Tamworth Country Music Festival
14 Jan, 2012    -    23 Jan, 2020
Festival Type: Country
Tamworth Country Music Festival

The Essence of Tamworth

Max Ellis OAM, one of the Festival Founders takes a look at just what mak ... ...
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Location: Tamworth,   New South Wales
Website: www.tamworthcountrymusic.com.au/
The Essence of Tamworth

Max Ellis OAM, one of the Festival Founders takes a look at just what makes The Tamworth Country Music Festival one of the most unique in the world.

Tamworth in January is hot, it's casual, it's stars and Golden Guitars, it's happy crowds, it's tents and caravans, it's easy going camaraderie .. "g'day mate and where are you from?", it’s concerts and shows, it's buskers, it's folding chairs, big hats and eskies. When its over, and you're heading down the highway to Croydon, Cremorne or Camooweal, there's the feeling that it will be good to get home again for some peace and quiet after 10 days of continuous music!!
"See 'ya next year mate!!"

For us locals there's a sense of relief as the tents come down and the 55,000 or so visitors head home. We say goodbye to country music friends we've known for decades. The pressure is off and it's nice to get our town back again, to drive down Peel Street and park outside the shops. Not that we mind. The annual Tamworth Country Music Festival has put our little city on the map in a way that is the envy of every other regional centre in Australia.
It wasn't always like that. In the old days, locals headed for the coast in January to escape the dreadful heat and occasional flood. Nothing much happened in Tamworth between Christmas and the schools going back in February. People were surprised, when in 1973, Radio 2TM decided that the January Australia Day weekend was the best time for our first Country Music Awards. Despite a few pessimists who felt that country music was "hick", the Awards took off. In the years that followed we developed a string of new activities that are still the backbone of the Festival, creating an event now recognised as one of the top ten music festivals in the world.

While music is at the heart of the 10 day Festival, it's the fascinating combination of welcoming locals, friendly visitors, summer holiday atmosphere and non stop music that gives the place such an across the board appeal. And there is always time for meeting new friends, or old, in a cool spot in a club, pub or coffee shop.
And the music? Well you can hear every sort of country music in every sort of venue from the giant Tamworth Regional Entertainment & Conference Centre to clubs, theatres, halls and of course outdoor stages in parks like the famous Coca-Cola Concerts. Much of it is free and most is pure Australian. There is no cultural cringe in Tamworth!
Join the thousands who stroll down the city's pleasant, tree lined main thoroughfare, Peel Street, at any time during the day or in the warm evenings. Three blocks are closed to traffic over the Festival and down the entire length are buskers. Some have been coming to the same spot for years. You'll hear some of the best and worst performers in the nation! There are individuals, groups and bands, all ages, some shy, some flamboyant, playing all kinds of music. You might pause to listen to an aboriginal country rock band from Arnhem Land, while just a few metres away there's an old yodeller from Bourke, singing Slim Dusty songs, both competing for audience with a crooning kid with a blue guitar from Tasmania. And don't imagine for a moment that any of these buskers are no-hopers. Kasey Chambers, Troy Cassar-Daley and Keith Urban are just a few of the stars, who have trodden the Peel Street pavements as youngsters.

There is just so much to see and do that even after 38 years I still haven't been to everything. These days the official program lists over 2,500 individual events ranging through concerts, record launches, bush poetry, exhibitions and so on. It even includes rodeos and bull-riding in the fabulous new Equine Centre.

People often ask me whether I had ever thought that the Festival would develop into such a vast and significant event. I answer that while I can't remember our vague expectations 38 years ago, we certainly contributed enough blood, sweat and tears over the years, to make it happen! I'm proud of what we achieved and I still love every minute of it!!
The pivotal event is the glamorous Golden Guitar Awards, staged in the huge Tamworth Regional Entertainment & Conference Centre (TRECC). Held at the end of the Festival, the Awards attract all the major stars of Australian country music as well as a large contingent of VIPs and fans from all over the nation. Since it started in 1973 over 350 Golden Guitars have been presented with legendary Slim Dusty still holding the record with 36. It’s hard to believe but he took out his first in 1973 and his last, posthumously, in 2005.

There are just so many other shows to see, talent quests like Toyota Star Maker, which has launched artists like Lee Kernaghan, James Blundell, Keith Urban and Beccy Cole. Or the Bush Laureate Awards and the 33 year old Buttercup Open House both held in our superb 75 year old War Memorial Town Hall where memories of The Somme blend with bush poetry and country music. The clubs, pubs and halls all ring with music.
And so the list rolls on, a vivid kaleidoscope of Australian sounds, sights and people. Whether you come for 10 days or one day, the moment you land on this island of music you cease to be an observer and become a part of the close family that gathers from the far corners of Australia every January to create the fantastic experience we call the Tamworth Country Music Festival.

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