Set in the beautiful historic town at the foothills of the Otways, the Birregurra Festival and Art Show – now entering adulthood and celebrating the big two-zero – continues to support the community, with all money raised going straight back into it and becoming one of the state’s ‘must-visit’ with fifteen thousand people expected to attend this year, bringing a $1.8M economic contribution to the region.
With high-quality musicians from the area and further afield, delectable food and wine from the Otways region and a smorgasbord market of arts, crafts, and local products over the weekend, this festival has celebrating community life at the heart of it – and with the celebration of two decades, the team have truly upped the ante with 2019 looking to be the best one yet.
“Birrefest celebrating its 20th anniversary as an important milestone for the community,” says Festival Coordinator Vicki Jeffrey. “From very humble beginnings as a fundraiser for the primary school, the Festival now boasts over 12,000 people over two days enjoying three stages with a wide variety of genres, over 100 market and food stalls, an excellent food and wine area showcasing the regions produce and a variety of children’s activities from the animal nursery, dog jumping, laser tag, reptile encounters, woodchop and more.
“It showcases the community and everything we have to offer in the region,” Vicki continues. “With a long and varied range of events throughout a yearly calendar, there is no other event in the region that reaches so many people and provide such a vast array of entertainment and activities.”
The standout quality this year, however, is again the diverse bunch of talented performers who will entertain the crowds throughout the weekend – and we’re not just saying that.
In what’s set to be a music-lovers treat, the festival will see more than 20 great live music acts across three stages including the likes of space-pop up-and-comers Zoe Fox and the Rocket Clocks, country-folk artists Cookie Baker and Kerryn Fields, Splendour in the Grass alumni Ben Whiting, and Geelong’s own funk rockers The Run.
That’s barely scraping the surface of the musical talent to grace the stages this year. Making the most of all the hidden musical gems the region has to offer, the Festival Music Booker Fiona Brandscheid has put together a diverse live music line-up that rivals many of its regional and even some its metropolitan counterparts.
“This is my first year booking the festival, taking the helm from Andy Forssman who has done a superb job for so many years so it’s big shoes to fill,” Fiona reveals. “Off the back of participating in Music Victoria’s Live Music Professionals program with a swag of other great independent promoters and venue operators, it’s been fun to come to the task with a very fresh set of eyes.
“The festival isn’t a dedicated ‘music festival’ as such. It’s much broader than that and has lots of great activities and reasons for visiting, so there has to be a balance of interesting and high quality music that doesn’t blow the heads off stallholders and visitors who are there for other reasons, as well as balancing opportunities for upcoming local artists such as The Attics while including well established artists from Melbourne and other parts of the country including Cookie Baker, Kerryn Fields and Ben Whiting.
“This year I’ve chosen to make Saturday more contemporary and pop focussed with Momoko Rose, Zoe Fox & the Rocket Clocks and Geelong’s The Run who are super energetic and fun, and Sunday, which has more young families visiting, more chilled and culturally diverse with the fabulous and colourful Senegambian Jazz Band and Lucy & the Night Sky,” Fiona continues. “We’re also very proud to have gender equality billing this year which is something I am personally very committed to. Even though the festival has grown over the years, it is a community festival and it’s always very important for the community to be involved.”
With community participation central to the festival, you’ll also catch a 150+ strong OMM Choir, alongside local music groups and choirs including Running with Zithers, Birregurra Celtic Group, Deans Marsh Singers and Apollo Bay Community Choir, as well as Festival favourites the Mik Maks who have been wowing their young audiences all over the country with their catchy country-rock tunes.
Taking on community feedback year after year has been critical to Birregurra Festival’s growth, and with a recent call for more youth activities, the festival have now introduced a youth quarter in The Yards next to Birregurra Hall in partnership with FreeZA.
“Last year, with the availability of ‘The Yards’, a new landscaped area with a stage next to Birregurra Hall, we activated the space as a buskers stage and invited FreeZA to come along,” explains Fiona. “This year, we’re expanding this idea and dedicating the space on Saturday to a Youth Chill Out Zone where older kids and teens can come along and hang out together, charge their phone at the recharge station, enjoy some fantastic young musicians and watch street artist Damian Arena paint a mural which will stay in the community.
“As well as FreeZA musicians, they can also enjoy hip hop artist Nomad, super talented multi-instrumentalist Daniel Aaron playing loops on guitar and didgeridoo, and folk-funk experimentalist Torii,” Fiona continues. “And then on Sunday, the stage reverts to a busking stage with a range of local acts. The aim is for our festival to be as inclusive as possible and provide space and opportunity for young adults and local musicians to get involved, have a voice and keep the festival alive into the future.”
While there’s no doubt that the music is absolutely top-notch, it’s not the only thing drawing the crowds. Each year, the main street transforms into a vibrant market place selling all sorts of goodies from handcrafts to organic produce and loads of garden plants and displays. You’ll find everything from temporary tattoos, juggling equipment, books, beads, and chains, to jewelry, candles, doggie treats, leather goods, and everything in between.
There’s also plenty for the kids to do this year with a kids circus show and the aforementioned laser tag and reptile encounters, as well annual Festival favourites such as the art show, rock’n’roll dancers, vintage cars, dog jump, animal nursery, kids games fair, cow pat lotto and the woodchop.
It’s the Birregurra Art Show however which will mark the official start of the festival with a gala event held on Friday 11 October. The art show is one of the most prestigious in the country regionally, regularly attracting over 250 high-quality artworks from around the country which will be on display in the Birregurra Hall and provides visitors the perfect opportunity to start or add to their own original art collection.
They say a gold coin doesn’t get you all that much in life anymore, but in the Birregurra Festival and Art Show world, it gains you access to the whole weekend of entertainment.
The Birregurra Festival and Art Show in on the second weekend of October (12 & 13). Check out all the details at www.birregurrafestival.com/