Having missed last year’s Balingup Telling Tales Festival because I was overseas, I was looking forward, even more than usual, to going back there this year. I felt like a family member returning home after a long absence and wondered if anything would have changed. Of course there were some thing that had changed, but not the people of Balingup. They are remarkable, especially in this age of the individual, in that the whole town gets behind the Festival and helps out in whatever way they can. The streets are decorated with life sized story book people. A parade of real live locals, young and old, all dressed as well-known characters from fairy tales and children’s books, come out to play – some of them for a whole day of the two-day event. And all the local businesses contribute in some way. The cafes and restaurants provide free food and drink for all the presenters. Other businesses offer space in their premises to accomodate the many writing and illustrating sessions on offer. An army of helpers move furniture, deliver chairs, heaters, art equipment, coffee and anything else’s that may be needed.
There were two noticeable changes this year. One is that we all gathered in the town on Friday and Saturday evenings for our meals. Two local restaurants opened their doors especially for us and we had two different, but equally lovely meals. In the past the hard-working committee members have cooked for us and delivered our evening meals to one of the two cottages where the out-of-town presenters stay. I can not begin to imagine, with everything else they have going on, how these four remarkable women manage to run a huge festival and deliver a home cooked meal to fourteen hungry people two nights in a row! But they have, for six of the seven years the Festival has been running. What a commitment! I for one am all in favour of anything that lightens their load.
The other change is that, while a huge crowd attended the festival on the first day (Saturday) there were very few people on the street or in the workshops on the second day. Mind you, the temperature was 0% on Sunday morning and didn’t get much warmer until the sun came out just after lunch. By then the Festival was almost over to allow people from elsewhere to make it safely home by a reasonable hour. In this case ‘elsewhere’ ranged from Kalgoorlie, over a thousand kms away, to Nannup, just half an hour down the road.
Perhaps next year there will be other changes. Whatever happens I will do what I can to ensure that this amazing event continues. Thank you Balingup.