The Deloraine Stringfest is over for another year. Being a stallholder at Stringfest gives you a restricted view of the festival since so much happens at other venues around the town and in the main street.
The Community Hall where the luthiers, tonewood merchants and others such as myself hang out can seem a lonely place at times. That was my impression on Saturday, the main day of the Festival, with far fewer people than last year. A common comment was that there are too many other events on that weekend. The crowds picked up Sunday morning and I met a few interesting people, picked up some useful information and perhaps even some new blackwood growers.
I love the busking and the random spontaneous music making. I think that is also a special feature of Stringfest. It’s almost a BYO instrument event!
Clearly it will take Stringfest some years to get established and create a unique identity and following. It will take a big commitment and effort by the Deloraine community to make it a success. But it will be worth the effort!
Stringfest is a unique vision.
The focus on the musical performers is great, but Stringfest will never compete with the other established music festivals. The key to success for Stringfest I believe will be attracting a broader audience with the performers as well as the luthiers, tonewood merchants and tonewood growers.
In 2014 there were 4 tonewood merchants at Stringfest. None of those merchants returned this year, being replaced instead by 2 new tonewood merchants. I’m not sure how many tonewood merchants Tasmania can support but I suspect it is less than the current number if anyone is to have a hope of making a decent living from it.
But keeping tonewood merchants at Stringfest will be difficult. Whilst not many of us can afford a custom made guitar, at least the luthiers have merchandise that will sell, and it certainly attracts plenty of interest. Tonewood merchants however occupy a very restricted market, so Stringfest offers them little in the way of financial reward, unless we get to the point where bigger guitar companies start coming to Stringfest. While that’s not beyond the realms of possibility it is still a few years away.
So we need new ideas on how to make the non-performing side of Stringfest more useful and engaging for both the participants and the audience.
Here’s some ideas:
- Field trips to a blackwood plantation;
- Presentations on growing blackwood (and other tonewoods);
- Tonewood merchants are both a) selling tonewood, and b) looking to buy logs from farmers/landowners. What are some things that tonewood merchants can do to attract both types of customers?
- A tonewood auction.
- A farm-grown log auction.
- A log-sawing demonstration;
- Luthier talks and demonstrations? Eg. the effect of tonewood on tone; how to refret a guitar; different soundboard bracing patterns; etc..
- A restringing booth! Bring your guitar/instrument in for a health check and restring (byo or buy strings);
- Craft-made guitar straps – these could be leather or other material;
I think the luthiers, merchants and growers themselves need to take ownership of their participation at Stringfest and be more creative.
How can we better link the performing and non-performing sides of Stringfest? Artists/luthiers on stage road testing a range of local guitars of different designs, sizes, shapes and tonewoods?
Finally my thanks and appreciation to the organisers and volunteers, and the Deloraine community, who make Stringfest happen. I think it is a fantastic idea and a great model.
I will be back again in 2016 to give the Festival my fullest support.
Plant a guitar!