Jon Hawkes and Circus Oz

Jon Hawkes was one of my class mates at Launceston Grammar. He was the brightest kid in the class and also the youngest by a fair margin.
Mr Hawkes was an anglican cleric with an interesting series of posts – Jamaica, King Island, the Huon Valley in Southern Tasmania, Monash University. On that basis Jon gained entry to Christ College at the Uni of Tasmania. Most of the Grammar boys at uni went to CC but there was not room for everyone and I missed out. At the interview they asked me “How would you feel if you were allocated to a room with a black student?” I think I replied that it would be ok as long as he was a good Christian. Don’t ask me why I said that, it was a long time ago…Anyway I ended up at Hytten Hall which was further down the hill and a more interesting collection of people as well.
Jon Hawkes distinguished himself in CC by accumulating the largest collection of empty spirits bottles on his window sill that had ever been seen. This was byproduct of his active involvement in the university drama club and the related activities of thespians. He failed all his subjects and departed for the mainland where his father was posted to Monash. Jon worked in the bookshop and began his degree again at the more relaxed pace of one subject per annum.

Our contacts became very infrequent when I ceased to pass through Melbourne on a regular basis . He moved on to edit the Australian Rolling Stone, and he also became active in the administration of the radical theatre groups in Melbourne.
During the ’80s one of my friends bought a block of tickets to Circus Oz and he roped me into attend when someone dropped out. The circus played indoor on a stage, instead of the tradtional tent, and there were no anmals. This unplanned excursion turned out to a happy accident because the show was brilliant and, as a bonus, there was something strangely familiar about the Strongman, who also doubled as a juggler (that was typical of the multiskilling of Circus Oz). In fact it was my old friend Jon Hawkes, fitter and stronger than he had ever been at school where he had no interest or aptitude in manly outdoor games. (Though he did follow Geelong).
I caught up with him at end of the show, but only for a minute because he had to call Frankfurt or Zurich to make bookings for their European tour. In addition to being the Strongman and juggler he was also the business manager. It was that sort of crew, as you can read in his account of the origins and ethos of the wonderful adventure of Circus Oz.

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2024 years ago

what year is this Rafe?

2024 years ago

We are talking Tas Uni in the mid 1960s and Monash later in the 60s.

Paul Watson
2024 years ago

Yep, that’s right, meika –

The 1980s “alternative” arts scene, the one thing that made us not so apprehensive about finishing uni and going into the “real world” at the end of that decade, turns out to have been a sham.

Privileged WASP tosspots, juggling while their schoolfriends and siblings put Thatcherism into action everywhere outside their pathetic stage.

2024 years ago

Paul I think you are unfair on both Thatcherism (which saved Britain from terminal economic decline) and Jon Hawkes who was honourably employed as juggler and business manager of Circus Oz.
I suppose if you think of Thatcherism and classical liberalism as the ultimate horror, (which is a view that Jon may share) then you may think that he should not have frittered his time away on stage. But I think he did more for the community as a strongman and juggler than he has done as a critic of economic rationalism.

David Tiley
2024 years ago

I thought John went on to the Australia Council, to run areas concerned with community arts?

David Tiley
2024 years ago

Damn. Jon of course.

2024 years ago

It wasn’t all “privileged”, you know. There were a lot of kids in the FFFC from what you call a working-class background in Albury-Wodonga, and of course quite a few went onto Circus Oz when they’d “graduated”, as Jon’s account points out.

Umm, let me think of an example… oh yeah, my cousin. Inaugural member of the Fruit Flies, he didn’t actually go on to Circus Oz, preferring to take his own route as an acrobat, (well, he was never going to be an academic) and still going, 25 years down the track.

There isn’t a :rolleyes: big enough for Paul’s glib suggestion.
15 years ago

I was lucky enough, to work with jon, ponch, and the rest of the extraordinary crew, many years ago, during their uk tour, in chichester.

The circus came to town….and changed lives.

Bless you all.


Bill Bray.