Bring on the music

Chris Kschenka said the regional music industry is hurting with artists keen to get back to normality. Photo: Kim Woods.

While surrounding shires celebrate news of event funding, Narrandera has been left high and dry on the back of the cancellation of its final event for 2020, Rockin’ on East.

The popular event is traditionally held over the October long weekend and was cancelled over safety concerns surrounding COVID-19.

President Allen Law said the committee met in June to make the difficult and emotional decision to call a halt.

“We are absolutely certain this is the right choice to make – we thank all for their support over the last six years helping make the Rockin’ on East festival grow each year,” Mr Law said. “Local businesses were concerned about visitors potentially spreading the virus.

“We rely on a lot of Victorian dance clubs so we can’t risk it. Those dance clubs are determining whether they will attend other festivals for their own safety.

“You’ve got to feel sorry for anyone in the music industry as that is their livelihoods.

“The sad part about it was the majority of motels were booked out for Rockin’ on East.”

Mr Law said the festival relied on sponsorship and fundraising which had been stymied by COVID.

“It could have been a big event for Narrandera but with the circumstances the way they area, it was not to be.

“I do feel for the struggling business houses in the town – it would have brought much needed money back into our community.

“We’ve got to be realistic and plan for something bigger and better in 2021.”

Meanwhile, Leeton’s Art Deco Festival is among 59 regional events receiving a welcome boost to tourism to share in the NSW Government’s $1 million 2020 Regional Event Fund.

No events in the Narrandera Shire received funding but in neighbouring shires, the successful events included the Gears and Beers Festival, Wagga, Lost Lanes, Wagga, Spring Jam, Wagga, Warbirds Down Under, Temora, and Batlow Cider Fest.

Meanwhile, a range of new grant and loan programs will roll out over the next 12 months to different parts of the arts sector to provide capital for production and event business to put on new festivals, concerts, tours and events as social distancing restrictions ease.

Professional musician and Custom Music Narrandera manager Chris Kschenka welcomed the news.

Mr Kschenka said the shire’s bands, solo artists and DJs were itching to get back on stage. He would like to see grants to the clubs and pubs specifically for employing musicians to help them back on their feet.

Mr Kschenka said the regional artists without other regular employment were hurting and others were on JobKeeper but those part-time musicians without an ABN had missed out.

He said work had evaporated overnight in March for his own band, CrackerJack, at venues within a 250km radius.

“We are certainly missing the income from the local festival and events now cancelled.

“There is not a lot of light at the end of the tunnel for big events but solo artists are starting to pick up a little work again as pubs open again.

“But for duos, trios and bands there is nothing on.

“I would like to see bands return to touring the regional areas, doing the hard yards to get their name out there.”

Mr Kschenka said bands were unable to practice together during the COVID-19 lockdown.

“Nationwide there was a big move to people learning a musical instrument or taking up podcasting during self-isolation.

“There is a nationwide shortage of recording equipment, cheap guitars, keyboards and digital pianos – and we have back orders galore for those.”

He welcomed the positivity around the Ardlethan Country Music Festival forging ahead in September.

“The talent quest gives people the chance to get out and perform, and gain exposure.

“People are busting to get out and want to see live bands.”

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