Lion park folklore inspires film

30-6-1973 Neg H3723 Pic by John Lamb. Allen Johnson takes refuge from a curious lion after his truck upturned at the Bacchus Marsh lion park. One of the four photographs which won the Australian Press Photographer of the Year award for John Lamb

A Bacchus Marsh filmmaker wants to capture the town’s wild side – and he needs help from the locals.

Darcy Prendergast is embarking on a self-funded documentary about the old Bacchus Marsh Lion Safari that thrived in the 1970s and the incidents that lead to its demise.

“I’m looking for old video footage from the lion park days or home footage that people may have taken whilst visiting there,” Mr Prendergast said.

The drive-through safari was run by Doug Ashton, patriarch of the family-run Ashton’s Circus, but the park closed its gates after legislative changes in 1985 made it harder for it to turn a profit.

A series of fatal attacks also stained the park’s history. They included a 12-year-old boy reportedly being killed by a Lion in the late 1970s.

Mr Prendergast said he also wanted to portray his personal connection to the historic park where his father worked as a young man.

“He was 17 when he first started and the narrative of my film will lean on his memories and tales as the structural backbone,” Darcy said.

“But the film will also look at the wider reach of the park. I grew up in Bacchus Marsh and, strangely, few people of my generation even know the lion safari park existed.

“The internet has very little information about it. There are only a handful of souvenirs now floating about – it’s almost become a thing of folklore.

“But for better or worse it existed, and I want to document as best I can that period of Bacchus Marsh history which I personally think is one of the craziest things about this town.”

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