What did it take for Mick to make long-time friends?

In Stories

 

It’s unusual: a group of friends in the 1970s decides to form an intentional community, buying up land in the Adelaide Hills to own and work together. 40 years later, it’s still going. We want to know what made this clan choose to share in each other’s lives more closely, and why have they lasted? Mick’s been there from the beginning.


 

After traipsing down a long, sloping driveway cutting through the centre of the Community’s Adelaide Hills property, we meet Mick and his dog at his home on a Thursday afternoon. He’s baking cakes to prepare for his 60th birthday party on Saturday. He offers us a cup of tea and we settle down to talk at his dining table, looking into the shrubbery surrounding the Community dam. Casting his mind back, he sheds some light on how a group of friends came to the decision to strike out on this bold 40-year experiment.

The first ingredient, apparently, was the Church.

Although now largely non-religious, the Community sprang from the networks and friendships formed around the structures and activities of Pilgrim Church, in Adelaide.

Pilgrim Church was really important in terms of creating a sense of community, a bigger sense of belonging to something outside your family.

The Student Christian Movement (SCM), we learn, also played a key role in setting up these linkages—many of Mick’s parents’ generation were linked with each other through the SCM. We’re interested to find that the structures and activities provided by the Church provided this foundation.This informal community of friends didn’t spring out of nowhere.

After Mick dashes out to remove his cake from the oven, we want to know: what turned this community into a Community? Why did they choose to consolidate their links, formalizing them in the form of a structured, intentional Community?

It seems that at the heart of the Community was a shared fascination with one of the great forces of the decade of the 70s. Mick’s talking about Feminism.

Feminism really challenged the Church. The general picture was of a hierarchical, male-dominated establishment.

A vibrant community around Pilgrim became fascinated by the implications of Feminism; what did it mean for the Church? What did it mean for relationships, sexuality, families? Mick tells us that for this group of young thinkers, they became interested in how families could be organized and re-organized.

What we were trying to get away from was that closed unit that was sort of unassailable, almost to the point where the reason domestic violence thrives is a don’t-ask-don’t-tell mentality—you know, you can hear the yelling going on next door, but it’s like, that’s their business. I won’t ask.

The common interest in these questions spawned a number of groups to meet more regularly. Gatherings of people started taking place on Friday nights, at which members of this growing clan of people gathered for discussions and music. Another result of this upheaval in gender roles and expectations, was the formation of Men’s Groups, for men who could find themselves disorientated or uncertain of how to respond to the fervour. These support groups endure today.

So these conversations—this common interest in exploration of new ways of relating to other people—were the genesis of this 40-year project. Next, we’re keen to find out: how has it all lasted? For the group of people that remain part of the Community, what has kept the group together?

As Mick talks, coming up again and again are the songs they’ve sung and written, the busking they did, the instruments people played.

Part of my party is going to be singing, because music had a lot to do with the friendships we’ve all had.

We ask about the role of music. Has it been significant in keeping everyone together? Yes and no, Mick says.

Somehow, the music’s secondary. I think it’s the values that have held together. The fact that we had a musical past is relevant, but that’s not what’s kept the glue. It’s been a common world view.

For Mick, the shared value for greater connectedness, outside the family unit, is key to how the Community sprung up, and the ongoing shared values of its members have kept them together all this time.

One of the songs we used to sing was “I’m looking for some long-time friends”… and it’s sort of interesting to think about that because, at the time… that was a nice sentiment. But now, 40 years later, that’s how it all worked.

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