in our burn and the event in general, over years, but actual the most succinct way to encapsulate his many contributions.
At any rate, we did not start calling him Jonesy once we knew his nickname. He was from there on Local Bloke.
Whether it was sharing a coffee early or a knock-off Coopers, driving around in the Kubota Sofa Art Car there are many memories from the 2018 Burn of Burning Brian – the man who stuck flowers on his cowboy hat, painted his face and fully burnt.
Brian went to a local horse show on the Saturday afternoon of the big burn night, because he wanted to and there was a chance to see a friend he hadn’t seen in a while. In the end he got back in time but he wasn’t fussed. That impressed me about Brian, he was very much himself only. He could happily leave the burn and go be a local bloke. Dropping in and out, through the back roads of the forest he knew so well. Bringing his elderly mother out to “show her the fuss” or chaperone Channel 7 news around like an excited kid.
Finding Jonesy and a bunch of his local blokes out at Sunset Island, parked in by dancers and having a blast on the roof. Going for an early morning mission in the Art Car to find and rescue Zeller’s art car, fashioning a steering arm patch with fence wire. Driving into the exclusion zone on Effigy burn night. Finding Brian napping on the sofa of the Art Car above the paddock, in the middle of the party.
Seeing Brian enjoying himself at the crew soiree on the Monday. Those are just a small handful of great memories of Burning Brian in his backyard at Matong. Now with Brian’s passing hopefully we can remember more of his great contribution to the community, his and ours, and be inspired to play and do the way he did. There will be stories!
Brian once told us at work, in explanation of how he became a burner that he was “just an old tripper”, no doubt, but he was much more, of course. One night when I asked him to elaborate on how he and Seed met, he told of a chance meeting with Brad, years before when Brad was slashing the site on a very hot day. A meeting that sparked Brian the Burner and not a bushfire thankfully.
I will miss Brian but am thankful for my brief meeting with him. Well done and thank you Glenn, for having the vision as usual, to see the playfulness and local knowledge of Brian and encourage him to join us even more fully at Burning Seed.
One of Brian’s greatly repeated quotes was, “Must be about 4:20 hey?”
Yeah nah, yeah, Local Bloke.
Meeting Brain was like meeting an old friend again from another lifetime. As we dropped in I would see these sideways glances of surprise that I was on the same page as him, I reveled in these moments of recognition. I think of him now and I remember the way his huge smile was always only ever a feathers breath away. He gave those things out so generously and it was illuminating, he would shine and so would anyone that saw it. I probed him for his stories, again he would generously oblige. Stories of the land, of the people, of his memories, of his own personal story.
I remember one day where it was just he and I at his place, just before Seed was to begin. We were scouring his wardrobe for anything bright, in amongst his plaid shirts and denim jeans he pulls out this pop-top top hat! Have you got your swag? Have you got some warm clothes? Don't forget your water bottle! I could feel his appreciation for the friendship that was so easy to offer him. Haha, oh, and pulling mine and Jazz's undies off the line while he did the same. It was a lovely companionship that I cherished even in the moment and especially now. And conversations with him on his verandah, where he let me probe a little deeper into the stories and tentatively into his heart. What a soft and simple place that was. His love for his kids and his pride in them, I could feel the meaning that gave him. I loved working with Brian and the opportunity for friendship with him. I'm grateful, humbled and devastated for the short friendship. We both shared a love of the Cypress pine country, he shared with me the sensation of coming home he would get when he saw the pines again after being away. For me his spirit lives in those trees and I know when I'm in their company, I will also be in his. Thanks for being Brian.
Sharing space with Brian this year was awesome. His skills, patience, sense of humour, strength and humility were appreciated by everyone and helped make the whole experience magical. I know it meant a lot to him to be one of us; while he has been an important part of the family of Burning Seed for years, being on a build crew, sharing dinner with us most nights in the stockade, was a new and rewarding experience both for him and our family at large.
Brian’s role in Forest Rising was irreplaceable. Almost all of the timber we used was sourced from his properties in Matong, he cut them down with his chainsaw, lifted them onto his truck with his telehandler and drove said truck to Red Earth City where he deposited them onto our site using the site telehandler. This happened because Brian shared Glenn’s vision of implementing the practice of sustainable timber sourcing at Burning Seed. In short, we build beautiful structures that don’t have to last the test of time and therefore do not need to divert new or fresh structural grade timber from use in homes and other buildings. Instead, we selectively cut down dead standing trees without hollows on degraded farmland, trees that constituted a risk of increased fire intensity in the event of a wildfire.
The first few days of our build were spent at Brian’s place collecting this timber where we also made a hilarious and informative video. One of the days we were staying at his place turned out to be his birthday, and we went down to The Grongy Pub together to eat with the rest of the Seed crew, a Friday tradition and a meeting point between our bohemian culture and life on the Riverina. Glenn and I somewhat serendipitously invited Brian to be an ongoing part of our build crew as it felt like the right thing to do, and it was. Up until that point timber sourcing was all he had signed up for. What followed is history at this point, but at the time was pure magic. Brian became an inseparable part of the crew and I know I am and daresay we are all better people for it.
