The 24th Annual Byron Bay Bluesfest has drawn another successful year to a close, and with it the news that festival organisers are planning to use the Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm site to host a brand new addition to the music festival calendar that celebrates indigenous music and culture.
The inaugural Boomerang Festival, funded and promoted by Bluesfest's Peter Noble and directed and curated by Bundjalung woman Rhoda Roberts, will take place over three days in October 2013, showcasing a mixture of traditional and contemporary music, as well as a focus on the culture of Australia's First Peoples with dance, rituals, arts, workshops, ceremonies, and cultural exchange.
The announcement of Boomerang was officially made on the Saturday night of Bluesfest with a showcase featuring performances from Christine Anu, Thelma Plum, Tjupurru, Leah Flanagan and Airileke at the newly added festival venue, The Lotus Palace, and the official Bluesfest website promises a unique festival experience with a similarly "eclectic" lineup.
As ABC News confirms, acts already confirmed for Boomerang's 2013 launch include Aussie pop veteran Christine Anu, singer Casey Donovan, and Arnhem Land's The Chooky Dancers. Aside from the music, the festival plans to include a multicultural arts and traditions focus, including visual arts and crafts, 'knowledge' walks and tours, panels and forums, and a cultural exchange from the Bundjalung clans.
The festival aims to spread Aboriginal people's passion for land, arts, and culture, says Festival Director Rhoda Roberts, which in turn will help create more opportunities for indigenous artists.
"I want our artists to get work; I don't want to see Archie Roach have to live below the poverty line because he believes in the music he does," Ms Roberts tells ABC. "I'm so passionate about our artists, and it's about them getting gigs and getting exposure but more importantly it's about an inclusiveness in the local community and a sort of ownership."
Bluesfest promoter Peter Noble was equally enthusiastic about the new festival, emphasising how proud he was to be hosting the event on the Byron Bay site. Hosting a significant cultural event on the Bluesfest site which is actually Bundjalung country not only makes sense, but makes me proud," he told the Northern Star.
Boomerang Festival already has a budget of $1.2 million for its October launch, fronted by Noble, but the promoter is also hoping for support from governmental arts bodies to provide some financial support. "Whether that happens or not, we're doing it," says Mr Noble.
Speaking to ABC, newly appointed Arts Minister Tony Burke demonstrated his interest in Boomerang's potential, but could not confirm whether the Federal Government would be backing the festival financially while they were initiating the guidelines for Creative Australia, the new National Cultural Policy.
However, Mr Burke encouraged Boomerang Festival organisers to apply for an arts grant. "We'll set up the programs, they'll put in applications if it's something that they want, and we'll take it from there."
The Chooky Dancers
+ more to be announced