Residents of NSW’s south coast have become the driving force behind a new music and arts festival as preparations ramp up for the multi-day event this week.
The first Wanderer Festival will take place at Pambula Beach starting Friday, with a huge lineup of over 60 local, national and international artists.
The region’s tourism industry has taken constant hits since the 2019-2020 bushfires and the COVID pandemic, but locals hope the festival will put the city back on the map for visitors.
Venue manager and local resident Lachlan Cumming said the event was much needed after the past two years.
“It was really sad to see all the small businesses closing in Merimbula and Pambula,” he said.
“For this to happen and bring so many people to town, it’s amazing.”
The three-day event will feature artists such as Confidence Man, the Teskey Brothers and Wolfmother.
The three main stages were built on site by employees and volunteers ahead of the event. These will host a range of performances including music, arts, circus, workshops and comedy.
There will be a stage for young festival-goers, another for families and one for a mix of the two.
A festival for the community, by the community
The festival’s artistic director, Ian Pidd, said this was a unique opportunity to stage a community-created event.
“The things that excite me the most [above] another thing is the large number of locals who are at the heart of this festival,” he said.
“Visual artists, performers, musicians, but also caterers and sand deliverers and moving trucks.”
Over 300 mostly local residents volunteer to organize the event.
Some create the decor for the festival, others are part of setting up the site, and many will work throughout the festival to help it run smoothly.
Mica Mahani opened his art studio in Bega to give volunteers the space needed to add color to the festival.
She is part of the team that designs and paints the decor for the sign, which she says has been an exciting opportunity.
“These big signs that you see around me are going to hang above the main stage,” she said.
“It’s kind of like being almost super famous, [as] my sign will be located where these great musicians play.”
A return for the festivals
Festival organizer Simon Daly was also the founder of the Falls Festival in the 1990s.
He said it has been a difficult time for the industry since the pandemic.
“I feel like the industry is coming out of a sleep and a hibernation,” Mr Daly said.
“It’s so important for events to actually happen and for big crowds and big experiences.”
He said the recent wet weather has also been a challenge for the live music industry.
In July, the Splendor in the Grass festival was forced to cancel its first day of music due to extremely wet weather.
And more recently, Port Macquarie’s Festival of the Sun canceled its December event due to La Niña forecasts for the summer.
Good weather is expected over the weekend of the Wanderer Festival which will take place from September 23 to 25.