Move over Hollywood! ‘Cos while Tinseltown may be famous for having the Blues Brothers, here at Charles Darwin Reserve, we’ve got something bigger and better: an entire Blues Family.
I’m referring to the amazing and fearless (about doing hard work) bunch of Bush Heritage volunteers and staff who turned-up at the reserve this month to help put on the biggest and best-ever Blues for the Bush music festival. With many of them wearing our distinctive blue Bush Heritage field-shirts, it really did look like a ‘Blue Family’ especially on the main festival day when everyone was in full swing – toiling-away non-stop from sun-up to sun-down.
The festival itself was a huge success, largely due to the groundwork put-in by the event’s organising committee, and the brilliant collaboration and commitment between the co-hosts: the Shire of Perenjori and Bush Heritage Australia. It really was a fantastic community collaboration, which brought culture and conservation together for the enjoyment of more than a thousand visitors to the reserve – many of whom had travelled-up from Perth and WA’s south west, and were hearing about our work in the region for the very first time.
Another ingredient in our recipe for success was the incredible contribution made by Artistic Director, Site Manager, and all-round Wonder Woman, Theaker von Ziarno and her talented, and hard-working crew, as well as the all-round support and organisation of project manager Emily Sutherland. Theirs, and the Blues Family’s efforts helped to transform the old-field grassland site (perfectly decorated this year with a carpet of white everlastings), into a world-class music festival site.
From the time of the ‘Welcome to Country’ – by Badimaya Elders Bev Slater and Ashley Bell – to the last riff of blues on the Saturday night, to the last early-morning birdwalk and ecotour bus-ride around the reserve, ‘culture and conservation’ was at the fore.
West Region Executive Manager Luke Bayley – who organised the first Blues for the Bush (in 2013) – said this year’s event was the ‘best ever’ and praised the incredible effort put in by all of the staff and volunteers.
“What a team. And what a weekend at Charles Darwin Reserve for Blues for the Bush,” he said. “It just wouldn’t have been possible without your hard work and dedication to Bush Heritage’s mission. Huge respect to you all.”
The volunteers certainly made my job much easier – before, during and after the festival. And I know that sentiment was also echoed by Western Rangelands Healthy Landscapes Manager Elisabeth McLellan (who spent almost the entire Open Day – that accompanied the festival – as the MC of the Gunduwa Conservation Forum), and our community engagement officer Sarah Luxton who helped muster our ‘Blues Family’.
I have had so much positive feedback from people who travelled to Charles Darwin for the festival, with lots of good comments about the Open Day activities, the ecotours around the reserve, and all of the other events and activities that went-on over the two days. And that’s not to mention the amazing line-up of performers who entertained us into the night: Darcy Hay,
James Abberley – Children of the Tide, William Crighton, C.W. Stoneking, Caiti Baker, and Three Kings. It was impossible to pick a favourite.
This year also saw elements of the event move into the nearby, small wheatbelt town of Perenjori on Sunday. Especially for the day, streets were closed and filled with locals, visitors and performers. This was indeed a boost to the local community and economy.
We’ve posted a few photos here, but there’s more on our Facebook page and on our Twitter account, so feel free to check them out too. And make a note in your diaries for September 2020 … for the next Blues for the Bush. See you there!
William Hansen is the Reserve Manager at Charles Darwin Reserve in mid-west Western Australia. William lives there with his wife Olivia, and two children Hamish and Louis.