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New 50-day festival for fire-affected communities

Edwina Mason22 August 2020
Fanny Lumsden on horseback on scorched rural land from bushfire.

Tooma local Fanny Lumsden will feature at the inaugural Arbour Festival to be held across 50 days from December to February to commemorate the anniversary of the Dunns Road bushfire. Photo: Supplied.

From the ashes of the Dunns Road bushfire arises a reason for the communities of Batlow, Tumut and Tumbarumba to celebrate with the announcement of a new festival to aid bushfire recovery.

Exactly one year after the calamitous 50-day fire wrought havoc on families, farms, towns, villages and forests in the region east of Kosciuszco National Park, there will be reasons to celebrate and commemorate as the newly anointed Arbour Festival will begin its journey, growing new possibilities and marking the anniversary of the bushfire that changed everything.

Commencing on 28 December, 2020, and continuing until 15 February, 2021, the festival – organised by Eastern Riverina Arts – is designed to gather the community in celebration, memory and growth.

It will be held at treasured local spot Pilot Hill Arboretum, located in the fire-affected Bago State Forest, near Laurel Hill, between Batlow and Tumbarumba.

Pilot Hill Arboretum.

Pilot Hill Arboretum – located between Batlow and Tumbarumba – survived the past summer’s bushfire and will host the Arbour Festival. Photo: Visit NSW State Forests Facebook page.

To the amazement and delight of locals, the arboretum – which sat in dense forest – miraculously survived the firestorm.

Alongside a series of installation artworks situated among the stately trees, a curated series of workshops, talks and adventures will take place during the festival to plant new ideas and give visitors a reason to take a summer holiday in the mountains and locals a chance to gather and regenerate.

A special concert performance by Tooma local Fanny Lumsden and other artists will be another highlight of the Arbour Festival.

Also, after a four-year hiatus, the beloved Woodland Film Festival will return for a special cinema screening held in the forest.

The Arbour Festival will be curated by Regional Arts Australia Fellow Vanessa Keenan, who sheltered from the bushfire on the family farm in Maragle.


READ ALSO: From fire comes Fellowship for Vanessa


She will work with fire-affected artists from across the region to curate the installation artworks and events for the festival.

Vanessa said it is important for the community to come together this coming summer to acknowledge the one-year anniversary of the bushfires.

“There’s a lot of healing that still needs to happen and for some, seeing an artwork or participating in an event provides an opportunity to find connections with what they’ve gone through that doesn’t always involve words,” she said.

Vanessa added that the process of working with fire-impacted artists is rewarding.

“Getting an understanding of how the fires have impacted not only what local artists create but also how they create – the destruction of the landscape has had a profound impact on all of us, not least those who use their surroundings as the source of their creativity,” she said.

Arbour Festival is a project of Eastern Riverina Arts and is supported by the NSW Government through CreateNSW.

Eastern Riverina Arts executive director Dr Tim Kurylowicz said there is a great network of creative people in the Snowy Valleys.

“The Arbour Festival is about them creating amazing events and installations for locals and visitors to experience during the anniversary of these fires,” he said.

The festival will also employ local artists, technicians and businesses during the planning and delivery of the event.

Local artists, businesses and groups are encouraged to participate and should register for more information at the Arbour Festival website.

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