28 July 2023

Fungi festival growing strong with plans for return after inaugural success

| Claire Sams
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Participants gathered in Merimbula for one of the Fungi Feastival's workshops

Participants gathered in Merimbula for one of the Fungi Feastival’s workshops. Photo: Fungi Feastival.

Following a fungi-inspired festival on the South Coast selling out several events, one of the organisers says fungi might be having their moment in the sun.

Fungi Feastival co-convener Annette Kennewell said she and the other conveners had seen strong support for their festival.

“I’m feeling really, really happy at how it all went,” she said.

“We had a lot more interest in the Fungi Feastival than I imagined, and so I think people are really embracing the fungi.”

The Feastival launched earlier this year and ran from 16 June to 16 July with workshops, documentary showings and fungi-themed offerings from local restaurants from Batemans Bay to Eden.

“Nearly every event sold out and had waitlists,” Ms Kennewell said.

“We had lots of enquiries from people looking to get involved or from people saying, ‘Oh, I missed out’.

“At the workshops, we had people saying they had come from as far away as the Sydney, Canberra and Wollongong regions, and that was exactly what we wanted to happen,” she said.

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Ms Kennewell said this demand was driven by a growing interest in the world of the humble mushroom and other fungi.

“I think it’s just that people are becoming more aware of the importance of fungi in the environment.

“We all know about the animal kingdom and we all know about the plant kingdom – but the fungi kingdom is much bigger than that.”

Showing their confidence in the demand for the event is their confirmation that the Fungi Feastival will be returning in 2024.

Ms Kennewell and her fellow conveners are already at work thinking about next year’s events.

“At this stage, nothing is specifically locked in,” she said.

But while they are still early in the planning process, Ms Kennewell could confirm there would be the same focus on the “food, science and art of fungi” as there was during the inaugural festival.

Ms Kennewell believes people were keen to attend so they could walk away with hands-on skills and knowledge.

“I think people have become very interested in having local food and having the ability to grow their own fruit and vegetables at home.

“I think during COVID, people became much more interested because they were isolated and so wanted to become more self-sufficient,” she said.

“Although I grow mushrooms in my small farm, it is something that people can grow in their own homes or in an urban environment.”

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Ms Kennewell said the hope was the Fungi Feastival brought those willing to brave the winter cold to the South Coast and its other attractions (fungi-related or otherwise).

“We are famous for our oysters and seafood; we are famous for our cheese and dairy,” she said.

“We want to be famous for our mushrooms and truffles as well.”

Ms Kennewell said organisers would soon be asking for feedback as she and her fellow co-conveners prepared for the next Fungi Feastival.

“We’ll put a survey together to get feedback from our communities on the coast, feedback from those outside our communities, feedback from the vendors that were involved.

“That’ll help us plan for next year.

“We do intend to make the Fungi Feastival an annual event,” she said.

“We’re very excited about the opportunity to showcase fungi in the Far South Coast region annually.”

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