Well, the fervour from the cancelled Nabiac show has died down (didn’t take long… maybe 2 days?!), so I decided to take the edge off the come-down by heading over to another kind of show – the annual Shakespeare in Gloucester Festival. I have been looking at the road signs which spring up in the leadup to this festival for 10 years now, and have always wondered about it, but never made it there. It’s not really what you would expect, is it, out in the middle of the Australian countryside in a small town. As far as I can recall from my English classes, I don’t recall Shakespeare setting foot in Australia 100 years or so prior to colonisation?
So why not the ‘Banjo Patterson’ festival, or the ‘David Williamson’ festival?
Checking out their website, the tenuous Shakespearen link is the Avon River winding through Gloucester, and the small village of Stratford a 10min drive from Gloucester. It is also, it seems, the oldest ‘running Shakespearen festival in the state’ having begun in the dark ages of 1998…Whoa – are they telling me there is more than one??!
Interestingly, a lot of small towns have reinvigorated their communities as well as their economies by starting up festivals, the more obscure the better… There’s CurryFest in Woolgoolga, Maslin Beach Nude Olympics in SA, Boorowa’s Irish Woolfest in NSW featuring ‘The Running of the Sheep’, Parks’ ‘Elvis Revival Festival’, Tumut’s Festival of the Falling Leaf’ (niiiice), and apparently according to one study, another 2856 regional festivals which I will not be listing here.There is, it seems, alot to be gained both emotionally and economically by hosting a festival in a small town.
So having been thwarted by bad weather in supporting our own local show, we headed off to Gloucester to support someone else’s. The Festival was co-hosting the monthly Farmers Produce Markets, which I have also been meaning to visit.This week however it was officially called ‘The Elizabethan Faire and Farmers Market’, set in Billabong Park.
On arrival, I stepped out of my fuel driven carriage to find a medieval choir singing, well, medieval songs, and smiling people everywhere. Stall holders were dressed in medieval garb, and the local community was too, all vying for the Best Dressed Prize – which surely they must all know the result of year after year, as how many medieval costumes do they actually have??
The knights were jousting in their own special corner (and my goodness they looked hot), and my homemade sausage roll tasty especially… medievally. Delicious.
We had a really lovely time. But it’s only now, as I look on the Net for the Shakespeare in Gloucester Festival, that I see that it was but one event of many taking place over the few days. The Bell Shakespeare Company was running acting master classes, Romeo and Juliet was being performed elsewhere, there were students popping into Gloucester from Gosford to Port Macq for various events…
Well, who would have thought it? Who would have thought that a small community could throw itself so wholeheartedly into a theme so removed (well, in language, dress, era, not subject matter) from their day to day lives in regional modern Australia?
I take my hat off to you Gloucester – thank you for making me smile.