Event Spotlight: Matt Johnston talks Gum Ball Festival

Monday 22 April 2013

Event Spotlight: Matt Johnston talks Gum Ball Festival

Still at a loss for what to do this ANZAC Day? Two-up not really your thing? Never fear, the friendly folk at The Gum Ball in the Hunter Valley have got you covered. Whether it be starting the day with some yoga or tai chi, taking in some top performers from Australia and across the globe, or getting your beard trimmed at the festival’s very own barbershop. We caught up with Gum Ball’s director, Matt Johnston who explained why ANZAC Day and Gum Ball go hand in hand.

What makes The Gum Ball different to other festivals?
The festival is different to most festivals mainly due to its structure of being run by a family and held in the family front yard. It’s also BYO. Dashville (the bushland venue) has been built with a lot of sweat and tears over the last nine years, and for every band, person or thing that steps onto the property, it doesn’t take long to pick up on a pretty awesome vibe - something that’s stemmed from slow growth and that family passion.

Why is The Gum Ball the perfect way to spend the ANZAC day weekend?
Considering what ANZAC Day is all about, arriving at a festival such as The Gum Ball after paying your early morning respects, surrounded by likeminded souls to celebrate and enjoy three days of great music and carry-on, kicking off with a special commemorative performance from members of Redgum, I reckon a few of the old boys would have loved to get along to this one.

Who are your top performer picks for punters to check out over the three days?
You could say that the lineup has been formed based on my ultimate desire at this present moment. Listen to the playlist on the website, it’s all red hot. If I had to pick one, and leave out heaps, it would be either Saskwatch, Tumblweed or maybe Money for Rope. But then the Dashville Progress Society know how to have fun almost as much as The Beards.

Apart from the music, what are some other highlights ticket holders should be on the look out for?
Pro skateboarding demos on Dashville’s half pipe; there’s a boutique bar selling awesome tap beers, ciders, local wine and cocktails; get a trim at the barber shop, massage, manicure and foot scrub, but then simply the laid back camping and relaxing around in the morning is a perfect way to soak it up and enjoy your weekend.

We noticed The Gum Ball is raising money for the Black Dog Institute, festivals aren’t commonly known for their connections to charities and NFPs, why have you chosen to raise money for them?
Mental health is very much at the heart of artistic endeavour. Gum Ball got pounded by bureaucratic red tape heavily in the beginning and looking around, it’s easy to see a lot of people spend their whole lives fighting to get ahead, only to be shot down. On top of that, we all, even you, I can assume, have lost loved ones to the woes of depression and mental illness. The Gum Ball is in a position to talk to the public about it, so we’re going to. People need to talk about what’s going on in their heads, so that and you find you’re not alone.

Putting it on the poster and website, running a raffle with some awesome prizes, raising money, hosting a mental health panel during the festival, it all adds to the discussion.

The Gum Ball will take over Dashville in Belford in the Hunter Valley from ANZAC Day to April 27. Check out www.thegumball.com.au for more details.

- Amelia Parrott 

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