The voice on the end of the phone is completely recognisable, even though I haven’t heard it for five years. It’s Frankston-bred John Fowler, now living just out of Swan Hill. Ninety years young and with a long list of entertainment and festival-making kudos behind him, this exceptionally gracious and humble man is just about to be recognised for his contribution to the entertainment industry through the Australian Commercial and Entertainment Technology Association, and we think that’s sweet.
Some of you may remember the story Mornington Peninsula Magazine ran in 2016 about John and his involvement with, among other things, the iconic Sunbury Festivals. The supposed booze-free events where kids in skimpy outfits passed grog through the fence while Daddy Cool and Captain Matchbox rocked the crowd with a quintessential Aussie sound. Our own publisher Lisa Walton remembers her Sunbury Festival foray with ‘far out’ fondness.
The last of the four Sunbury Festivals was held in 1975 after Deep Purple and rain insurance blew out the budget, but the legend of those festivals run by John and his entertainment industry mate Peter Evans lives on. John’s lighting career, from his Frankston Theatre days to working with Graham Kennedy to lighting the Channel Nine Ballet and searching the night sky at Lake Boga Observatory years later, remains a fine example of dedication to lighting distinction and a commitment to the Australian entertainment industry. ACETA’s online Archive of Excellence will keep it safe and sound for future generations.
John McKissock, of Clearlight Shows, is host interviewer of the one-hour video chronicling John Fowler’s stellar contribution to the Australian entertainment industry. He explains: “ACETA is archiving those who have contributed creatively, artistically and technology-wise to the entertainment industry and should be recognised for it. So far we’ve interviewed Rodger Savage, Colin Stevenson and Murray Tregonning, who are all industry experts in their fields. John and my paths have crossed several times throughout our careers, from working together at Channel Nine to the Sunbury Festivals through to doing the lighting for the Swan Hill Town Hall’s upgrade. His knowledge is irreplaceable. Now at 90 years old, it’s important to get it all down. These archives are of great importance.”
Yes, they are. This recipient of an award from the Television Society of Australia and lover of all things art and science may think his “memory is shot” but he has no trouble whatsoever talking about selling the observatory at Lake Boga last year and settling down to a quieter life. He also explains: “I’ve always loved putting on festivals. My wife Marianne and I contributed to the first Hervey Bay Whale Festival, which was a night-time event, and that’s still running today. I also founded the George Fairfax Memorial Schools Theatre Festival in the mid-‘90s, which involves regional schools across Mildura and Swan Hill. That one is still going too.”
And so is this master of making entertainment-infused memories that many Australians will continue to cherish. Bravo, John. Bravo.