I am the first to admit that I am a morning bird- one of those people that rolls gently out of bed before the first break of daylight slices through the dark nights sky. I creep quietly out of my home, sneak away to the oceans shore, and watch the sun come over the horizon just about every single day. Some people call me crazy, others say they wish they could pull themselves from the warmth and comfort of blankets and dream-worlds to witness this hour of the day more often. It was never something I decided to do, for as long as I can remember I have woken early, snatched from slumber when the clock reads five am, gifted with a few quiet, contemplative moments before the day feels as though it has really began in earnest.
When I stumbled across an article that featured The Breakfast Club Dairies on the front page of the Byron Shire News a few months ago, I was stunned and amazed that this was the first I had heard of this group- other kindred spirits who rose early, wandered restlessly and clicked their cameras and iPhones adamantly- capturing in a single frame the unique beauty that these early hours offered.
The Breakfast Club Dairies isn’t a group limited by location nor time, rather, existing as a Facebook group, these people from all across the world and from all walks of life are connected by one thing- the images they share from their morning walk. The Breakfast Club Dairies is overseen and managed by two Byron Bay based women- Susan and Zoe, who came up with the idea in a random moment of spontaneous creativity. Susan, inspired by photos that Zoe had began to post on her personal Facebook page of her early morning walks, commented that it would be a wonderful idea to start a Facebook group centred around the exact same theme. And with that, The Breakfast Club Dairies was born.
What began as a few inspired souls quickly spread and gained momentum, as Zoe recalls, “The members were all very much into the concept and seemed to really thrive on the “goodness’- the inspiration, creativity, friendliness, support and humour contained in it all.”
The initial plan for the group was quite different to what it later evolved into being. The Breakfast Club Dairies was set up as an arts project with an initial life span of six months. “It was a type of experiment really,” Susan explains, “Just to see what would happen, if anything at all!” After this initial six-month period was over, the decision was made to make the images into a book and donate the proceeds to a charity. It was this process- gaining funds and sponsorship to make the book a reality- that took a great deal of time and effort, and it is only now, two and a half years later, the that book is printed and ready to launch.
The charity chosen by Susan and Zoe was The Fred Hollows Foundation, a foundation that was established in Sydney in 1992 that works throughout Africa, Asia and Australia, focusing on blindness prevention and indigenous health. By reducing the cost of cataract surgery to $25 in some areas, The Fred Hollows Foundation has been responsible for restoring the sight of more than one million people worldwide. The late Fred Hollows (1929-1993) was a skilled eye surgeon and social justice activist who passed away five months after the foundation was established. Although neither Susan nor Zoe had much in-depth knowledge of the foundation before this time, Zoe explains that when searching for the right charity, The Fred Hollows Foundation was a logical choice, “It furthered our theme of seeing and appreciating beauty in the natural world.”
The support and ongoing feedback from the community has amazed, and at times overwhelmed, Susan and Zoe who never imaged their small project could have such a huge impact on their local community and the world at large. As Zoe recalls, “Comments such as ‘This page is the best way to start my day,’ or ‘This group is the friendliest and most supportive on the internet,’ or ‘I’ve been obsessed with The Breakfast Club Dairies all year,’ really drum in how much people appreciate the project and all that Susan and I do.”
People in the group have chosen to connect in the ‘real world’ beyond the confines of the Facebook realm and post their group photos for everyone to see. For Zoe, stepping out and embracing this interactive community was a little daunting at first, opening up to ‘strangers’ online, but she explains how it has helped her to make connections she would otherwise never have made, “I also spend more time that I ever thought I would on Facebook which is actually a nice thing for me at the moment as I am at home often with my two small babies- it keeps me feeling connected to other grown ups!”
For Susan, being such an integral part of The Breakfast Club Dairies has meant that mornings have now become her favourite time of the day, “Not only do I love rising early, I have also become more present and mindful as I go through my day taking notice of people and places around me.” Susan goes on to state that, “The group and project has helped me to become a better person in terms of giving, listening, being patient, understanding and problem solving…I’ve also developed wonderful new friendships both at home and abroad, as well as professional relationships with an array of fantastic and generous business owners in the Byron Shire.”
It is incredible to think how much has evolved from Susan’s initial gratitude for Zoe’s early morning photos. Indeed the themes of gratitude and mindfulness are strong and powerful in the group as Zoe explains, ‘It all comes back to gratitude really- what started from gratitude creates more gratitude, and for that, I feel more grateful! I feel like The Breakfast Club Dairies is actually having a positive effect on the world and I am incredibly proud of that.”
For Susan, she has also found gratitude to be a huge driving force within the project and amidst the beautiful and supportive feedback she has received, one letter from a member stands out. It read, “My Mum lost her eyesight completely about five years ago. I would give anything to help in some way. My Mum is an amazing inspiration, she walks every day, plays golf and lives alone. Every minute of every day I appreciate my vision. It has taught me to take more notice”.
The text is now a double page spread in The Breakfast Club Dairies book.
The book itself has been funded primarily through sponsorship as well as generous donations from an array of local businesses and members of The Breakfast Club Dairies group itself. There were also various fundraising events, raffles and morning teas.
Zoe recalls that it did take time initially to get the Sponsorship packages filled, “I think when Dave Prior from ‘Five:AM’ came on board as our Gold Sponsor that really helped get the ball moving. We had so many generous people making donations of all sorts, from $20 to $300, and it was those donations that finally got us over the line. We just knew that once we’d started this project there was no way we were going to stop before it had been completed!”
In regards to selecting which images would appear in the book, Susan and Zoe agree it was both a difficult and easy process. “Choosing the images was hard in a way because we were so spoilt for choice! But in another way it was also easy, Suzy and I being artists, we have very strong sense of aesthetics.’ The team ended up selecting photos that had been posted in The Breakfast Club Dairies Facebook group from May 2012 to November 2012 that they thought best represented the cultural diversity and visual aesthetic of the project as a whole.
The book launch is scheduled for Friday November 14th at the Byron Bay Regional Sports and Cultural Complex. The launch is a free event and everyone is welcome to attend. The book is also available to pre-order online at www.susangourley.com.au/tbcd/ and domestic or international shipping is available.
Despite the book being completed and printed, the online group has continued on with strength and solidarity, growing in numbers and gaining more and more momentum. Recently, The Breakfast Club Dairies was also invited to select 200 images to exhibit as part of the Multi Arts Festival that happens annually in the city of Kalisz in Poland. There is now talk of further exhibitions throughout Europe as well as regional and National tours here in Australia.
But for the time being, Zoe and Susan are focusing on the launch itself, “The idea of creating traveling exhibitions is floating around but we will have to wait and see,” shares Zoe, “All of our energy is going into the launch and sale of the book right now. We are both so looking forward to handing that fat cheque over to The Fred Hollows Foundation.”
And last but far from least, a huge thank you to all of The Breakfast Club Dairies official sponsors who have made this whole project possible:
- Fishheads Restaurant & Takeaway
- Byron Bay SAE
- Quantm Creative Media Institute
- Shambhala @ Byron
- Open Table Catering Services Byron Bay
- Byron Bay Wedding and Party Hire
- Byron Bay Macadamia Muesli
- Stringer’s Creek Stud Mullumbimby