From Jazz parties popping up ‘all over the shop’, reworking spaces to cool ‘speak-easies’; collaborations between musicians (some like-souled and others soul-liked) on the same platform, be it funk, rock, soul, jazz, world-music, bluegrass, hip-hop (you get the drift) or taking an eco-walk down sustainability lane – Bello Winter Music Festival incorporates it all, bringing this event-extravaganza to the people throughout the streets and venues of Bellingen. Even the youth-of-today get a chance to purloin mentorship from established artists and a chance to PERFORM at this ‘feel-good’ festival.
Music festivals have not always been so all-encompassing and inclusive. I remember attending a music industry forum, ‘Come Together – Our Music, Our Business’ (part of the Northern Rivers NSW Creative Industries Broker’s Project) several years ago, with Glenn Wright attending as one of the key speakers. He offered some great pearls of wisdom (after all, he has been in the music industry for eons) for new and established musicians/artists, advising them to, “See where you fit in the music industry; see how you get there, visualising every facet; take small steps and have realistic expectations.” Glenn suggested, “Target your particular audience and keep your perspective on what you are and how you affect other people, looking also at role models.”
Glenn Wright, Mullum Music Festival director and Bello Winter Music Festival co-director, is ‘walking the talk’ and he took time from his busy schedule to talk to me about this year’s Bello festival, on for the second time coinciding with the winter school holidays, July 7th-10th, throughout beautiful Bellingen.
Why a festival in Bellingen, why not just expand Mullum Music Festival?
Music festivals are inherent with growth and any attempt to escalate/oversell Mullum Music Festival would jeopardise the comfy vibe already established there. Bello Winter Festival is a half way mark (being a winter festival) and continues to excite me with programming challenges and choices. Growth, in a promoter’s world, equals stress. We’ve reached success, let’s celebrate and expand on existing infrastructure, taking it to the streets of Bello.
Who/what are you excited about in this year’s Bello line up?
Willie Watson (US) is returning for Bello Winter Music after a recent tour with Dave Rawlings Machine – he’s a great artist! Love Mojo Juju, always a good vibe and perfect for the events we put on, always happy to collaborate with other musicians, and this is so much part of the vibe of both Bello and Mullum festivals. Folk-rock songwriter William Crighton with push and popularity, Sahara Beck (indie-pop) and really, so much more.
How do you approach programming?
We (Kate Atkinson, local Bello promoter and co-director, plus Glenn) employ an application process coupled with an invite list, with stylistic emphasis based on diversity; non-ageist and non-sexist. “If it’s good and interesting, then it’s got a chance. Festivals need to be an experience encompassing challenge, emotion and a sense of party.” It’s a “put a smile on your face” program with purpose and involves street theatre, Magic Bus and many other activities throughout the streets and spaces, so you are already ‘ready’ to enjoy the music venue (pre-pumped for your convenience!)
And what about the Youth Mentorship program?
We always wanted the festival to have a social conscience – to give back a bit and to educate. Youth apply for the mentor they want and it’s a good start to being treated like an adult in the music industry. They then get to perform on stage ‘proper’ – not tokenism. Alice Blu (now TORA) and Merryn Jeann came through youth mentorship (like a musical apprenticeship) and are now fully fledged.
There is also the Bello LeaF program?
Yes, this is a chance for showcasing local organisations in Bellingen and allows the community to be part of the festival – a twofold outcome.
What are the differences between Mullum and Bello? What’s unique about them in comparison to other festivals?
Bello is a winter festival, held in the school holidays. You can drop in on the way to somewhere else.....Mullum is held in summer. Both locations are quirky, counter-culture and both are back from major tourist destinations: places that have a strong arts/performance/creative culture, almost on the fringes (hinterland) where people want beauty but don’t want the hubbub. Like the area, these festivals are layered with more diversity and always good value for money.
What do you think will be the future of music festivals?
Music festivals will pop up in more and more interesting places and the successful ones will really be focused around the punter and their experience of the festival. Festivals that act like an airport cafe (bad coffee, dud muffins, top prices) thinking that they have a ‘captured’ audience, will fail.
And collaboration between artists?
These are not ‘fly in – fly out’ festivals. The artists feel they are here, so why not collaboration? If you leave musicians to their own devices, that’s what they naturally do.
In summing up, Glenn reiterates that you must keep the integrity that you start off with: personal taste, diversity and many years experience in the music business. Glenn has “grown up” too, incorporating new tastes and styles to his own ‘wish list’ of musicians so he can now program a music festival with MAXIMUM enjoyment.
Having been to the inaugural Bello Winter Music Festival last year, and consider myself a continuing fan of the Mullum Music Festival every summer, I can honestly report that this is the ‘musicians’ festival’ where everyone has a smile on their dial and not only music, but LOVE is pouring out of every venue, onto the pavement and down the alleyways, parks and, and, and ...
The Bello Winter Music Festival will run 7–10 July 2016, throughout the streets and venues of Bellingen, NSW. Visit www.bellowintermusic.com for details
Top right – BWM Magic Bus. Photo – Kurt Petersen