The Bobby Brown Exhibition
This month, set amongst the objects of our rapture, in the Surf World Museum at Currumbin on the Gold Coast, surfing heirlooms belonging to one of the sport's earliest stars, earmarked the location for the inaugural launch of the Bobby Brown Exhibition.
It was an amazingly refreshing night that signalled to me that a surfing legend of the '60s, Cronulla's Bobby Brown, had made his comeback onto the world class stage.
|The four presenters; LtoR - Former '78 World Champion, Wayne 'Rabbit' Bartholomew, Bobby Brown's older brother, |
John Brown, curator Andrew 'Andy Mac' McKinnon and surf artist, Garry Birdsall.
For the past forty odd years, his death has understandably been a loss far too sensitive to endure for close family and friends to deal with in the public arena. After three consecutive memorial surfing contests in his name, Bobby Brown’s history has been tucked into a self imposed hiatus ever since. For me, the unveiling of Andrew McKinnon’s Bobby Brown Exhibition is somewhat similar to a recording artist whose un-published and largely unknown or unheard work is finally being released to the public – years after his passing.
|Recounting the good times, Bobby Brown |
mentor and friend, Cronulla surf legend
himself, Garry Birdsall.
Hauntingly, Andrew has had the perpetual trophy in his possession for some forty one years. The trophy, it turns out, was part of the spark that fuelled this fire.
The Exhibition launch night this month was co-hosted by former '78 World Champion, Wayne ‘Rabbit’ Bartholomew, Bobby Brown’s older brother, John Brown, former Cronulla surfing legend and surf artist, Garry Birdsall and curator Andrew McKinnon.
The night at the Museum was splashed with an obvious dose of old hometown heroes. A lot of the old '60s Cronulla surfing underbelly were present. Mick Connally, Bob Halliwell, Dave Wilson, Frank Hales, Tommy Shipton, Alan Dorman, Mark Aprilovic. I also spotted a Cronulla surf star from a more modern era; Ross Marshall and the Gold Coast's, Cheyne Horan.
In a day and time in surfing where it appears professionals are filled with gargantuan egos, the presenters clearly illustrated to us that Bobby Brown was a young surfer not only full of natural ability and raw talent, but an abundance of humility and humanity.
Tearfully recounting old anecdotes and memories of times spent in the presence of a young energetic Bobby Brown, our story-tellers and co-presenters; older brother John Brown and surfing mentor Garry Birdsall - swayed the mood of the presentation evening from times of being somber and reflective, to other times to being joyous and rambunctious - somehow finding the delicate blend between humour and heartbreak.
|Exhibition creator and curator, Andrew McKinnon|
Highlighted with the screening of old Bob Evans rare 16mm footage, found on a rubbish tip, that featured Bobby Brown surfing Angourie with an equally skinny kid called Nat Young. To me, the footage underlined the fact that Bobby Brown was, at the time, the better and more promising surfer by far.
We also were treated to out takes from Paul Witzig’s 16mm movie 'The Hot Generation' of Bobby surfing Tallows at Byron Bay with Bondi's Kevin 'The Head' Brennan.
This uncompromising vision and looking glass into Brown’s surfing and personal life was complied with a startling intimacy. For me, McKinnon's presentation gave the exhibition its real soul.
What differentiates McKinnon from past surf biographers is his conviction that the historical surfing experience should be personal.
The depth of analysis, despite the sadness and the soul-searching that inspired it, of the Bobby Brown Exhibition is reflected as Andrew McKinnon’s best piece of work. Andy Mac has re-invented what a tribute to an outstanding young athlete, in this case a surfer – should be. The envelope is being pushed – in the all right directions.
|The winner's names on the Bobby Brown Memorial |
perpetual trophy - frozen in time for 41 years;
1968: Midget Farrelly
1969: Frank Latta
1970: Andrew McKinnon
Best go and see it for yourself.
The exhibition is currently at the Surf World Gold Coast Museum and into the new year, then it heads off to the Golden Breed store, Hastings Street, Noosa from March 12-20 for the Noosa Festival of Surfing 2011. Then it travels down South of the border, to Victoria, to the Surf World Torquay Museum during the planned festive celebrations to help commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Rip Curl Bells Beach Easter Classic on April 18-25th, 2011.
It's only fitting that the Bobby Brown Exhibition come home to roost in his old home stomping grounds - where it is certain to draw curious crowds and stir up some old wonderful memories. A venue for the Exhibition in the Cronulla area for sometime during 2011 is currently being negotiated.
Anyone who has any stories or particularly any photos or artifacts to contribute by way of loan to the Exhibition - we would love to hear from you.
Report & photos: Steve Core
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