5 June 2024

Henry Lawson front and centre of long weekend celebrations in Grenfell

| Edwina Mason
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Henry Lawson Festival

This weekend the town of Grenfell celebrates its favourite son, poet Henry Lawson, through the 66th annual Henry Lawson Festival of the Arts. Photo: Henry Lawson Festival of the Arts Facebook.

This weekend Grenfell is set to celebrate, yet again, in huge fashion, its favourite son Henry Lawson.

The young lad whose first glimpse of life was the town’s rich diggings, a reef of gold, known as Emu Creek Goldfields, then Grenfell, Lawson would, of course, go on to be one of Australia’s most famous poets and short story writers.

The 2024 Henry Lawson Festival of the Arts is now in its 66th year.

Held annually over the June long weekend, it is one of the state’s oldest rural festivals and a major event for the town.

Renowned for introducing Lawson’s work to generations of fans, the festival aims to promote artistic endeavours bringing the community together to celebrate, with entertainment for everyone, while showcasing the Grenfell region’s heritage and tourist attractions.

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This year there’s an even greater reason for cheer as the long-awaited and newly minted main street – known as Main Street – will give way to feet, music and market stalls, competitions and celebrations which include roving street entertainers.

Organisers believe this could be the best festival yet, with the legendary street parade and authentic country street party leading a packed program which includes poetry reading, a poetry brawl, poet’s breakfast, poetry by firelight, pub performances, plays, a car show, Cobb and Co rides, bike rides, and the not-to-be-missed Caragabal Camp Oven Cook-Off and Iandra Castle Open Day.

There’s even an opportunity to take a selfie with Henry Lawson in the main street!

Every year the festival embraces a theme from one of Henry Lawson’s iconic poems.

2024 is based around the piece Up the Country which reflects Henry Lawson’s deep understanding of the Australian bush and his empathy for the people who lived and worked there.

Up the Country was first published in The Bulletin magazine on 9 July 1892, under the title “Borderland”, and started the Bulletin Debate, a series of poems by both Lawson and Andrew Barton “Banjo” Paterson about the true nature of life in the Australian bush.

In Up the Country, Lawson recounts his trip to the barren and gloomy Australian bush and criticises “city bushmen” such as Banjo Paterson who tended to romanticise bush life.

A special touch at the Henry Lawson Festival this year comes in the form of an art exhibition which pays homage to all that is country, past and present.

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Remnants, a mixed media art installation by three Central West artists, explores forgotten places – gently decaying farms, sheds, houses unused cottages and quarters that pepper the landscape – now tracked with dust and spiderwebs, yet heavy with memories.

Sarah Ryan from Quandialla, Canowindra photographer Kate Barclay and mixed media artist Callista Tam are transforming Grenfell’s Scout Hall into a space for meditation on decaying memories and stories about family and place.

For Sarah Ryan – the creator behind Quandialla Candles – the exhibition was a chance to delve into book pages, correspondence, diaries and fabric, much of it sourced from the multigenerational farm she shares with her family.

The resulting collages are poignant, sometimes mysterious works about times past.

As the idea for an exhibition began to build, Kate Barclay visited Quandialla, Cowra, Temora and Adelong photographing the abandoned interiors of old buildings.

“I have been admitted into spaces that have deep meaning for the community, the landholders and the custodians,” she says.

“Each building photographed held its own form of beauty for me. Monochromatic colour schemes, birds and insects leaving their own patterns or personal items abandoned that have melded into the structure. They all told a story I’ve sought to capture with each image.”

Calista Tam calls her mixed media sculpture “foraging”. Using remnant materials, found objects and metal, her work connects with the beauty found in nature, casting shadows and creating spaces.

Held in the corrugated iron Grenfell Scout Hall – with its own embedded stories – the exhibition will use the existing original space to blend the artworks with the building.

Remnants: there she goes my beautiful world opens from Thursday 6 June, with the official opening on Friday 7 June at 6 pm during the Henry Lawson Festival.

Remnants: Grenfell Scout Hall, 6 Short Street, Grenfell, 6 – 10 June, 10 am – 5 pm

For more details on the 2024 Henry Lawson Festival of the Arts visit www.henrylawsonfestival.com.au

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