The Wingham Akoostik Music Festival started nine years ago with humble beginnings.
The inaugural festival was held in Central Park in Wingham, with tickets costing $5 and a program which lasted from 12pm to 8pm on one day only. Featured was Kevin Bennett and the Flood, and local artists who performed for free.
Now the event is a major draw card to the Manning Valley, has been a flagship event in NSW since 2012, and is the annual event on the Wingham calendar that I look forward to the most.
Over the last few years, headline acts have included Ross Wilson and Shannon Noll in 2016, Joe Camilleri and the Black Sorrows, and James Reyne just to name only a few.
The Backsliders duo of Dom Turner and Rob Hirst enjoyed last year’s festival so much they returned again this year.
When I interviewed Dom Turner for the Wingham Chronicle, he said the band members loved the country vibe.
“As well as that, festivals that are located in country areas have a particular feel and as a band we enjoy that. They’re quite unique in that they tend to be very community focused. And that’s a real positive, it sort of makes it all a really lovely family environment,” he said.
On stage last Sunday, Shannon Noll also extolled the value of not-for-profit community festivals, such as Akoostik, and how much he enjoyed performing at them.
Community is what Akoostik is all about. There is a strong sense of belonging, Donna Ballard told me, with even punters from out of the area feeling they ‘belong’ to the Akoostik community.
Market stall holders return each year asking if they can have ‘their’ spot from previous years.
Campers too … friendships have been formed with neighbouring campers who now wish to be together in the campgrounds come festival time.
On reflection, apart from the obvious – the grooves and good food, that sense of community is what makes Akoostik very dear to my heart.
That reason could be eclipsed next year, though, by suggestions of the headline act they are hoping to attract. If the Ballards succeed, all of my dreams will have come true, and the Akoostik Festival will be blown right out of the category of ‘small’ festival.
But I can’t tell you who, because then Donna would have to kill me.