Created by the team behind Strawberry Fields, Good Times is set to be a town takeover.
Upon the banks of the Murray in the quaint township of Tocumwal on the New South Wales side of the border, the team behind the beloved Strawberry Fields festival lay plans for their latest community celebration, Good Times.
“We have a deep relationship with folklore through Strawberry Fields and wanted to start more events there for a really long time and we were on the brink of announcing one prior to COVID and this is that brand,” explains festival director Tara Benney.
“It’s a totally different brand from Strawberry in that it is family-friendly, live music focus only but we just had to adapt what we wanted to do to the times. So we thought how could we deliver something that was going to be really agile for COVID and bring back regional tourism dollars for the area and just get people excited about music in the country again?
“That’s why we designed Good Times to come out in the way it has. It’s in the middle of a dead period for tourism and it’s distributed across multiple historic venues in town.”
The two-day festival coinciding with the winter solstice, Friday June 18 and Saturday June 19, will see Tocumwal come alive with vitality and excitement, attracting attendees from Melbourne, regional Victoria, NSW and beyond to support the regional tourism recovery and business economy bounce-back.
Funded by the federal government’s Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand (RISE) Fund, Good Times also aims to reinvigorate the local creative industry.
“The RISE funding has been super helpful so that we can facilitate a community event and work opportunities for artists and music industry creatives. Whilst we may not be getting 5,000 to our beautiful venue in Strawberry, we’ve still booked out all of the motels in town, we’ve managed to raise at least $20,000 for local causes, we’ve got some great Australian music playing in a small town,” says Benney.
“The local community has been really supportive and are super excited to have something back in town, to have something to boast for local businesses. Tocumwal is a really tourism-focused town and they have really copped the worst side of it. They’ve had a really hard time and it’s the least we can do to kickstart that back up there. Every dollar we raise through the fixed capacity shows goes straight back to the local community in a grants program.”
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As a multifaceted street festival experience, the Good Times program combines live music, art, food, workshops and local historical gems to showcase the talents of our regional towns. Friday night will see neo-soul collective Izy, guitar guru Anna Scionti, and swamp blues trio Southbound Snake Charmers take over local watering hole, Terminus Hotel.
Elsewhere, Josh Teskey and Ash Grunwald will pair up to present their latest album Push the Blues Away at the Tocumwal Memorial Hall, while the likes of Benny Walker, Cash Savage & The Last Drinks, Sagamore, Emma Donovan & The Putbacks, Surprise Chef and BUMPY will also perform at the venue.
“Cash [Savage], Josh [Teskey] and Ash [Grunwald] – all of those three headline acts – all released incredible albums in the last twelve months in their own respect and I think it’s a great chance to let artists, who would have had a big touring year last year with gigs, gigs, gigs, gigs and more gigs, play live and we’re just trying to shine a light on those wicked albums that came out in 2020.
“Blues and soul music are at the heart of the program that we’re trying to put forward but at the same time we have to leave room for that punk rock spirit like Cash.”
Then there’s artists like Danika Smith, Pete Denahy, Matt Katsis, George Kamikawa, Heidi Moncrieff, Shane & Ellie and Mohamed Camara, each of whom will be gracing Deniliquin St for their own pop-up shows.
“It’s the time to let local music shine and we have booked a few artists from the Riverina area like Pete Denahy, Shane & Ellie and Heidi Moncrieff. I think it’s really important that people from regional areas get to be in the limelight as much as those in the city.”
While their music program is certainly a highlight, Good Times also underlines the historic nature of the Tocumwal region and plays into the community thread. Local schools from the area will undertake a lantern making workshop with Lana Scoville and parade them down the main drag of Tocumwal as part of the Riverina Lantern Parade.
Uncle Shane Charles will be doing storytelling for the kids, while the Tocumwal Antique Store will have a pop up fortune teller. A prohibition-era “blind tiger”, i.e. a speakeasy, will also be hidden in the town’s Memorial Hall, and there will also be opportunities for punters to join in on a game of backgammon.
“We’re trying to be as creative as we can given the street festival dynamic,” says Benney.
Fingers crossed Melbourne’s lockdown ends in time to join the Good Times bandwagon.
Good Times goes down on Friday June 18 and Saturday June 19 in Tocumwal, NSW. For more info and tickets, head here.