A fire on Christmas day is inevitably a headline act and in 2015, the Christmas Day fires burnt a light on the horizon of Apollo Bay, a beacon of disaster. The Great Ocean Road, Victoria’s most visited destination was closed and the economies of its coastal communities ground to a halt. Insult was added to injury when unseasonally heavy winter rains fell on exposed soil resulting in landslides and road damage, again cutting us off from visitors.
The Colac Otway Shire and the Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism Authority began discussions with Regional Development Victoria about assistance to boost the local economy following the impact of these road closures. A few ideas were tossed around but eventually we settled on a proposal to run a Cultural Festival over a series of weekends in Winter. Running a festival is of course an insane and complex undertaking and yet a brave few souls had their interest piqued and volunteered to get on boards.
So who are these folk who stuck up their hands to run a winter festival on one of the most exposed parts of the Victorian Coastline? And why did we do it? We’re a varied collection of artists, craftsmen, writers, archaeologists, conservationists, farmers and cider brewers. A representative sample of this diverse and talented community. A sort of a-grade antipodean Vicar of Dibley collective who seized the opportunity to showcase what we believe is the real soul of Apollo Bay.
We are the kind of people who believe that crayfish, chardonnay and long walks on open beaches in summer are of course delightful. In their place. But then there’s the Apollo Bay that’s left here after everyone has gone. What we think of as the “real” Bay. It’s wild and dark and the loudest thing is the wind. The mist closes in over the hills for days, the wind and rain coming off Antarctica and the Southern Ocean churns and boils. If you’re going in that water you’d better have a damn good wetsuit. The community retreats to its home brewed wine and beer, burn the timber they’ve harvested to keep themselves warm and spin the fleece they’ve grown. It may sound corny, but seriously – when the apocalypse comes these are the people you’re going to want to know. People who live 15 minutes up in the hills start talking about “not wanting to come all the way down into town”. Less Summer Bay, more Deadwood.
If you’re going to have a festival in Apollo Bay in winter there is no point hiding from the elements. We like it dark and wild and a little bit dirty. We’re not afraid to face the wind, the rain, the big waves and the mud. We’re going to take the support offered by Regional Development Victoria and we’re going to build a winter festival that showcases what we believe is the best Apollo Bay has to offer.