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Byron Shire
December 2, 2021

Getting Dirty at Bello

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There are more ways than one to get down and dirty at a music festival.

Bello Winter Music is partnering with the Bellingen Shire Learning Alliance (BSLA) to present an array of sustainability and environmental workshops, tours and forums throughout the 2016 festival. Festival general manager Maggie Quirk spoke with The Echo about the program.

What is the idea behind the Bello LeaF program and how does it fit in with a music festival? 

Bello LeaF stands for Bellingen (Bello) Learning Festival, so it’s all about skill sharing. The LeaF program is made up of a series of health- and sustainability-focused talks, workshops and tours and is designed to give festival patrons an opportunity to connect with the Bellingen community and all it has to offer. Bello LeaF also allows local organisations an opportunity to share interesting and valuable skills with a national audience.

What impact do you think environmental ‘action’ has on a music-festival crowd?

I think it has a positive impact on a music-festival crowd and it offers something extra to ticket-holders. Festival-goers are not necessarily expecting to be given the opportunity to participate in workshops or gain new skills at a music festival, especially without additional costs. The LeaF program will diversify and enhance their experience and set Bello Winter Music apart from the rest. It only feels natural to have an eco and healing aspect to this festival because that is what Bellingen, as a town, is all about.

Why do you think there is such a synergy between Bello Winter Music and the Bello LeaF program?

Bellingen is a real hub for eco and health awareness, has a vibrant musical and artistic community, and is a popular tourist destination given its stunning location on the mid north coast of NSW. All of these things make it the perfect region to host a music festival with a sustainability festival built in.

Who tends to participate in these programs? Is it the usual suspects or did you get new rollups last year?

The usual suspects were there with bells on but there were plenty of new rollups as well. It was a really welcoming and friendly vibe so everyone got involved, even kids.

How did you get involved?

I’m a longtime Bellingen local so I’m well aware of all of the fantastic organisations that are ingrained into our community. When Bello Winter Music director Glenn Wright suggested we work with the Bellingen Shire Learning Alliance to create a mini-festival showcasing all of these great organisations, I offered my full support. We are very lucky to live in an area so rich in knowledge and skills. Bello has a way of drawing people in and making them fall in love with the town. A large portion of the population (myself included) visited the town on holiday and vowed to move here one day. I think the Bello LeaF program is a fantastic way to get people to really connect with our community in a short time and to engage with our locals on a deeper, more memorable level.

Tell me about some of the innovative programs you have happening this year.

Everyone loves a primitive fire-making workshop. It was a big hit last year and we anticipate it will be popular again in 2016. I’m also particularly fond of the Edible and Medicinal Weeds tour by Bellingen’s Centre for Ecological Learning. The wonderful Damian Harrison from Chamomile Naturopathy will be taking festival-goers on a tour of the town and unmasking some of the well-kept secrets of the plant world. And while we’re on the topic of plants, the Bellingen Community Garden tour by co-founder, Steve Smith, will also be well worth a look! The garden is an ever-evolving and very impressive space that has stood the test of time and is surely one of Australia’s best community gardens.

What organisations have you partnered with for Bello LeaF?

We are involved with more than ten different local organisations including the Centre for Ecological Learning, who are presenting the yoga and meditation workshops, primitive fire-making, and introduction to Gumbaynggirr language workshops and also the Edible and Medicinal Weeds Walk to name a few. We also have Bellingen EYE, OzGreen, Northbank Community Garden, Tallowwood Sangha, Bellingen Shire Electricity Alliance and Bellingen Urban Landcare involved, and more.

What is your vision for Bellingen and the engagement of community in environmental projects?

When it comes to sustainability, Bellingen is full of amazingly knowledgeable individuals and organisations with big visions for our town. Between them they have a really positive impact in our region and Bello Winter Music is proud to have them involved in the event. I think the festival is a great place for these organisations to get together and showcase their knowledge and skills to a wider audience and it adds a fantastic and uniquely ‘Bellingen’ dimension to our event. This element of Bello Winter Music truly represents our town and we are really proud of that. Any continued involvement of festival-goers with these organisations and their projects is a big win. That is exactly why we want to be involved with the Bellingen Shire Learning Alliance.

Bello Winter Music (6–10 July). For tickets and program info go to bellowintermusic.com.

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