Saturday 5 November 2011

The Bellingen River Festival

Last Saturday was the inaugural Bellingen River Festival, it was run by Transition Bellingen, with the aim of celebrating the Bellinger River; "creating an opportunity to enjoy, learn about and explore our relationship with our river". A transition town means that "it is a town that is part of a global transition network that aims to build resilience so local communites can survive and even thrive in the face of global challenges like peak oil and climate change", definition from here.
On the day there were workshops, activities, bands, canoe races, lantern making, krathong workshops, weaving, story telling, tree planting and a lantern parade that was simply amazing, but more about that later.
I started the day slowly by going for a massage (not at the festival) and while I was lying face down and trying to still my brain, Scott, Poe and Ilo went busking (also not at the festival), apparently it was amazing with both Poe and Ilo getting right into it. Some favourite tunes amongst the passer-bys were "Spoon full of Sugar", Scott's "Holy Water" and "Chim Chimeree". They made a whooping $25 big ones and then donated half to the Bellingen River Festival and Animal Welfare.

We then rode down to the river and were so excited to see the bridge decorated with lanterns and flags, it looked so beautiful. We met up with friends, laid out the picnic blanket and then went for a little paddle in the river. We ate homemade (not by us) sushi and rice paper rolls, planted a few trees, watched the canoe races, met lots of people we knew and generally enjoyed the beautiful day.

Poe spied an inflatable water slide and after a little jump on the jumping castle got his wetsuit on and went for it. Scott and I were watching and both held our breath as he reached the top, we were so sure he would back out but no, down he went, oh what a thrill. Not sure whether you can see it but his face looks totally terrified as he heads down the slide.

At a certain point we thought it would be a great idea to go home for some dinner and a little rest, before we headed back to the festival for the lantern parade. As we walked in through our gates Scott spied a water dragon near our garden (at the end of our street is a creek, where they usually hang out, but we have never seen one in our backyard before), as we didn't want to freak it out we gave it a wide berth and headed inside. But then Scott, called out "it's laying eggs" YES, can you believe it, it was laying eggs in our garden. So amazing. It then buried the eggs and camouflaged it with some leaves and then scooted under the house for a rest. Apparently the incubation period is a couple of months and then the little dragons (!) hang around for a while before heading to the creek. Has anyone ever experienced this before?

From one magical event to another,  The Lantern Parade. As we cross the bridge we watch as the krathongs,  made out of banana leaves, flowers and candles were placed onto the water.

Then the drumming started, now according to the program, when the drumming starts we had to go to the north side of the bridge and so we did, feeling the excitement welling around us.
A little aside: anyone who knows Scott well, knows that he is not a fan of tribal drums, due largely to five years spent in Byron, where at every party, at every gathering there were tribal drums and fire twirlers. But and yes, it's a big one, these drums worked, they unified people, they created momentum and excitement, they sounded great and what's more they were fun. Scott has amended his dislike of tribal drums to something along the lines of 'they are amazing on the right occasion'. (ie please use sparingly).

A friend of ours, Soli (gorgeous looking human to the left in the picture), astounded us with her drumming prowess.

Then the dancers arrived, which gave everyone even more energy and created even more excitement. 

Lanterns were being lit all around us and slowly we began to dance across the bridge following the dancers and the drummers. 

Oh my goodness it was like a group hug, everywhere you looked you saw different people from the community, some we recognised, some we didn't. But there was everyone and they were all beaming. 

The truly wonderful thing about this festival was that it was just for the Bellingen community, the celebration of our river, us. It wasn't about making money, selling merchandise, it was about celebrating.  In the past week we have had countless chats with people about town who have commented on the beauty of the festival and as they talk you can see the pride in their faces, what a town!


  1. It's completely official - there is no way I could live in Bellingen. Not even I am *that* community minded. :) It seems like every post is you and yours enjoying some community gathering; me, I like to lie in my backyard staring at the sky on my own a little too much for the Bello crowd.

    That water dragon is so freaking cool I can't believe it. SO COOL! I can't WAIT to see the babies. Your first Bellingen babies!

    And oh my goodness, you know someone whose name is Soli?! What the huh?! Ummm...that freaks me out!

  2. oh don't worry lovely one, every six days between community events, people just lie in their backyards staring up at the glorious sky, day and night, it's just what we do here...and a great way to recharge between "group hugs".
    and we have known Soli for many years, her and her lovely partner Matt were friends of Manu's from uni. xxx

    1. I found this post through a google search. How weird is that ladies comment? Whats wrong with Solis name? and btw, no one asked you to move to bellingen!

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    3. Hello Unknown, thanks for visiting, your comment made me laugh, Cass was referring to some 'behind the scenes' information, which can definitely be misinterpreted, ahh the internet. Thanks for visiting, best wishes jay

  3. thanks for this festival planned for this year? when?? we're bello bound! making the big move after dreaming about it for over a decade! can't wait!!!

    1. Hi Finn, i am pretty sure it is planned for this year but have not heard for sure, it is usually on in the first weekend of November. How exciting that you are moving up here, make sure you say hello when you see us in the street. best wishes j


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