The late Peter Nance, then President of Camp Creative, a community organization dedicated to the promotion and development of creativity, founded the Bellingen Music Festival in 2010. The Festival, now known as the Bellingen Fine Music Festival, has been held annually since then and is a major and highly anticipated event in the cultural calendar of the NSW Mid-North Coast. The Festival is now an activity of the Bellingen Community Arts Council.
The Festival has a strong reputation for its high quality and innovative program and is achieving its vision to be a significant regional music festival in the Australian calendar, presenting high quality music from differing classical traditions and performed by a diversity of established, emerging and local artists.
Over the years and partially through the growing Fringe program, the Festival’s repertoire has been successfully widened to include not only the many types of classical music, but also contemporary jazz and world music.
In past years the Festival has presented marvelous performers like the shakuhachi master Riley Lee, tango group Tangalo and the collaborative Indian-Spanish ensemble Rasa Duende. Last year’s performers included the Taikoz Quartet. We aim to make the Festival a truly enjoyable event, recognising that people enjoy different kinds of musical experiences when it comes to ‘fine’ music. To our delight, audiences are growing year by year.
As for the Festival’s small name change, the Festival committee felt that calling it the Bellingen Music Festival was too restrictive, (and also led to confusion following the arrival of what is now known as Bello Winter Music) so they added the word ‘Fine’. Fine has become an accepted term in classical circles in recent years, and allows for other related genres to be included, which has helped the Festival establish its own distinct media image. As long as the playing (or singing) is of an exceptionally high standard it can qualify as Fine Music.
A unique and distinctive feature of the Bellingen Music Festival is its Music-by-Youth Project, which is coming into its fifth year thanks to initial financial support from the Australian Government, ongoing financial support from the Camp Creative Board and many other kinds of support from the local community, not least its amazing music teachers. Initially the brainchild of young composer Andrew Batt-Rawden, the Music-by-Youth Project supports and mentors local young musicians through performance in the Festival and participation in associated workshops. Music HSC students have been fortunate enough each year to have their works recorded in Sydney and performed at the Festival by the generous and supportive Acacia Quartet.
We are very proud of the fine young musicians of the Mid-North Coast and of our role, through the Music-by-Youth Project, in helping and supporting them and providing opportunities not only for them to perform in a professional setting, but also to have their compositions recorded and performed by a professional ensemble. Composer Paul Jarman regularly acts as a mentor/adjudicator to the students and in 2016, he was also the Festival’s Composer-In-Residence. In 2019 we are delighted that Musica Viva has come on board in support of the Project.
The Festival is very grateful for the support of the community. We receive much support in kind as well as financial support from the Bellingen Shire Council, Camp Creative and the Regional Arts Fund as well as from many local businesses such as Planet Lighting and Windsong Travel.