That Desert Harmony feeling…

It’s with a heavy heart that we farewell our Music Touring Manager, Vanessa Hutchins, who leaves us soon for another adventure. Heading to Desert Harmony Festival one last time to kick off Desert Mulga Band‘s tour, Ness wrote a blog to say farewell to the people and lands she’s come across…

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More often than not working for Artback NT finds you on some remote regional highway caught up in your own work and program. But recently a nice synchronistic experience occurred in Tennant Creek – the Heart of Gold – for three of us Artback NT mob, in town for the 26th Desert Harmony Festival.

It was a significant trip for all programs, visual arts, dance, theatre and music touring…

Alice Buscombe was up to hang her last exhibition for Artback NT – Marina Strocchi at Nyinkka Nyunyu Aboriginal Art and Culture Centre, finalsing her commitments and celebrating 15 months working as Artback NT’s Visual Arts Touring Manager including producing the enormous Punuku Tjukurpa during her time. Britt Guy was commencing her new journey with Artback NT, holding consultations and planning long term commitments to the Barkly region, meeting new artists and enjoying the festival activities. And I was touring Desert Mulga Band, five young Warlpiri men from Yuendumu and Nyrripi, headlining BAMfest (Barkly Aboriginal Music Festival) as part of Desert Harmony Festival. This too was my farewell of sorts, my last Desert Harmony Festival after many consecutive years, saying goodbye to the amazing Barkly Arts crew – Alan Murn, Kathy Burns, James Winwood and Peter Coloutti, as I celebrated my last tour for Artback NT.

We all met up for a wonderful opening ceremony Warumungu style at Nyinkka Nyunyu on Friday night and were welcomed to country, this included a typical informal Gerry McCarthy hug and greeting. I was star struck as I met Kurt Fearnley who was there as ambassador for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. That man just makes my efforts pale to delusion. Following this we scooted up Battery Hill to see the amazing full moon rise and say goodbye to the day. The light and beauty of the moon rising was intense, only to be heightened by the arrival of the very special Music NT Desert Divas – Beatrice Lewis and Dallas Franka who appeared out of the dark, in Tennant Creek to run the Barkly Divas programme. After that delightful occurrence Brit and I made our way to the performance of Team of life by KAGE, an interesting way to spend a Friday evening.

Bininj band

Bininj band

Saturday morning was spent on the art trail which had Tennant buzzing, this included a live talk from Marina Strocchi at her exhibition. Britt and Alice then went to the football and I caught the Barkly Divas at a showcase performance in Peko Park. Desert Mulga and I than did a sound check and some media interviews in prep for BAMfest that evening. Late afternoon we decided to hook up again and Britt, Alice and I journeyed out to the Kunjarra “Devils Pebbles”. Always a special energy resource, the area magically showcases the light and shadow of the day and hints at the scared knowledge of that country. Re-charged and energetic, I than mustered the band (and Britt) and we headed off for a night of great music and dance. The BAMfest line up showcased Barkly area bands including Rayella, Barkly Boys and Winanjjikari All Stars. Filmed by TILT Vision and uplinked to many communities live, broadcast simultaneously by CAAMA Radio with the ever present G-MAN live in our face, the concert was a highlight for Desert Mulga. By the time the band played there was massive dancing crowds enjoying the night. The Eldorado Hotel certainly had the festival vibe going later that night. Most of the performers were staying there, including APRA musos, CAAMA Radio mob, Desert Mulga Band, Rayella Band, Moira Finucane and her Cabaret mob and Djuki Mala. All seemed attracted and drawn to the vibe of Music NT’s Phillip Eaton, poolside.

Sunday morning began early with Britt and I watching the sunrise through the rocky ancient land, a special final way to say goodbye to Tennant one last time. There is certainly something special in that country that challenges your inner spirit. We then met a philosopher over breakfast, and that seemed a poignant way to greet the day. Britt and Alice left to drive to Alice Springs and fly home to Darwin. Meanwhile, I prepared to relax into my day off – when the phone rang. Kathy Burns from Desert Harmony Festival – Could I help them today… emergency… Cabaret…. Someone hasn’t turned up..!#?. please…

So I ended spending the day with Moira Finucane and her Cabaret mob – ‘The Birds Of Paradise’ – doing every task under the sun, a tech run and finally fellow spot operator on the show.
It was worth it. I got to enjoy watching 1000 people from local Tennant Creek get jolly and enjoy a very romping night, including the ever present (under my spotlight) Gerry McCarthy. It was nice to join such a hard working Desert Harmony team and help out where I could… It was definitely part of that Desert Harmony feeling.

The next day I drove up Stuart Highway, a road I know so well, to Katherine, and continued my goodbyes…

Artback NT mob

Artback NT mob