Thursday, December 17, 2009

Save Peregian Originals

I wrote this editorial piece for my local newspaper in response to the Sunshine Coast Regional Council's decision to shut down the long running Peregian Originals concert series event. This free community music event takes place in a park in Peregian by the seaside and has been held bi-monthly for the past ten years.


For me, the beauty of Peregian Originals began when I moved to the Sunshine Coast several years ago. I read an article in this very publication about a ‘free music event’ and decided it would be worth checking out. I didn’t know a single soul on the coast back then.

As someone who has travelled extensively – I know what it’s like to walk the streets of a town where nobody knows your name. That feeling of being ghost-like as you move through the crowd of unfamiliar faces. Total anonymity is not always a bad thing, but when I returned from my time overseas and experienced this feeling in my own hometown – Sydney – I decided I wanted to live in a place where there was a sense of belonging.

As I sat in the park at that first Peregian Originals concert and noticed the people on picnic blankets around me smiling and greeting each other like old friends – I realised I’d found my ‘home’.

Back then, I had no plans to pursue a career in music but I kept attending the event and soon got to know the warm-hearted bunch of musicians behind the live music scene. I started writing songs again, energised by a powerful creative force that exists here on the Coast and soon enough, I played my first Peregian Originals.

My debut album, which was penned in Peregian, was recorded last year. I’ve spent the past 12 months touring it - performing at countless venues and events including some of the country’s biggest music festivals. I’ve met a lot of musicians during my time on the road and when they ask me about the live music scene on the Sunshine Coast I tell them proudly about Peregian Originals and they are always amazed.

You see, most independent touring artists are forced to do pub gigs - where the crowd is too busy guzzling beers and playing the pokies to care about the music taking place. For them, a gig with a guaranteed crowd of 400, a stage under the blue sky and the ocean just metres away – well, it’s dreamlike. Yet for a huge number of Sunshine Coast musicians, this gig has been a blessed reality.

But there’s so much more to this concert series than just music and if you’ve never attended, it would be hard for you to understand. In all my travels I’ve never seen a music event where grandmothers share a grassy dancefloor with teenagers and toddlers. Where mums and dads feel comfortable to let their kids run free around the park, knowing they will be protected by the caring energy of the crowd. Where people gather to truly connect with one another.

Some people don’t understand the beauty of community. They don’t understand that Peregian Originals is not an ‘event’ that you can just shut down or move around. Peregian Originals is a family and the park behind Peregian Surfclub is our home.

As the movie The Castle so passionately states:

“You can acquire a house but you can’t acquire a home because a home is not built of bricks and mortar but love and memories. You can’t pay for it, and you’re just short changing people if you try”