My first inkling that Fairbridge Festival was about to become a reality was in the early 1990s when co-founder Max Klubal was a guitar student of mine. I remember him discussing the idea of the festival and all along I was thinking what a great idea it was. It was an exciting time; Bridgetown Blues Festival was in the making as well and Western Australia was on the brink of something resembling a music festival revolution.
I played the very first Fairbridge Festival and then every following one for so many years I can’t remember. I think I have only missed two in twenty five years. One year, I played eleven separate shows with as many musicians! I’ve released at least four CDs there over the years.
For an artist, there is really no better environment to be in. I have made so many friends, participated in so many great bands and shared some of my most profound and wonderful music moments at Fairbridge Festival. It was my kick-off point for touring to other Australian festivals, collaborations with international touring artists and a great source for learning the trade of live music performance. Fairbridge Festival is an amazing incubator in so many ways.
In April 1995, my wife, Sheryl, and our soon-to-be-born baby were at Fairbridge Festival. Ella (as she later became in July that year), has been to every festival since. The festival has become a totally unmissable annual experience for us as a family. One of my greatest moments was going to Ella’s band’s CD release some 16 years later. It goes without saying that in the front row was a very teary and proud dad. Little did I know then that my dream of one day leading the artistic program would come true.
And come true it did! The day of my appointment as Fairbridge Festival artistic director, I collapsed on the couch at home and let the memories of 20 plus festivals flood over me.
I have come to realise the immense privilege it is to be a custodian of Fairbridge Festival. The festival owns us, I believe (no one owns it), and the highest respect and gratitude we can give it, is to dutifully hand it over as a healthy, brilliant and enduring opportunity for the community of people who find inspiration and shared human values in the glory of live music.