Rainbow yarnbombing decorations installed on big trees by the waterfront in Merimbula disappeared early last week after being up for only three days.
The vandalism likely took place on Sunday night (4 October) or the early hours of Monday morning (5 October).
Jenny Manley, of Tura Beach, led 25 knitters who made the artwork in support of Merimbula’s Rainbow Wave festival, which celebrates Bega Valley’s gay and lesbian community and has been postponed twice in 2020.
“I hate to think that someone took it down in anger at the community it was designed to support,” she says.
According to Jenny, CCTV footage of the area wasn’t any help in identifying the vandals because the cameras all faced the shopfronts and when she approached Bega Valley Shire Council, they said no-one from their organisation had taken down the knitting.
The artwork was stitched onto trees, and some of it was placed so high that a ladder would have been needed to take it down, suggesting the act was premeditated.
“You’d need a tool to cut it off the tree,” says Jenny. “I stitched it on pretty tightly because I knew we had some wild weather coming.”
The seaside town of Merimbula is not new to yarnbombing, with Jenny and other eager knitters putting on a colourful display in 2019.
“We’ve done yarnbombing in support of breast cancer awareness and other good causes in the past,” she says. “It has never been tampered with before.
“I did not get permission any of the times we’ve done it in the past, or for the rainbow installation because yarnbombing is about being a random art installation, and the town had lots of yarnbombing last year that was well received and enjoyed by the community.”
The rainbow installation is meaningful to Jenny because her children are peers with many of the young people who are behind the Rainbow Wave festival.
“I’m 65 and I was thrilled at the response I got from knitters my own age or older who wanted to help knit and show our support for the Rainbow Wave community,” she says. “It’s a very inclusive project.”
The vision for the installation came directly from the Rainbow Wave committee, says Jenny.
“When we first started talking about it last year, I said to them all, ‘I’m very happy to knit but you have to tell me your vision.”
Jenny was keen to get the committee involved with knitting as well.
“I asked how many of them could knit and there was silence,” she laughs. “So I was planning to teach some of them how to knit as well, but then COVID-19 happened.”
Now that the rainbow knitting has disappeared, Jenny’s plan to bring awareness to the festival, which will likely go ahead in 2021, has been thwarted.
“I was hoping to leave it up for a few weeks for the first summer visitors to enjoy while keeping the idea of the Rainbow Wave festival alive, and then take it down, wash off the bird poo and recycle the yarn,” she says with a grin.
“It belongs to the Rainbow Wave committee so they could use it to promote the festival or put it back up during the festival. I’d love to return it to them.”
The Rainbow Wave festival has been cancelled twice in 2020 – first in February because of bushfires and then in May because of COVID-19.
“The community interest is still alive and well but there is no date yet for when the festival will go ahead,” says Jenny. “Hopefully in 2021.”
If you were in Merimbula on Sunday, 5 October, or Monday, 6 October, or if you have any information about the rainbow knitting that disappeared, please contact Merimbula police.