DMA’s, Hockey Dad, The Preatures hit the stage for the Grow Your Own music festival
Singer and guitarist Kelly Jansch from the Wollongong band Totty on stage. (ABC Mid North Coast: Sarah Maunder)
It can be hard to see big music acts if you live in regional Australia, which is exactly why Holly Rankin — known by her stage name, Jack River — created the Grow Your Own festival for the NSW Mid North Coast sister towns of Forster-Tuncurry.
“I’m from Forster, and I never got local music on a big stage there, or national bands coming to town,” Ms Rankin said.
Holly Rankin, aka Jack River, on stage at Grow Your Own. She said it was special to be able perform for her hometown. (ABC Mid North Coast: Sarah Maunder)
“So my friends and I hatched the idea to bring all the best things about Forster-Tuncurry and Mid North Coast — food, art and music — together for the Grow Your Own festival.”
The Grow Your Own festival is not just music.
There is a Grower’s Area with food stalls from local producers, gardeners and farmers sharing stories and hosting workshops, a cinema featuring locally-produced films, and lots of art.
Now in its third year, Grow Your Own is attracting bigger audiences and bigger names.
This year the music headliners included the DMA’s, Hockey Dad, the Preatures, Mallrat, and of course, Jack River.
Lead singer of The Preatures Isabella ‘Izzi’ Manfredi on stage at the Grow Your Own Festival. (ABC Mid North Coast: Sarah Maunder)
“Now it’s grown into a much bigger beast,” Ms Rankin said.
“We just partnered with Secret Sound who run Splendour in the Grass and the Falls Festival.
“We’ve got the most incredible national team working on making something for the youth of the Mid North Coast.”
Hockey Dad was one of the headliners at the 2019 Grow Your Own Festival. (ABC Mid North Coast: Sarah Maunder)
Rosie Smith is the co-ordinator of the Grower’s Area and said the festival is about giving the locals a music scene while also showing off what the region has to offer.
“[The Grower’s Area] is like this broad area filled with local goodness,” she said.
“It’s an interesting thing; you can watch the bands, come in and grab some food, talk to a farmer or a producer, and sit-down and watch a local film.”
More than 3,000 people attended the Grow Your Own Festival, with crowds doubling from last year. (ABC Mid North Coast: Sarah Maunder)
“Last year we had these amazing dairy farmers who were swamped all day by crowds who wanted to know what they do. It was a fascinating thing for people to learn about.”
Ms Smith runs markets in the nearby town of Taree and has been working for the last 15 years to help sustain local businesses and keep young people in the area.
“We’re all in this together in the Mid Coast region.
“We’ve got to work together to sustain that local culture, not just a cover band in the pub, it’s about getting people making original music, like our director Holly Rankin who grew up not being able to play anywhere or see anything locally.”
Education and support
Dancewize NSW coordinator Jess Murray handing out orange slices to the crowds at Grow Your Own. (ABC Mid North Coast: Sarah Maunder)
This year, Dancewize NSW, a harm reduction outreach program, had a visible presence at Grow Your Own, providing support and education to the festival-goers.
“Harm reduction is essentially drug education and compassionate care,” Jess Murray said, the Dancewize NSW coordinator.
“We have roving teams at festivals checking in on the crowds, making sure they’re okay, getting enough water, sun cream — that sort of thing.
“If there’s anyone in trouble, we have eyes on them and we can get them support.
Dancewize also has an education stall and a private area for people who might be feeling overwhelmed or need a break.
Diego Rivera is a volunteer with Dancewize NSW offering support to anyone who might need it. (ABC Mid North Coast: Sarah Maunder)
“We teach everyone that the best way to avoid harm from drugs is not to take them, but if you are going to make that decision, it’s better to be informed,” Ms Murray said.
Diego Rivera has been a volunteer for Dancewize NSW since it started 18 months ago.
“We are festival-goers ourselves, so we do everything from having chats with people, handing out lollipops, to dealing with a psychosis,” he said.
“Essentially it’s just being in the moment and giving unconditional positive regard to the person in care.”