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Distinguishing communities

  • 22 March 2022
  As I opened the car door on Friday night, the sound of crashing waves rushed in, the smell of the sea with the smell of damp grass. Intermittent light from car headlights switching on and off, or under streetlamps, illuminating patches. Sitting over it all, the heightened murmuring of a campsite and the sound of music at various volumes and in various styles cutting through the air.

I have spent many Labour Day long weekends, falling in Victoria on the second Monday in March, at the Port Fairy Folk Festival. Camping with family and friends between the festival and the beach, it’s a place and time filled with memories and associations from childhood, through adolescence, into adulthood. These are memories carried within the context of a community, ‘the festival’, even as its participants change. That wider community has held within it smaller communities I have had connection to or found connection with. But that wider community needs to maintain some constancy and clarity of purpose, even as it changes, if it will continue to be a community as such.

The music is always good, and often better than that. It’s eclectic in style and quality. New artists are given a go, established musicians share their tunes with long-standing as well as new fans. With six stages on the festival site, and a couple more in town, everyone is discovering something. The music is good, as I say, but it’s made better by that sense of a community discovering, being open to, warmly willing to be buoyed along by the music. This year, especially, the looks of amazement and humility on the faces of musicians was itself amazing and humbling. To have an audience again at last.

To have a community of people for and with whom they can engage their craft. I started attending the Port Fairy Folk Festival as a primary school kid, our family invited by other families from our local Catholic primary school. Over the years it’s been a place of family and friends, from those initial groups from Our Holy Redeemer Primary School to invitations to other family friends, and as I got older, friends of my own from school and university. What keeps me desiring to return is that sense of community, both amongst those I camp with, and the wider community of people along for the festival ride.

It is telling that connections from various schools have played