I’ll never forget Brian for a lot of reasons. He shared stories and knowledge gained through his lifetime freely and openly, and taught me a lot about the local area.. It contributed strongly to my sense of place, and helped bridge the connection to the land we were working on. He was deeply concerned about the drought and the impact it was having on the livelihood of locals. He just about lost his shit when it rained one night Glenn and I were staying at his house. His phone kept ringing off the hook and it spoke volumes that the first thing he would say is “I’ve had 26 mil here” followed by something along the lines of “it’s fucking fantastic, I’m so happy”.
During our time at his property we noticed an art piece Brian built, a musical themed fire barrel on wheels, and much like with his art car project, gave him the tiniest push of support and confidence to bring these gifts of his imagination into our community. The fire barrel is beautifully made and was all of the rage at the gate party. The art car definitely turned heads, and remains one of my favourite contributions to the paddock. I missed the incident I am about to describe, but to give you an impression of the kind of burner Brian was, he tried his hardest to drive the thing into the Effigy Exclusion Zone on burn night so that he could have the best view with his companions. He was an unstoppable force of nature, a tornado of creativity and fun set free on the paddock. It was a pleasure and a blessing to see him in action. He will be sorely missed, he was definitely in his prime on the paddock. He will be celebrated in style.
He taught me so much about the nature of art and hard work, I was excited to see what came next. His friendship and community minded attitude helped open the door for a vast number of other locals to come in and be a part of our family, a legacy which will forever enrich the community. I am still excited to see what comes next, I know his legacy in our community will be honoured for a long, long time.
Rest in peace, Brian!
Brian was a local resident who supported the Burning Seed event for years with all his heart, from lending his time, knowledge and machinery to build burn structures, to appearing on the mainstream news to sing the praises of the counter culture, to letting us wash our socks and undies at his place, to partying hard on the paddock in his art car.
My favourite quote from Brian is; "are ya happy?" …Right before executing some high consequence carpentry manoeuvre on the tree sculpture.
The Australian burner community owes him a lot. We'll miss your humour and gruff warmth. Much love!
Brian was a local legend, mentor to many and heart of the community. He looked up to his parents, and had the highest admiration for his children. He had so much desire and drive to get amongst and be apart of the Burning Seed community and spirit.
This is one of my many funny moments of Brian, which i think says a lot about who he is. Brian had a friend accompany him at seed In the hilarious, infamous art car, one night they immersed themselves in the sunset at Sunset (Theme camp), then his friend suddenly disappeared. Brian’s friend being new to seed and festivals, Brian felt he couldn’t leave sunset without this friend. He sat there all evening on that art car. Burners knowing of the disappearing act, kept him company, bringing him food and beers. He slept on the art car awaiting his friend's return. The sun raises the next day, he climbs down and drives to DPI (crew camping) and finds that his missing friend had fallen asleep on the lower level of the art car.
His heart, loyalty and determination awaiting her safe return and she was just below him the whole night!!!! Brian smiles and laughs.
I'm going to miss him, hold and grow from all the beautiful moments we shared. Laying down ‘peacefully’ isn’t really his style, so I hope for a exciting, fun filled after life for our legend and friend Brian Jones. Sending all my love to Brian and the family, enjoy brother xx
As a process to transition our community away from burning logged native cypress, I rang up Brian and asked if he would help me source wood using an ethical approach for the Forest Rising Project. His response was simple:
"About time someone asked me this question. it really peeves me to watch us burn quality cyprus wood". Check out the YouTube video on the right!
I intuitively understood it was also about time that our community invited him to participate directly in our build process rather than just the odd jobs he had been doing (by odd, i mean core support roles). He was too proud to ask and not quite sure how to get involved in this way.
He wanted our team to come out with him to harvest the wood. This mostly meant standing around watching Brian harvest the wood. So Aidan and myself went to Brain's property before the official build dates where he welcomed us in with warm, open arms.
So we slept in his home, shared meals and worked together during the day for about a week. This was a beautiful experience getting to know the local farming nuances, Brains farm, celebrating the rain and of course getting to know Brian more deeply.
One of the great things about Brian is he is the opposite to the country stereotype. He does share his feelings. He doesn't judge people by appearances and gender was irrelevant. He is keen to hear new perspectives and discuss points of view. He has a mischievous spark and a love of play.
Although he still dresses in the country way, he rocked a pink shirt and golden vest for the Decom party. He revelled in the complements his costume attracted. I was looking forward to playing dress ups with Brian in 2019.
Inside Brian was an artist that had been suppressed by hard work. Running a farm is tough and this was his priority. He had recently reduced his workload and was brimming with creative ideas. He exhibited both an amazing fire barrel art installation and a raucous art car. He just needed a little support to get going which our team owed him and were deeply grateful to be able to support.
2018 lit a fire in Brian’s creative belly. Such a huge loss to see the creative fire light and now we all are unable to watch it burn. It would have burnt fucking brightly.
Burning seed owes a great debt to Brain with his unwavering support over many years in championing us to the local community, logistic support and in 2018 a pathway to greater sustainable burn practices.
The biggest loss of all for our community, is his spirit.