By Simeon Michaels
The Mullum Music Festival has spawned a franchise. Last weekend saw over 3,000 steamy-breathed music-lovers crowd halls, pubs and clubs at the Inaugural Bello Winter Festival at Bellingen.
The model is proving a winner for festival director Glenn Wright, as Saturday sold out and well insulated punters absorbed a broad range of quality music.
Headline act the Milk Carton Kids (USA) joked with the audience about keeping expectations low prior to a performance that had the whole festival mesmerised
If grumbles were to be heard, it was a result of the fest’s popularity, packed halls left latecomers out in the cold, and seats and meals were hard to come by at restaurants startled by the unexpected influx.
However, a concern that locals would reject the ‘blow-in’ seem to have evaporated in the face of a concerted effort to involve the local artistic community.
‘We’ve got lots of local content in this festival,’ Wright said.
‘It gives people a feel of the town, and helps local musicians to get gigs elsewhere,’ says Wright, who was also delighted by the success of a mentoring program which teamed four local (Bellingen area) youth with some the festival stars.
Local muso Mark Oliver agrees. ‘We’ve had a good thing going here in Bello for the last few years, we’ve got a few good bands and they’ve been nurtured by local venues supporting them, but the frustration is breaking out of the bubble. The festival is a showcase for us, its the next step’.
As seven-piece band Bunya played a hometown set on a sunny Sunday arvo, it was the audience, as clean and sparkly as the Bellinger River itself, delighted to see their men sharing a stage with world class acts, that encapsulated the weekend’s spirit.