Last January’s fire near Jamestown in the state’s Mid North came perilously close to snuffing out this year’s Bundaleer Festival. More than 2300 hectares of scrub and forest were burned out before it was brought under control by fire fighters.
The blaze nearly destroyed the picnic grounds and walks in Bundaleer Forest where the festival takes place, says the event’s Artistic Director, Jenni Frost. “It got to about a kilometre away. You will see some of the effects of it as you drive up,” she says. “Most of the fire was centred in the gullies and ridges behind, but you can clearly see how close it came to the grounds. We were lucky.”
Frost says the same community effort that went into fighting the fire is going into staging the seventh Bundaleer Festival, which is South Australia’s largest regional arts event.
“Everybody is behind it,” says Frost, who is also director at Port Pirie Regional Art Gallery. “The whole community wants to make it work.”
She was handed the job of directing the festival when clarinettist David Shephard, a much admired musical figure who helped guide the event over its 14 years, recently moved to Ulladulla, NSW. “I prefer to call myself artistic programming co-ordinator or something like that, because David put much of the festival’s program in place, so the credit really goes to him.”
She says that devising a program that simultaneously develops the festival’s tourist potential while retaining its feel as a community-focused event can be difficult. “But basically you aim to create something that will please most people while allowing them to try something new, so they go away with experiences they’ve not encountered before.”
This year a world music theme runs through the event’s three days, says Frost. “It’s a bit of a mini WOMAD. There’s Seneoz, a West African percussion band who will site themselves on top of the hill overlooking Bundaleer and will perform a traditional Senegalese call to neighbouring villages to begin festivities. It’s the first time we’re doing this. Then there is Russian balalaika playing from Dieter Hauptmann, who is one of Australia’s foremost balalaika exponents, Ukulele Circus, Australian flamenco and classical guitarist Aloysius Leeson, Akoustic Odyssey, and story-telling with didjeridu in the forest walks.”
Festivities start in Jamestown on the Friday with evening meals and music from local performers. Then action swings to the forest. Pre-concert entertainment will start on the Friday at around 3pm with the award-winning Barbershop quartet Fish Bowl Boys, Ukulele Circus, Seneoz and Akoustic Odyssey. Then comes the twilight concert with guest artists Greta Bradman, soprano, and Rosario La Spina, tenor, with Tim Sexton leading the Adelaide Art Orchestra and State Opera Chorus. Sydney jazz singer Emma Pask and the Bruce Hancock Septet continue proceedings until late. The Sunday offers staged entertainment for families, more food and wine, and forest walks with myriad of musicians, poets and actors dotting the paths.
“It will be magical,” says Frost. “We just want people to come. The whole experience is unique and special. I don’t think there is anything like it anywhere.”
Friday, March 22 to Sunday, March 24