Summer Dreams festival gets Bellingen dancing

Gunganbuwala, a Gumbaynggirr language choir led by Uncle Micklo Jarrett, performs for the Bello crowd.


MUSIC and performing arts lovers of all ages converged on the Summer Dreams festival at the Bellingen Showgrounds from 17-18 December.

The relaxed two-day festival was a celebration of all things great about Bellingen; with a focus on building community, fostering creative expression and highlighting local talent.

Organised by Ahva Dub, Director, UMBL Music, the lineup was an eclectic mix of locals and artists from further afield.

No two acts were the same, each bringing their own unique style and musical approach to the stage.

Kicking off on Friday afternoon, festival-goers were treated to an incredible range of genres, with highlights including Jumbaal Dreamin’, which featured Uncle Martin Ballangarry playing alongside his sons and nephews; and Queensland dance band OKA.

Saturday was another bumper day of music and performance, with activities ranging from yoga in the morning to an intense display from Esasni Puppetry as the sun went down.

In the afternoon, Gunganbuwala, a Gumbaynggirr-language choir led by Uncle Micklo Jarrett, had the crowd singing in a beautifully authentic performance that inspired and informed the audience.

Later, DJs took to the stage as revellers danced the night away under a clear Bellingen sky.

Speaking to News Of The Area on Saturday afternoon, event organiser Ahva Dub described the festival as a “raging success”.

“There has been a little bit of rain and a little bit of sunshine and a lot of love,” Ahva said.

“A lot of people are catching up with old friends, sharing the good vibes and good music, just relaxing.

“When the big bands came on, everyone was just up and jumping and getting their dance groove on.

“You can really feel the happiness, and see it on everyone’s faces, that’s what it is all about.”

Ahva said it was great to see such a diverse cross-section of the community enjoying the festivities.

“When you think of community and you invite people along and just be open to that, it’s amazing.”

With so many music and arts events postponed in 2020 and 2021 due to the impacts of Covid-19, Ahva said artists had been “itching” to take to the stage.

“People are able to show the talents that they have got, and they have been itching to show that for quite a while.

“They haven’t had much of an opportunity.

“Events like this are really important for people’s headspace, just to feel normal again and come together to celebrate the talent in their local community,” Ahva said.

For Uncle Martin Ballangarry, the festival was truly a family affair, with his playing group composed almost entirely of immediate family members.

“We really enjoyed ourselves,” Uncle Martin said.

“We have been playing together since the kids were in high school.

“They are all my kids, all six of them.”

When a bass playing family member pulled out last minute, there was no panic for Martin and the band.

“We bring family musicians in from every angle,” he said.

“Our bass player pulled out last night, so my other nephew said, ‘It’s okay Uncle I’ll play your songs’.”

“Anyone from the family can join in at any time, and just pick it up and run with it.”

Joining Uncle Martin and the band was ring-in drummer Leon Tussi, who also took to the stage for his own set on Saturday.

“We had Leon join us on the drums,” said Uncle Martin.

“We were honoured to have him, it was just deadly.”

With the event branded a success by organisers and attendees alike, Uncle Martin would like to see more events of the same nature taking place in Bellingen, the Coffs Coast and the Nambucca Valley.

“I have been working with Lauren and Ahva (organisers) on and off, sharing ideas about a festival of this kind.

“This is a great start, and I think it can happen even bigger in the very near future,” he said.


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