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After A Week Of Bushfire Hell

Communities come together

Australia’s rural communities are taking a battering – whether it’s battling the dry conditions of the drought or tackling unprecedented flames and smoke in the bushfires that have destroyed hectares and devastated lives throughout Queensland and NSW. 

Yet life has to go on for the community members who have to go back to farms, businesses and turn up in the community and continue on despite the massive hurdles.

Take the Mullumbimby Music Festival for example. The 12-year `whole town’ community festival located on the far north coast of NSW takes place this weekend, yet earlier in the week in the face of Tuesday’s catastrophic statewide fire call, the event was facing potential cancellation.

Many of the artists and staff from local regions have been caught up in the escalating bushfire crisis. Many have been evacuated from their homes, while others have taken in homeless, turned up at crisis centres to volunteer while keeping a close eye on the ever-changing conditions from nearby Mount Nardi fire that has threatened the entire Byron shire over much of the week.

But the show is going on and with a massive line-up of more than 80 local and international acts taking part – that’s more than 200 performances across 12 venues over 4 days. In fact, despite the sleepless nights and the stressful days suffered by organisers, no-one has cancelled and in fact the community has rallied to ensure the event will go ahead.

“All artists have been able to travel to the festival as all the roads are currently open into the areas,” Festival Director Glenn Wright advises.

Wright said that 40 per cent of the acts are local to the Northern Rivers district, while at least half have travelled in from across Australia – and 10 percent from far-flung international destinations like Chile, UK, Us, Canada and South Africa.

Like the viral #buyfromthebush initiative that has encouraged consumers to shop from drought-ravaged communities, Wright is hopeful that the Mullum Music Festival will get a big turnout to support the local community. Wright said plenty of volunteers will be passing around buckets throughout the weekend to raise money for Blazeaid (who go in and help people rebuild after fires) and Mullumbimby Neighbourhood Centre (

ruby boots

Australian Indie-Rock artist Ruby Boots

Unlike many other male-artist centric festivals, the Mullum Music Festival has consistently presented line-ups with 50 per cent or more female artists – international, national and local. Here are some of the female voices on the lineup this year:

Ruby Boots’ alluring mix of Americana Indie-Rock will stop you in your tracks. The rising Australian star, now based in Nashville TN, possesses a wine-stained soulful voice that crackles with swagger and sorrow. And her story – leaving home at a young age, to work on pearling boats is where she honed her songwriting skills – is straight out of a country-western lyric book.

Mojo Juju cleaned up at the National Indigenous Music Awards this year with ‘Native Tongue’ claiming both album of the year and song of the year. Mojo Ruiz de Luzuriaga aka Mojo Juju is proof that some of the best music in the country right now is being made by First Nations people.

Zimbabwean born and Melbourne based singer-songwriter, Thando, has been gracing stages around Australia with her electric presence and powerhouse vocals in a style influence by the musical offerings of Ladysmith, Black Mambazo, QUEEN and TLC.

Rachel Baiman’s 2017 label debut ‘Shame’ was featured on NPR’s “Songs We Love”, called a “Rootsy Wake-up Call” by Folk Alley, and described by Vice’s “Noisey” as “flipping off authority one song at a time.” Her follow up –  ‘Thanksgiving’  – moves effortlessly between bluegrass, folk, old-time and country.  

Folk singer and pop punk poet Alana Wilkinson’s shows are a heady mix of wit, humour and social commentary. She engages audiences with revealing and hilarious stories and songs accompanied by guitar and ukelele all with a unique theatrical delivery.

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