Aquarius50: an exhibition of photos by Peter Derrett OAM

As a young theatre director and teacher Peter Derrett travelled to the 1973 Aquarius Festival with a high school theatre group to perform ‘Images of Man’, an original experimental theatre production. He took his camera with him and the resulting collection of images provides a comprehensive documentary account of this landmark event in Australian cultural history. The photographs by Peter Derrett OAM offer valuable insights into what happened at the Festival and sum up many of the ideologies that surrounded it.

“This exhibition features entirely personal observations taken during my time at the Aquarius 1973 Festival,” says Peter Derrett OAM. “The experience was very important to this group of young people with whom I developed an original show and presented it on the first day of the Festival. Experiencing counterculture at the time was enlightening and many in that cast have gone on to live extraordinary lives influenced by this event. Some will be returning for the Aquarius50 celebration. In 1973 I was just documenting the site and some of the things happening. I was not involved at that stage in photographic artistry. The focus was theatre for young people. My life in photography happened later.”

By the early 1970s, the hippie era was at its height, which meant alternative views could not only be expressed, they were lived. The 1973 Aquarius Festival was informed by a desire to break away from the perceived shackles of suburban society and the conservative mainstream. It provided a forum to explore radical politics, caring for the environment, relationships with First Nations peoples. alternative lifestyles, music, drugs, spirituality and community.

The Aquarius Festival lingers in the popular memory of Australia, particularly in the Northern Rivers region. It accelerated the metropolitan exodus to the ‘Rainbow Region’, and 1973 remains a critical date by which the history and distinctiveness of this area can be explained and understood. The photographs demonstrate what was unique about this ten-day art and music festival without a program.

Aquarius50: Photos of the 1973 Nimbin Aquarius Festival by Peter Derrett
12 May – 20 May, 2023
Nimbin School of Arts
47 Cullen St, Nimbin NSW 2480
Open daily, 10am to 4pm

Bio: Peter Derrett taught Drama and English for 36 years at Trinity College Lismore. He co-founded with his wife, Dr Roslyn Derrett OAM, the regional community theatre company, Theatre North, which delivered a wide range of theatrical works for 27 years. Derrett was awarded an OAM in 2007 for services to Regional Theatre and Drama Education. He is now committed to diverse photographic pursuits, including shooting for Getty and Opera Australia, and contributes to various exhibitions and publications.

Peter Derrett’s exhibition of images of Aquarius Festival was scheduled to be exhibited at Lismore Regional Gallery to correspond with the 50th Anniversary of the Aquarius Festival. Sadly, the building is still being repaired after the 2022 floods. We are popping up at the Nimbin School of Arts during Aquarius50 to honour this work and the importance of the festival to the identity of our region. For more about Aquarius50 celebrations visit

This exhibition is supported by Lismore Regional Gallery, a Creative Initiative of the Lismore City Council.