The History of the Wheelie Bin Sound Systems

Wheelie Bin Sound Systems have been a much loved creation in the streets of Sydney since they first appeared early this millennium. The mobile music machines were born from the spirit of community protest actions. John Jacobs first created the Wheelie Bin Sound System by putting a car stereo in a bin and posted a website explaining how to make your own. Consequently the virus has spread and more have been made and a lot of fun had. For a few years there were maybe two or three in Sydney and a couple in Melbourne but now they have mushroomed.

Check out our Wheelie Bin Sound Systems United facebook page

The invention has led to many memorable situationist scenarios, the wonderfully ‘low brow’ devices bring a smile to many as they bring music to many spaces.
Wheelie bin sound system inventor John Jacobs enthuses;

”Protesting can be hard work sometimes. Like if I hear another boring “hey ho” megaphone chant I’m never getting up out of my armchair again. It’s time for protestivals!”Music and sounds can be used transform or detourn spaces and situations. They can heighten a good vibe or cut through a bad one. Sometimes a contradiction can reveal the subtext of a situation. The Wheelie has witnessed some amazing sonic alchemy.

Louis Armstrong singing sweet and loud “What a wonderful world” while police on horses barged over NoWTO picketers palpably shifted the whole mood on both sides. Suddenly the whirling horses were transformed into a macabre magic round about. This wasn’t part of Louie’s wonderful world, but there was one in the future and it is worth singing about. Police often try to use a protest as a vehicle to scare citizens into silence. Lets make a joyful noise to put heart back into the voice of dissent and show that we will never be silenced.
I was told of a wonderful scene at the S11 protest in Melbourne that illustrates this point nicely. It was at the end of a long hard day of highly mobile picket lines, lots of wrist locks, horse charges and tearing down fences. Things had slowed down to a stand off. Both sides were tired but still determined. No one seemed to want to take the initiative. The protesters started to sit down and link arms. The cops began to drag on rubber gloves. The silence was deafening. Some larrikin sitting way up the back started whistling. Wobbly and faint at first, but soon swelling irresistibly into massed song. “Always look on the bright side of life” from Monty Python’s Life of Brian movie spread through the crowd like wild fire. Singing, laughing, whistling, crying, the protesters felt a wave of unity and strength surge through them. A little laughing pin had popped a big ugly balloon. Even a few cops were seen to crack a grin.
I’ve had the velocop escort quietly singing along to Kev Karmondy and Paul Kelly’s “From little things big things grow” as they pedaled through the city with us on Critical Mass. When the wheely tunes have gone that far its time to drop right back to bush recordings of bird song. The dry irony of a crow’s “_aaarck” or the melodious crack of a whip bird echoing through the concrete canyons of the business district  powerfully tells a non verbal tale of this dirty old town’s ancient future.  ”

The legacy continues, the bin boom boxes are all over the world, at Occupy events like the one in Sydney where a Sunny Bin played music for a week purely from solar power.

At the last Copenhagen Climate conference one was apparently confiscated by police and in the US they have there own “trashcan”sound systems.

Sydney now boasts about 14 and the good vibes are spreading.Look out for the next “Reclaim the lanes” event near you or better still organise your own.