Tamworth Country Music Festival-1999

A vision of Country meeting Koori

Been trying to get to Tamworth Festival for some years. Finally made it and brought our didgs to play,display and sell , with no idea what to expect. How it would work,whether it would fit in? Whether we’d be welcomed or not?

Had a great time , connected with lots of great folk ,including working with other didg players and dancers who featured their performances next to our display. It unfolded organically and went down well. It became a positive hub for festival goers attracted to the indigenous culture and the didgeridoo.

As a white fella, I got mixed responses from local Koori’s ,but on the whole good vibes.I understand and respect the range of responses .The sense of working together and supporting each other that unfolded were seeds of reconciliation.

Our spot in the main Mall of Tamworth under some Palm trees saw Aboriginals Mark Atkins,Roy Newman and Aboriginal dancers regularly busking . We all worked in together,setting up P.A.'s ,handing the hat around,whatever was needed.A good time.

During Tamworth ideas formed to take it another step next year as a feature with a theme of reconciliation involving Black and White performers celebrating our country and our future.

In his home town Tamworth, Mark Atkins just another busker. He has been playing didgeridoo professionally I think for over a decade and travelling the globe for 7 years as one of a handfull in demand internationally. Whenever he played ,big crowds formed ,but it would be good to honour him as a local talent , in a more substantial way. Roy Newman has been in the top handfull of Bush Poets in the Tamworth Bush Poetry Competition over the last number of years,and is also a standout didg player . Hes didg playing was part of the opening ceremony at The Global Carnival Bellingen. Hes driving fast rythyms are as fast as I've heard. He aways sais"I'm not a didg player ,I'm a poet"-Surprised me!!!!!!!! At Global he did share with me some of his poetry, a lot of which focuses on reconciliation ,and yes hes brillaint. Hes one fella that deserves being seen and heard more widely..

Tamworth was a classic place to feel the spread of Aussie Characters from, farmers, to cattleman, to Kooris, toTown and City folk. Its full of everything ,its organic,its organised ,its big and crazy, and if you surrender to the ride ,theres a lot of magic.Had some great raves with farmers& wives, a cattlemen who'd just driven a mob of cattle all the way down the "Longyard" from the top of Aus right down to Tamworth and made some great Koori friends, a special fella being Alex a big hearted didg maker putting great energy into the artwork on his didgs.I was there to earn some $ of course ,but I had to buy one of Alex's.Under the palms in the mall, we felt a convergence of all. It made me reflect on our Aussie characteristics,down to our slang ,accent and sayings. It all comes from the land, and from , the settlers , early farmers and bushmans connections with Black fella’s .Tamworth is the perfect place for a celebration of this coming together. Despite the rifts present Tamworth Country Music Festival has the potential to bring it about like no where else.

If there is interest we’d like to see in 2000 a featured performance event ,that involved Story Tellers,Bush Poets ,country muso’s,Didgeridoo’s and Dancers -White and Black,with the theme of Reconciliation. JohnWilliamson’s performance this year with Warren H Williams joining him as co creator of the song "Raining on the Rock" was the seed of where it can go. The songs they did together were powerfully stirring . If there back next year ,this theme can only be enhanced with there involvment. I’m sure we all hope that as a country we make the most of the opportunity that the Year 2000 presents as a turning point for healing , and new beginnings . Next Tamworth presents part of that opportunity. Hope to see you there.


P.S. I've heard back from John Williamson - hes agreed in principal to being involved, so the seed is a growing.

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