Over recent years, the town of Candelo has caught the attention of ABC Radio National presenters.
Many of Candelo’s resident musicians, such as Heath Cullen, Melanie Horsnell, David Ross MacDonald (The Waifs), Robyn Martin, Pete Wild, Michael Menager, Sam Martin & Phil Moriarty (of Mikelangelo & the Black Sea Gents), and myself have all been featured on programs like The Inside Sleeve, RN Afternoons and The Daily Planet.
Presenters like The Inside Sleeve’s Paul Gough have cottoned onto the fact that there’s something special happening in Candelo town, and they regularly shine a spotlight on the region when a new album is released.
However, ABC Radio National is set to cut all but one of its music programs in 2017 – including every single one of the programs mentioned above, in a move toward a spoken-word, digital model for the national station.
How will this affect Candelo musicians and their livelihood? And what does it mean for regional RN audiences?
Candelo resident David Ross MacDonald has played drums with Australian folk-pop legends The Waifs for almost two decades.
“On the times I have got to play live and record in the ABC it has always felt like I was participating in a bigger Australian story that encompasses national identity and also felt a sense of pride and professional opportunity during such experiences.
“The cancellation or scaling back of music programming at the ABC will be to the greater detriment of the Australian music industry and also diminish the valuable role music plays in the creation and bolstering of national identity,” he says.
Radio National plays a special role in the life of many regional musicians and audience members.
Candelo’s Michael Menager notes:
“It’s how many of us keep up with new developments, new ideas, new sounds from all over Australia (and the world) right from our regional homes.
“And – as has happened for me and for other regional artists – Radio National (in my particular case, via The Inside Sleeve) has given us the opportunity to play our songs and to talk about our music in front of a nationwide audience.
“To share the art that we create, and the process by which we create it, with listeners that we wouldn’t be in touch with otherwise,” Michael says.
“In Lucky’s show, I found a daily dose of new inspiration and discovered much of the music that would become a tangible part of who I am as an artist, as a human,” Heath says.
“My work takes me all over the country, and wherever I go, RN has played a major part in connecting me with my audience – there are always people have heard my work on an ABC RN program, and so they come along to a show,” he says.
Candelo’s Robyn Martin, who has come back from a national tour with her sister Jodi Martin, says:
“Airplay and interviews on Radio National have been some of the most consistent forms of support I have received for the tours and albums I have been involved with.
“It is not easy to sustain a music career and it is even harder to imagine how to go forward with this professional life with diminishing opportunities on Radio National,” Robyn says.
“Many regional listeners also comment that RN music shows provide a lifeline; particularly in difficult times, diffusing the effects of isolation and in combating mental health issues, which we know plague our regional communities,” Ruth says.
“While these are fabulous Australian institutions, we do not believe that we will be represented to the same degree by these services.”
Candelo musician Pete Wild describes the wider cultural impact of the cuts:
“The loss of RN music programming will limit Australians’ exposure to diverse cultural ideas and forms, and will make this country less harmonious and more boring.”
Change can be refreshing, but the cuts to RN seem more like a cultural slap on the wrist than a healthy makeover.
Can the ABC guarantee that future programming will be supportive of Australian arts?
“Our national broadcaster’s charter requires it ‘to encourage and promote the musical, dramatic and other performing arts in Australia’ and Radio National have, up until now, always done it well,” says Heath Cullen.
Sign the petition to save music on ABC Radio National – HERE