Some History

The Following is the text of Geoff Ferguson’s Speech on the occasion of the 40th Anniversary Ceremony in 2014:

I am honoured to have been asked to welcome you, one and all, to the 40th Numeralla Folk Festival. The folk festival committee hope that you are all enjoying yourselves so far. My task is to give a little insight into the early days of the festival and the only qualification I have to do that is that I am not dead yet.

I only want to mention one name because there have been so many members of the community who have worked very hard to make the festival happen each year, some for the whole 40 years. To try and mention even most of them would be difficult and to not mention some would not be fair to them.

Danny Watson, a resident of Numeralla and president of the N.S.W. Folk Federation, suggested to some of the members of the community that they try and stage a local Folk Festival on the Australia day weekend in January. Reluctance at first as some thought it was a bit too far out of the Numeralla comfort zone to get involved in such activities. But enough people got together to talk about and organise a folk festival. As a result on this weekend in 1975 the first Numeralla Folk Festival was held.

Vastly different venues then to what we have now. The hall was here but there was no BBQ, no kitchen, no bar and no toilets. There were a couple of long drop toilets up on the hill there for the first couple of festivals. As a result the festival was held at several places, the oval, the tennis club, the hall, and even as far as the Prince of Wales Hotel in Cooma where an awards night was held to conclude one of the early festivals. Our festival has outlived the Prince of Wales as that hotel is no longer there.

Early festivals were funded by members of the community making a loan to the committee. The loan was repaid in full after the festival. For instance, $890 was loaned by 11 members of the community to get the 1978 festival up and running. All of the profit was distributed to the community so the same thing happened the next year. One member of the community knew of a good place to buy the drinks in Canberra. So he went down and made the purchase on the condition that his cheque was not presented till the following week.

For the BBQ a steer was purchased locally, killed at the abattoir and cut up by a local butcher. Later it was 2 steers. The second festival steer was cut into 480 steaks, 200 lbs of sausages and 60 lbs of mince was made into 220 rissoles. The records kept of the early festivals are incredibly detailed and make interesting reading.

The festival has carried on and the profits that have gone back to the community groups have helped produce what we have to-day. eg a great tennis club and courts, septic toilets at the hall, a BBQ here at the hall along with a good kitchen and bar and fridges. Others who have benefited are the P&C of the Numeralla School, the local Landcare group, Numeralla- Countegany and Peak View Bushfire Brigades, the Anglican church, the Catholic church, the fishing club, CWA, and a preschool group. All recipients have discretion as to how they use their share of the profits and are expected to make some contribution to the running of the festival. My limited research says that there has been over $100,000 distributed to the local community groups thus far and there is a little put aside for a bigger project if the community should decide on one.

Why have we been able to make it to this 40th anniversary? There have been many hurdles over the years in organising the festival. There is a folk festival committee made up of a bunch of dedicated members of the community who work behind the scenes from one festival to the next to make sure that all goes well. And there is much that has to be done. On that committee there is always room for more members and new ideas. So the answer to that question is hard work and co-operation from all members of the community. There is no luck to it. Remember that saying that says there is only one place that luck comes before work and that is in the dictionary.  So the next challenge for us is to remain united and organised and the festival will be ours to enjoy in years to come.

On behalf of the folk festival committee and the Numeralla community I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has helped in any way at all over the years to make this festival a success. The other side of the equation is you out there, all of you who come to perform, to dance, to listen to the music, to have a drink or buy a meal. Thank you. Without a balanced equation, the only free Folk Festival on the circuit will have difficulty continuing.

Let’s make our goal a similar gathering to this to be held here in the hall in ten years’ time to celebrate the 50th Numeralla Folk Festival.

Geoff Ferguson