It’s as if they’ve been on the same trail as the Blues Brothers, Jake & Elwood who helped the local orphanage in that 1980 classic movie, only this time it’s locals following their own adventure to put on the Port Noarlunga Blues Festival.
Not the same havoc, thank goodness, but the journey from a simple idea of getting bands together to make everyone take notice for a good cause has nonetheless been enormously entertaining.
This year we welcome the headline acts, internationally-acclaimed artists Matt Schofield, an English blues guitarist and singer selected by Guitar & Bass Magazine in 2007 as one of the ‘top 10 British Blues guitarists of all time’ and Chris Finnen, an Australian guitar legend from Seaford and inductee into the New York Blues Hall of Fame.
They and 50-plus other artists will give more than 70 performances across 15 venues in and around Port Noarlunga from November 25-27, and together the bands make this event exceptional.
This is the fifth festival of its kind here, spawned from a meeting of the Port Noarlunga Business & Tourism Association in 2017 when its chair Jeanette Howell, who has never been one to walk away from a challenge when it comes to her community, led a small chorus as to why its lovely town was always left off the tourist maps.
“The aim of our committee was to promote local businesses and tourism, especially during off-peak times when the place was quiet and needed livening up,” Jeanette said.
“We started to think of ways to make things happen, and the first thing was the art project by the jetty, the connotation of looking through large ‘goggles’ and seeing what’s going on underwater.
“It’s a reminder about the need to look after our marine environment… there is a blue grass line, a seaweed line that retreating which happens when you pollute the sea.
“You see a blue crab, a blue groper which is a beautiful fish… everything seems blue; it’s brilliant art by Anna Small and Warren Pickering.
“Out of that project we had a marine event day, and a blues singer come along.”
And that was it; ‘we’re getting the bands back together’, one may suggest. Jeanette said the idea of a Blues Festival evolved from there, and with support from Onkaparinga Council through Phil Tanner, who dealt with community & development matters and was keen to help the association create an event.
“It led to approaching Dennis Kapridis at the Governor Hindmarsh Hotel who was running festivals,” Jeanette said.
“We received funding to engage him to teach us how to run a festival.
“We were able to convince him to get involved after showing him our environment; it is something unique with having the sand hills, surf club, foreshore surf club, an art centre in the middle of the town, the RSL hall up the hill, a bowling club by the river, and the footy club.
“They are mainly in natural environments so we made them into ticketed venues.
“After the first year we felt the Blues Festival needed to be a separate identity because we couldn’t afford the association to be put at risk. It became just that, a non-profit organisation supported by the Port Noarlunga Tourism & Business Association.
“We then engaged Jed Allman to bring in artists from overseas and from touring Australia to find acts.
“Kay Erskine has a Blues radio show on WOWfm 105 and leads selection committee for artists. Chris Finnen is an ambassador for the festival, and his promotion has been invaluable.”
The main events are on the Saturday night. Buy a ticket and you get to see three events. Local cafes and restaurants will pay for artists, mainly solos, to come in and play their music throughout the day free to customers. The town will be literally singing the blues. It will be great.
“This is a truly community event where everyone is on board – the clubs, cafes restaurants, schools and others,” Jeanette said.
“We have collaborated well. It’s a collective of opportunities to see so many Blues artists in so many places.
“We are also proud to have expanded the youth program. Normally we put the youth on one stage and their family comes and hears them, but that doesn’t really expose their talent. This year most main stages will have at least one youth band playing so they will gain the experience of setting up, packing up and playing in front of audiences.
“They are youth from ARBA (Adelaide Roots & Blues Association), City of Onkaparinga’s youth program, and local schools. It is wonderful to create this opportunity for them.”
Also new to this year’s festival is the Alan Gilbert Open Mike Memorial Trophy, named after a much-valued member of the original organising committee, who passed away earlier this year. As mentioned, Jeanette is incredibly passionate about this whole region, so much so that she is contesting for the position of mayor of City of Onkaparinga in the State council elections on Saturday, November 12.
We cannot imagine Jeanette campaigning on a loud speaker in a broken-down ex-police car like Jake & Elwood did in the movie, but we expect her to get the message across just like she did when she saw the bigger picture through those ‘goggles’ by the jetty. Enjoy the Port Noarlunga Blues Festival.