This venue is one of The Gong’s real highlights. Lovely afternoon in The Gong tells of my first visit there. And subsequently. I haven’t been there so much in the past ten months as the opening hours tend not to coincide with my being in the vicinity.
The reason I mention all this is Angela Thomson’s story Bands rally round paralysed music promoter in The Illawarra Mercury.
With Christmas nearing, Ben Tillman found himself confined to the spinal injuries unit of Prince of Wales Hospital – only 70 kilometres from his Thirroul home but worlds away from his old life of music, friends and freedom.
Unable to move his legs, weak and easily exhausted, he and his two business partners agreed they couldn’t continue to operate Yours and Owls, the live music venue they started together in Wollongong 2½ years ago.
The venue was a labour of love, but the work could be all-consuming and difficult to spin into a profit.
Now Ben – the booker, the one who had built the relationships with the agencies and bands and kept the stage filled five nights a week – was in a wheelchair with an uncertain prognosis after a car accident.
The partners – Ben and long-time friends Balunn Jones and Adam Smith – resolved to sell the business.
But then Ben grew a bit stronger and more focused. He didn’t want to give up on Owls and realised he didn’t have to.
Like scores of Illawarra musicians who have found an audience at the little Kembla St venue, it did him good.
"I’ve started doing a bit of work from the hospital, behind the scenes stuff," he told the Mercury this week from his bed at Prince of Wales.
"It keeps my mind active and helps with the positivity as well. We might be getting another guy on board, we’re excited about that. We’re keen to step it up [this year] and keep doing what we’re doing."
Owls, and the nearby Wollongong Town Hall, will be the site of a large benefit concert next Saturday aimed at supporting Ben financially, and in morale, as he continues a gruelling schedule of physical rehabilitation and moves closer to the day he can go home…