Fairbridge Wrap Up Part 1
Another Fairbridge has come and gone, and boy- what a weekend it was! The 22nd Annual Fairbridge Festival started strong on Friday night and continued well into the wee hours of Sunday night/Monday morning.
Fairbridge is my most anticipated weekend of the year. The atmosphere is like none other, and if you haven’t been to this gorgeous little bush festival then you really have not lived. Fairbridge holds such a special place in my life because I grew up just down the road. I spent many a day wandering this tiny eco-village on the outskirts of Pinjarra, getting way dirtier than I needed to be and having some of the best times of my life. I’m now lucky enough to be a proud owner of one of the trees from the ‘Avenue of Trees’ project on the driveway into Fairbridge- which means I have my own tiny part of my favourite place in the world and that means everything to me.
For those of you that don’t know the history of this little part of the world- here’s a small summary. Kingsley Fairbridge and his wife Ruby came to Australia in 1912 from South Africa and established the worlds first Fairbridge Farm school, where they looked after a total of 3580 children between 1913 and 1983. Almost all of these children were poor and orphaned. While they were at Fairbridge these children stayed at the residences, went to school and unfortunately, some also died while they were living there, creating the legacy of Fairbridge ghost stories that the old timers love to tell. Fairbridge was especially important during World War II because it was used as a hospital, a training depot, and so many more things. Fairbridge is now the perfect tourist destination, it’s used a lot for school camps and many a Youth Program is run out of there too, continuing on the heritage of looking after children. Of course it’s also the ideal location for the festival because of its distance from real-life, and noise complaints, as well as having large areas where people can camp and multiple places where stages can be placed. It’s a three day festival starting at 4pm on Friday and not stopping until 10.00pm on Sunday. There are three camping areas for the festival: Oval, Fields, and Kingsley, or you can stay in one of the many cottages if you book in early and there is anything left.
‘Oval’ is just what it sounds like, camping on an oval. It’s really close to the festival which is great but if it rains, roll the dice and pray that your tent doesn’t end up underwater. Oval is where your tent will be set up if you choose the ‘Cosy Camping’ festival option where someone comes in and sets up a tent and bed for you so it’s ready when you get there, and packs it down again for you afterwards. This is a handy option if you don’t own your own camping gear, or if you’re very busy. ‘Fields’ is my favourite. You’re in a beautiful valley so it gets very cold at night but it’s worth it to wake up to the picturesque surrounds of the rolling Fairbridge Hills. It is a bit of a walk back to the festival which is nice to wake you up but can get tiresome after a while-especially if you forgot something and had to go back for it……. like I did about six times this year. ‘Kingsley’ is supposed to be the nicest camping ground and it sells out very quickly so I can’t actually tell you anything about it, having never camped there. If you have though- let us know in the comments! You can also buy a day pass to the festival if you can’t spare the whole weekend, or separate day passes if you have a house nearby and you just go home and sleep there if that suits you. There’s an option for everyone!
Fairbridge has showers, and toilets, aplenty, which is good because there is so much red and black dust and dirt you won’t feel clean for weeks afterwards…. The showers range from a slow steady cold dribble to a more consistent boiling hot dribble- and I wouldn’t have it any other way. ‘Will I be clean before the water turns cold?’ shower time-challenges are one of the many things that make the festival what it is. There’s also an impressive array of food and drink vans that show up each year to feed the masses. There’s pizza, kebabs, curries, burgers, crepes, smoothies, nachos, ice-cream as well as vegetarian food, Brazilian food and even whole coconuts! Last year they ran out of chai halfway through the festival, and I was very upset. This year there was an abundance of chai so I was very pleased with that. Good job guys!
All of the cutlery and food containers are made from a compostable material and there are volunteers at every bin yelling ‘WORM COMPOST!’ or ‘RECYCLABLE!’ at you in case you get confused, which is really easy to do because there are so many different bin lid colours. They did a really great job- thanks volunteers! There’s a range of arts and crafts stalls too, as well as plenty of street theatre, henna, hair braiding/wrapping/dreading and plenty of other random handmade delights to keep even the pickiest of shoppers happy.
This year the weather was absolutely atrocious, but you know what? Everyone was in the best mood from the amazing performances that it didn’t even matter. I’m still not completely dry (and I’m not sure if I will ever get the damp out of my hair again) but I had one of the best weekends of my life, so I really can’t complain. The weather made me run for cover in the nearest venues, which made me stumble into bands I may not have even seen otherwise, so I’m very grateful for the stormy weather. It also turned the floor into mud which meant we weren’t breathing in the dust anymore, but it also makes things a bit sticky so I’m glad there were no serious injuries.
Now there are fifteen venues at the festival and they range from very big to very small. I can’t talk about them all but I will tell you my favourites, and you can decide for yourself which one you like.
I’ll start with The Chapel. You can’t come to Fairbridge and not see something in here. It’s a very small venue, and pews aren’t the most comfortable seats ever but the atmosphere and acoustics in here are like nothing else. Hauntingly beautiful.
The Hoopla Stage is another favourite- aptly named due to the location on a basketball court. This is the dance stage, there’s a massive floor with a tent over the top so you can boogey the night away while still staying dry.
The Mandja is the main stage, and is where the festival starts and ends. ‘Mandja’ means ‘meeting place’ in Noongar and the massive tent is filled with hundreds of chairs so you can sit and relax, as well as having a small dancefloor in case you feel the need to display your pleasure in a more visual way.
The last venue I will tell you about is Rubys Bar. Named for Kinsley Fairbridges wife- this venue is licensed, so you can get a drink from the wine bar and relax in style while listening to one of the many fantastic bands on offer.
This year Fairbridge has gone under a rebranding. I love the new look of the festival and think that a change is as good as a holiday. I did think the physical size of the programs this year was too big, the little A5 sized booklets that are normally provided were much more convenient and I found that my one this year was just too large to carry around. Other than that the new festival face is great!
I would also like to take this opportunity to mention Steve Barnes. Steve has been the Artistic Director of this festival for 18 of its 22 years and this one was unfortunately his last. Steve- thanks so much for all of the amazing things you have done, I think I speak for anyone that has attended the festival when I say that you’ve made all of us really happy with the bands you have booked, and the music you have exposed us to. Every year the line-up is fantastic and you have gone from strength to strength. I hope you enjoy some well-deserved time off! Steve hands the reins over to Rod Vervest who I am sure will be an asset to the festival, we look forward to what next year has in store in his capable hands.
I often like to say that Fairbridge is one of the only festivals where you can ask the audience to sing, and they do it in tune- with harmonies as well if you ask nicely. I have never experienced anything like the community of people that is this festival. Everyone you meet is kind, interesting and a true music lover. I have never seen anyone acting in a mean spirited way, or upset, or angry. It’s something that has to be seen to be believed but I really do feel lucky to have found an environment where everyone feels safe, and comfortable in their own skin. It’s a really beautiful place to be and I just cannot wait for next year…. I’m already counting down the days.
There’s so many great bands I saw at Fairbridge that I haven’t mentioned yet, but that will have to wait for another day…. I have had almost no sleep and my hands are about to fall off from typing. Stay tuned for the other half and in the meantime let us know what you think! Tweet us: @isolatednation, @perthsoundchic or leave a comment in the box below.