Music teacher on learning journey

SCOTLAND BOUND: Port MacDonnell resident Adam Hardcastle will be among a group of Australians who will travel the world this year in search of new ideas, innovation and excellence as recipients of the prestigious Churchill Fellowship.

TRAVERSING the Scottish countryside to attend nine music festivals in nine weeks, Port MacDonnell resident Adam Hardcastle intends to arm himself with knowledge to help sustain community festivals in the Green Triangle region.

The Portland North Primary School music teacher has been selected among a cohort of Australians set to travel the world in 2018 in search of new ideas, innovation and excellence as recipients of the prestigious Churchill Fellowship.

“It is a dream trip for me really – not only as someone who loves music, but as someone who has always been fascinated by what’s going on behind the scenes at music festivals,” Mr Hardcastle said.

“After submitting an online application, I progressed to the interview stage where I had to plead my case in front of 15 people on a committee, which was very intimidating.

“You have four minutes to explain exactly what you will do, why you are the right person to do the research and how you will disseminate the information when you get back and then they just drill you with questions.”

The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, established in 1965 to honour Sir Winston Churchill, offers the fellowship to honour his wish to offer people from all walks of life the opportunity to travel overseas to gain new knowledge and insights that can be practically applied in Australia to positively impact communities and society at large.

More than 100 Australians were announced as 2017 Churchill fellows.

Mr Hardcastle said inspiration struck when he looked at the nature of community music groups in the Green Triangle as part of his doctoral thesis at Monash University.

“It became increasingly clear to me the viability of many of these groups relies on the sustainability of our community festivals,” he explained.

“We have many small festivals in our region into which dedicated people pour energy, but these festivals are often susceptible to factors such as volunteer burn-out, programming uncertainty, funding and insurance difficulty and weather unpredictability.

“I will visit nine small music festivals in maritime locations reminiscent of our environment and will interview the organisers and participants to see what ideas and structures may be useful or inspiring for us here.”

Mr Hardcastle will visit festivals in small towns, with the largest communities being the size of Portland and the smallest no bigger than Port MacDonnell or Nelson.

“We have some very robust festivals in our region, such as Generations in Jazz or the Port Fairy Folk Festival, but it is the smaller festivals, the ones that help an otherwise quiet town or community come together, that interest me the most.

“We certainly have some beautiful smaller community festivals that seem sustainable, such as the Frances Folk festival and the Koroit Irish Festival.

“We also have some very vulnerable small, local festivals – the Portland Upwelling Festival almost folded last year and we no longer have the Limestone Coast Tattoo, despite admirable persistence from dedicated people.

“I want to bring back information that could help to sustain authentic local celebrations.”

Citing the region’s pipe bands and highland dance schools, vibrant immigrant community, choirs, world class jazz musicians and brass bands, Mr Hardcastle said there was a “need and want” for music festivals and celebrations.

“Celebrating one’s own community is good for community cohesion – it contributes to mental health, gives young local musicians increased confidence and provides economic opportunities,” he said.

“I’m able to visit so many festivals in my nine week visit because Scottish festivals do not clash with each other.

“Many of the festivals are held in town halls, churches and libraries, rather than erecting a marquee or purpose-built stage with part proceeds going into the maintenance of those buildings.

“Some have a music focus such as folk, jazz, classical or Celtic, while some celebrate the local fishing industry – they all appear to be sustainable and reflect a local authenticity.

“I hope to share what I see and any information I gather with our local festival committees, community groups, local councils and arts bodies and work with them in any way appropriate to achieve enhanced outcomes for the region.”