The clear summer twilight was the perfect setting to see over 150 people come together under the glow of stars and fairy lights at Waterloo for a Festival of Small Halls touring event.
The small community was celebrating an event that delivered on its promise to leave you feeling bigger on the inside.
Locals and visitors alike were treated to the delightfully distinctive sounds of musical group Inn Echo, solo artist Sam Buckingham and local musician Keely Ellen at the Festival of Small Halls event.
Presented by Woodfordia, the not-for-profit music tour highlights the importance of community connection, by celebrating the time-old tradition of gathering in a small hall to enjoy live music and storytelling.
The festival, now in its thirtieth year of touring, exhibits some of the best folk and contemporary acoustic artists and takes national and international musicians off the beaten track to perform in tiny town halls across the country.
Waterloo Hall was included as part of the Summer Tour of the travelling festival, identified through an expressions of interest process in partnership with Bundaberg Regional Council.
The Waterloo Hall Committee showcased the strength of the community coming together to breathe life and music into the 111-year-old hall.
Waterloo Hall Committee member Shirley Galea said the help of “many hands” had been instrumental in bringing the event to life.
“It certainly would not have been possible without the generosity of our committee and community, to bring this celebration to Waterloo,” Shirley said.
As guests assembled and the hall began to fill, local Gooreng Gooreng Elder Uncle Chris Thiesfield shared a heartfelt Welcome to Country which spoke about the historical tradition of meeting places and the importance of coming together and sharing stories.
The evening was woven together by affable local Ben Galea, the official emcee, with his evident affection for the hall and its people.
“The halls need life, and they need music, and they need community to be coming together and using them,” Ben said.
“Music is such a powerful medium, and when you're able to experience that in small halls with communities that know and love each other, it's a special experience.”
Yandaran Rural Fire Service and Country Women’s Association, fired up the barbecues and, with the steady and seamless precision that results from experience, offered generously overflowing hamburgers and a classic sausage sizzle to the grateful gathering.
Local emerging performer Keely Ellen said she felt honoured to be the supporting artist for the event alongside the calibre of the Small Halls musicians and was in awe of the quality of the music.
The supper interval afforded the opportunity to break for tea and coffee with a delicious variety of freshly baked homemade cakes, slices, and biscuits for sale.
Summer Tour brings people together in Waterloo
There was a distinct air of pride as conversations floated across the evening about the music, the hospitality, and naturally the hall.
Ellie-Lea Jansson, producer of the Festival of Small Halls, said joy was felt by everyone involved in the event, with artists experiencing a profound enrichment from the welcoming spirit of the hosts in each regional town.
“Those who share in this wonderous night of music and kinship all agree it is an experience that can’t be rivalled by large arena shows and is a triumph of the small but mighty hall,” Ms Jansson said.
Post-event, Shirley commented on how the event did good things for small communities.
“We live in an isolated area, almost like a micro-community and during difficult times the effects are felt by all,” she said.
“However, sitting and watching such a beautiful and moving performance, we were able to let ourselves pause for a while.
“It was an amazing night to see how community can come together to create something magical.
“There were so many moving parts in this project and through a lot of hard work, it all wonderfully fell into place.”
This event was supported by The Regional Arts Development Fund, a partnership between the Queensland Government and Bundaberg Regional Council to support local arts and culture in regional Queensland.