Performers ready to face the music

Artists of all ages take part in the annual event.

By Tania Phillips

The best musical, dance and acting talent of all ages from across the region will tread the boards at the annual Border District Eisteddfod at Stanthorpe Civic Centre from 19-29 May.

It’s one of those rites of passage events for members of the arts community and for many young performers, it’s one of the first times they ever step on a stage to perform.

It’s also a chance for those of us more talented at watching than doing, to enjoy the performances for a gold coin donation.

New Eisteddfod publicity officer Vanessa Boulton said the event had been going 47 years with generations of locals (and visitors) taking part including well-known performers Matthew Manahan and Matthew Leigh.

The Border District Eisteddfod began in 1977 and has been an annual event in Stanthorpe ever since.

Since its inception the Eisteddfod has incorporated many diverse sections in music and drama and in 2014, dance was added to the program disciplines.

Annually more than 1000 competitors take to the stage in 170 sections both as individual entrants and school groups.

Vanessa said the aim of the Border District Eisteddfod was to give amateur competitors of all ages an opportunity to showcase not only their talents but to have a platform to compete, perform and receive feedback from professionals in their field in a safe and encouraging environment.

In 2015, the Committee dedicated the Eisteddfod to the memory of Joan Smith. Joan had held the position of Secretary and Treasurer since its inception.

“We have three disciplines – music, drama/performance and the third discipline is dance,” Vanessa said.

“We have a record number of entries, I believe it’s 1070 which is really great but there has been steady growth each year.

“It’s always around May, this year it starts on the 19th with drama and performance I believe and that will be followed by music and dance but the full program is on our website.

“We’re lucky here in Stanthorpe and surrounds because we have a lot community support from sponsors and volunteers. Without them we can’t run the eisteddfod. It’s a small group that organises it all but without the sponsorship and volunteers it wouldn’t really be impossible.”

And it’s not just Stanthorpe or even Warwick entertainers who take part.

“The event allows entrants from further afield as well as locals and we have people coming from Goondiwindi, south of the border – all over. It is open to anyone who wants to come and perform.”

It is often a misconception that Eisteddfod’s are just for school kids, something organiser are trying dispel, encouraging entrants of all ages to come along and be part of the event.

“Before becoming the publicity officer this year, I had thought it was a children’s things but it’s not,” Vanessa explained.

“There are adults who perform in a different sections. Last year I went to that and it’s very entertaining. I actually think there’s a few more adult entries this year which is great to see.

“This is such an important event it allows performers to gain experience in front of an audience and to obtain important feedback from the adjudicators who are experts in their fields.”

She said they were really also encouraging people to come along and watch what was basically a daily concert.

“It’s a very cheap concert, just a donation to come in and watch the performers,” Vanessa said.

“You can come in and stay as long as you like. You can come back each day, just to be part of a community event and support not only the kids but the adults who are getting up on stage and performing.”

While awards are given out she said the emphasis was really on the performers getting feedback on how they can improve their craft.

“I try and tell my daughter it’s not a competition even though they do give out places – it’s great to listen to the feedback of the adjudicator,” Vanessa said.

It is also a chance of meeting other performers from across the region and beyond and to help build a strong arts community.

Vanessa’s 11-year-old daughter Olivia is a veteran of the event, competing in for several years in multiple divisions and it’s obvious that she loves it (almost as much as netball).

She said she entered her first event at the age of five thanks to her school.

“I competed with school at first but in the past three years I’ve sort of moved up and done some solo, trios and duets,” Olivia said.

“I love how you can just be yourself, have fun and just sing. I really like singing – I am with the Granite Belt Junior Choir. I love to sing Disney movie songs for the Eisteddfod or like a pop song, they’re probably my two favourites. My biggest success was a couple of years ago with the song Cruella De Vil.”

Like hundreds of other youngsters (and not so young) across the Granite Belt and beyond, Olivia is already preparing her singing and drama pieces for the event which she says she does “just for fun” – she doesn’t want to do it as a profession (although she wouldn’t mind being an Olympian).

The Eisteddfod will hit the stage from 19 May check out the group’s website for details.