Every year, Mossvale Park is host to at least one music festival and the first one for this year was the Summer of Soul. The Summer of Soul was organised by the Lyrebird Arts Council Inc and is one of many events that they organise each year in South Gippsland. Acts this year included The Cat Empire, Paul Kelly, Dan Sultan, Clairy Browne, Kira Puru, Vika and Linda Bull, and many others. Mossvale Park is an idyllic location for such music festivals, nestled in a pleasant valley surrounded by historic trees that provide shade on the hottest of days (and some shelter on a wet day) and with a sound stage that is what you could call a micro Sidney Myer Music Bowl (sort of).
Unfortunately, the weather over the last few days has been pretty miserable, with not only major rainfall forecast, it’s also been falling consistently this past week (50mm in our backyard already). Thankfully, the heaviest falls have been to the north and south of Mirboo North, so we’ve been receiving lesser amounts; though we’ve still had enough rain to have a dampening effect on Mossvale Park, which gets very boggy when we get consistent rainfall over several days, and which floods easily when we get heavier rain. The weather radar for the morning was at least showing that we were well below the worst of it, but by no means completely out of it, as evidenced by the cloud patterns (the radar apparently only picks up the heaviest of the rain).
So it was with some trepidation that I left for Mossvale Park this Saturday afternoon, expecting the worst and certainly prepared for some very boggy ground, but it all turned out fine, as the grounds were dry and firm, and the weather turned out not all that bad afterall. Once an event like this is put into motion it’s very difficult to cancel at short notice and, unless the park was completely underwater, the show must go on. It’s surprising from how far and wide people come to attend such events and it was the one thing that I really wanted to cover in this story. The acts performing at the event get enough coverage most of the time, but they wouldn’t exist were it not for the people willing to travel to attend these festivals and, as the afternoon rolled along, the numbers kept growing.
For the organisers, it’s a massive task, considering that it requires so many volunteers to set things up, and organise and coordinate activities. As the festival has grown, it’s required more and more effort, as well as facilities to cater to the people attending, and that hasn’t made things any easier or cheaper. That said, the members of the Lyrebird Arts Council are determined to keep the event on the calendar, as it’s such a popular, well attended and most certainly well reported event. I think despite all of the hard work involved, the volunteers do seem to enjoy the fruits of their labour.
People came from far and wide, even as far away as Darwin according to the organisers. For some it was their first festival, but for most that I spoke to this afternoon, it was at least their second or third time, with one group indicating that they’d been to every festival since inception. Some attended their first festival because of the bands that were playing, but enjoyed it so much that they returned once more because of the atmosphere. And what a great bunch of people had gathered at Mossvale Park this weekend; so it’s a pity that I can’t show more, but some of the groups really caught my attention by how relaxed and ready they were for the festival. If the people at the Summer of Soul could be described in one word, it would be ‘diverse’.
Everyone that I spoke to repeated that the reason they keep coming back, was not really because of the bands that were playing; it was the atmosphere, the beauty of the park, the fact that it was a relatively small event (which made it seem much more of a family gathering than a normal music festival – though some reports suggested that there were over 5000 attendees), as well as the outstanding organisation. Without doubt, South Gippsland has certainly captured the hearts of many of the people that keep returning to this annual festival.
I did want to speak to at least one performing group before I left, just to find out how they felt about performing at such an event as this but, unfortunately, none had arrived by the time I had to leave. Maybe next year I might get a chance to explore this side of the Summer of Soul.
This story also appeared in the Mirboo North Times.