Thoms was a theatre director, film maker and curator. Founder of Ubu Films, editor of Ubu News, co-founder of the Ginger Meggs Memorial School of Art, participant in the Yellow House, director of artists' documentaries and exhibition curator. He was an important figure in the Sydney Filmmakers’ Co-operative.
Albie Thoms was born in 1941. In his early twenties, as a member of the Sydney Push, he directed a number of plays for the Sydney University Drama Society (SUDS), notably a 1962 production of Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi. Further exploration of Jarry’s absurdist oeuvre led Thoms to create a film, ... it droppeth as the gentle rain, with filmmakers Bruce Beresford and Mike Molloy and a cast including Germaine Greer, as part of a SUDS production. Reaction by the laboratory which processed the film led to the first of many run-ins with the official censors. In 1965 Thoms, David Perry, Aggy Read and John Clark formed Ubu Films to produce the James Bond satire Blunderball. Buoyed by the success of that film, which recouped its cost on its 1966 premiere and was later broadcast on television by ATN Seven, Ubu Films continued to produce experimental films and, by the time the group’s activities were wound up in 1970, had expanded into happenings, light shows and a monthly newspaper, Ubu News. Among Albie Thoms’s films with Ubu were Man and his world (1966), Bolero (1967) and David Perry (1968). In 1969 his feature length experimental film, Marinetti, premiered at the Rose Bay Wintergarden. Thoms had been writing an article on the history of happenings for Masque magazine and became interested in the influence of Italian futurist artist Marinetti on contemporary life, using this as the basis for the narrative flow of consciousness around which the film Marinetti was constructed. Thoms also collaborated on other experimental films, including The Film (1966), for which the Ubu filmmakers joined up with other film and visual artists, including Garry Shead and John Firth Smith. At the same time Thoms was working for the mainstream television industry and directed episodes of shows like Contrabandits and Skippy: the bush kangaroo. After a period teaching film in Europe, Thoms returned to Sydney and joined Martin Sharp at the Yellow House in founding the Ginger Meggs Memorial School of Art in 1971. The documentary Sunshine city (1973) featured many of the leading figures in the Yellow House scene. Another visit to Europe followed, where he met up with his future partner Linda Slutzkin. On his return to Australia, Thoms continued to direct films, such as Palm Beach (1979) and The Bradman years (1983). In the early 1980s Thoms worked on the newly launched SBS Network’s pop music program Rock around the World, which showcased both mainstream acts from non-English speaking countries and alternative acts from Australia and New Zealand. In 1991 Albie Thoms and Linda Slutzkin collaborated on an exhibition which celebrated the late 19th century artists’ camp at Curlew Cove, near their home in the Sydney suburb of Mosman. Bohemians in the Bush comprised both an exhibition of historical artworks at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and an in situ recreation of the Curlew camp, where artists like Paul Delprat, Peter Wright, Jocelyn Maughan and Robin Norling gave lessons in landscape painting. A documentary about the artists’ camp followed in 1995. Another documentary which related to an Art Gallery of New South Wales exhibition was King of Belle-Ile, about the expatriate Australian impressionist John Peter Russell, which was released in 2001. After Linda Slutzkin’s death in 2005, Albie Thoms commemorated her work in the field of art education and gallery public programs by donating artworks to the Art Gallery of New South Wales and Mosman Art Gallery. In 2009 Thoms curated a retrospective exhibition of works by his Ubu associate David Perry at Mosman Art Gallery. Albie Thoms died in November 2012, just days after completing his memoir, My generation. He was survived by his partner Louise Ferrier and his two children with Linda.