A few lucky years ago I became friends with a very clever and musical person called Moira  (that’s the face to face, chat have a coffee or a chardy, sing together, chew the fat type of friend not the white ‘f‘ in the blue rectangle with the rounded edges variety). Then, through a pretty bright idea of hers, we set up a forum for songwriters to share their songs and mingle with possibly like minded souls (that’s again a face to face situation where songwriters chat, have a coffee or a chardy, sing together, chew the fat type of forum, not a cyber chat room thingy – and I’ll spare you my definition of a room where people chat face to face…).  And so began a truly wonderful collaboration which has lead us to places all over the country, although there are plenty left we need to see and hopefully play music in. 

Anyway, meeting Moira has proved life changing. Not only have we been lucky enough to find in each other the ideal musical fit, but also we have the joy of performing and developing the Unsung Heroes project with our fellow UHAH collaborators Bruce Watson and Neil Robertson. Fast forward to this weekend just gone, and you find two very happy and excoided musicians, with their UHAH buddy Bruce and his wife Jill and my sister Jen and a heap of gear winging our way North to Mackay to be part of the Wintermoon Music Festival. (Neil is taking a year’s sabbatical to study).

I can’t begin to adequately describe the wonder of it all. An absolutely beautiful location, such care for the comfort and welfare of the performers, so much kindness and a spirit of goodwill and peace that I have genuinely not experienced before in all of my really very numerous years (I’m reaching an age where I suddenly find myself a bit coy about accurate stats).

We left Tulla for Mackay at 6.00 am Friday morning… I love early mornings and getting up at 3.30am suits me just fine (uuuurrrgggh). Jeff and his son David met us with a festival shuttle bus in Mackay, and we shared the hourish long drive with several other musicians and collective instruments. A very full bus indeedy, and a very cheery and chatty trip. Jeff was good enough to stop by his home enroute so his son could hop out and grab a razor for a lovely Scottish mandolin player who bewailed his feral hirsuteness, although he looked pretty smooth to me. 

Arriving at the Wintermoon site we were directed to our accommodation – which was pretty much a luxury camp site – and there is no irony or sarcasm in that description. An absolutely amazing woman Lisa, had been beavering a way for days pitching tents on a massive ground sheet, under a spreading tarpaulin supported by trees. She sorted out our mattresses as we arrived and slaved away solidly well into the night on a very hot day (for this slow to adapt Southerner) showing the musicians to their ‘rooms’.  Lisa is but one of the army of volunteers who start setting up for the festival weeks ahead and go to no end of trouble to make you feel at home. Once settled we wandered around and were reunited with one of the main organisers and the genius who helped get us over to Flinders Island last year, Jenny Drake. So nice to see her again! Our adventure had really kicked off now.

Lush tropical vegetation and beautiful sympathetic landscaped gardens were everywhere you look. The ablutions were great. Piping hot showers with a constant supply of hot water fed from a massive ‘kettle’ fueled by huge wooden sleepers. Complete privacy – (admittedly in some cubicles aided by the judicious hanging of one’s towel to bridge the teensy gap betwixt door and support – and as a short person the generous gap to the floor had me showering with considerable caution but at 6 in the morning at a music festival spectators are pretty unlikely), and just a short walk from tent city.

A spacious and relaxing ‘green room’ called the Chai House where we stowed instruments in one area, were treated to nourishing and delicious meals, had constant access to boiling water for cuppas, and a cosy fire which was very welcome in the evenings and early morning. And a huge communal eski for personal alcoholic fruit tinctures and hop based libations – generally purchased from the Calen Hotel about 20 minutes down the road. Moy, Jen and I were kindly deposited there by festival driver Graham to bond with the publican and stock up on Friday afternoon.

And so the scene is set for one of the most magical times I have ever spent in any context… and I fancy I’ll blither and blog more about it very soon, maybe tomorrow even. But for now, I have  a suitcase to unpack, guitar and mandolin to restore to proper pitch post flight, and normality to embrace. Ay, there’s the rub!

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Lounging around after lunch

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Chai House interior

Chai house from the outside approaching from tent city

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