In 1979, teenager Olive Jones was one of a group of hippies, idealists, and subsistence farmers that set up an alternative community on a farm in the Motueka Valley near Nelson. Influenced by the countercultural movement sweeping the country during the 1970s and 80s, they were part of a widespread interest in communal living, a generation of young people inspired to reject mainstream culture. These experiments in communal living were an attempt to achieve social, sexual and physical liberation from the ‘uptight’ world they grew up in. ‘Commune’ documents the rise and fall of Olive Jones’ community, Graham Downs. Achieving self-sufficiency was a hugely rewarding experience, using draft horses to carry out old-world methods of farming, building shelters by hand and growing enough food to support a fluctuating population of assorted hippies, nutters, spiritual seekers and dreamers, who all arrived eager to participate in the dream. Ultimately, however, this unstructured community, without rules and membership, failed to fulfil the early vision. Olive Jones’ memoir recalls the dreams, the madness, the humour and hard work of living an alternative lifestyle, a wonderfully insightful and fascinating account of a very influential period in New Zealand’s social history.
Imprint: Potton and Burton
Publication date: 01/09/2023
by Olive Jones
Review by Ray
This is a pragmatic, open and generous telling of the author’s experiences setting up and living in the Graham Downs farm community in the 1980s. She doesn’t try to convince readers to live in a certain way – instead, she documents daily life along with the politics, opinions and beliefs that lead her to that life, and leaves readers to make their own minds up. There are struggles, celebrations, joys and sorrows in these pages, and it makes for an eye-opening read that will leave you wondering at all the many possibilities that might exist for a good life outside our current systems.