3. 3. 17
by Shannessy Danswan
We begin this tale in a courtyard on Fryer Street, in a venue laced with fairy lights, scattered with musicians and rural-inspired art. A venue graced with the presence of many excited local and non-local festival-goers, containing a strong sense of pride and appreciation for the extensive festival history of the ‘Greater Shepparton’ region.
The most prominent part of the evening consisted of speeches reminiscing about the evolution of Shepparton Festival since its creation in 1997. The festival has adopted the tag line “Unique events in unusual places” alongside a theme of “mapping” to represent its program of 44 events spanning across 17 days. This theme is directly reflective of the innovative culture and mindset of "Greater Shepparton". Having been here for only hours, I can already sense the wonderfully homely, humble and heartfelt nature of the Shepparton arts community. The love each speaker expressed tonight for the experiences they have had at this festival, highlighted their wholehearted gratitude. The speakers this evening called Shepparton Festival a “catalyst for a strong, proud and dynamic community” and a “place to work, play and live”.
Evidence that the communal qualities of Shepparton are integral to the growth of the festival have been displayed through the continuous work of Daphne and Ross Turnbull. These two beautiful humans won the harmonica-shaped Contribution Award for 2017. This unquenchable couple with a thirst for cultivation have continued the involvement of their familial Turnbull Orchard. The Turnbull’s physical contribution to the environment for the festival has been a life long journey. Daphne traded ballet buns and cosmopolitan London for gardening gloves and the broad landscape of Greater Shepparton. Locals say that they “immediately think of fruit, dance and music” when reminded of the Turnbull Orchard, which has been over a 100 years in the making. Congratulations to the Turnbull family!
This evening, I was also introduced to two of my first art installations at the Shepparton Festival. Sydney based "cartonographer" Sean Rafferty curated a collection of Australian vegetable and fruit cartons to map out the Shepparton region. At a glance, the wall appeared bright, colourful and well-structured, but also non-eventful. It wasn’t until I learned the context in which these cartons were created that I found a deeper appreciation for his art and the relevance it contained for the people of Shepparton and the agricultural history of this region..
One of the highlights of the night was the sceening of Matthew Head’s "Map of Shepparton". Not only was this map visually stunning (thanks to the wonderful team at CAF Consulting and their drones) but the soundscape was incredibly beautiful. With an almost tribal feel, the music explored the strong “communal” elements of Greater Shepparton that make the region such a unique place for the locals. I even overheard people chattering during the viewing saying things like, “That’s the roundabout I go around every day!” and “That’s so and so street.” This brought a smile to my face and really highlighted the effectiveness of Head’s artwork. I hope he is aware he has achieved something very special.
This town may be geographically small but makes up for it with enormous amounts of passion and originality.