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500 Miles of Music to lift spirits of rural communities doing it tough

Entertainment

Organisers of a travelling country music festival across the Flinders Ranges and Outback are hoping the event will help lift the spirits of locals struggling with the impacts of drought.

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The inaugural 500 Miles of Music in July will make its way across four outback locations, Wombat Flat near Eudunda, Quorn, Blinman and William Creek, entertaining locals and visitors as well as travellers on their way to the Big Red Bash, the world’s most remote music festival in Birdsville, the following week.

Award-winning country artists Adam Harvey, Brad Butcher, Aleyce Simmonds, Michaela Jenke and Matt James will perform at each of the 500 Miles events.

The idea for a travelling music festival exclusive to the Far North was born from established foley artist John Simpson who lives in Quorn, where he has managed to maintain an extensive career in the film industry, working on titles such as Mad Max: Fury Road, The Water Diviner, and Les Misérables.

John says he was inspired to bring a big event to his hometown and surrounding outback places as they often miss out on hosting musical or cultural events.

“We kind of miss out in the middle and I just wanted to have something special for Quorn …I guess you always push your own barrel, but it’s a nice place and there are plenty of accommodation and camping spots,” he says.

“We hope to make this happen every year. The Big Red Bash is QLD’s biggest remote music festival, and I really want to this one (500 Miles) to become SA’s big outback music festival, and not just concentrate on one town but many towns so everybody has a bite.”

The future of 500 Miles of Music has been secured through a $19,000 grant by the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal’s Tackling Tough Times Together program. John and his team have also worked hard to secure the support of major sponsors, OZ Minerals, Nitschke Chaff and Freight and Wrights Air.

With farmers across the state reporting some of the driest conditions in recent memory, John says an event like 500 Miles of Music could help take their minds off the tough times. He says the event also offers locals an experience on their doorstep rather than requiring them to travel long distances.

“Everyone can have a fun time out and it doesn’t cost a lot of money. A lot of the towns like William Creek for instance, which is surrounded by cattle country, they don’t have anything like this to go to normally. It’s the same with Blinman and all the people around there,” John says.

“If we can keep these people laughing and having a good time, that’s what’s important.”

John worked alongside friends Mike Roberts who runs The Barn at Wombat Flat, one of the venues for the festival, and Rob Baumann to pull the event together. 500 Miles of Music will raise money for cancer charity Mummy’s Wish with 15% of the profits going towards the cause.

Aside from his main gig as foley artist under Quorn-based business Feet’n’Frames, John also runs a sound equipment business Outback PA Hire which will provide the set up for 500 Miles.

John has lived in the Flinders Ranges town for about 15 years and works from his sound-proofed shed studio on his 300-acre outback property. It’s from this isolated yet serene location that John is able to record and create sounds without interference of traffic and other noises he would find in cities.

He has an extensive list of film credits to his name including recently released Australian romantic comedy Top End WeddingWorld War Z, The Great Gatsby, The Hobbit and Diana. John is currently working on I Am Woman, a film about 1970s musician and activist Helen Reddy.

“Because of the internet it doesn’t really matter where I go for my job, but I do like the quietness, it means I can record outside without buses driving past my back door,” John says.

“I’ve lived in cities and worked out of Sydney for many years and it’s just not nice when you go for a break outside and you’re surrounded by smog. It’s much nicer to head out the door and into the country.”

500 Miles of Music will launch at The Barn at Wombat Flat on July 6 (sold out) before heading to the Quorn Oval on July 7. It will then hit the North Blinman Hotel on July 8 before the finale at the William Creek Hotel from July 10–11. Click here to purchase tickets.

Feature image: Oodnadatta Track, Flinders Ranges and Outback, SATC.

This story was first published by Brand South Australia for the Regional Showcase.

This is a Creative Commons story from The Lead South Australia, a news service providing stories about innovation in South Australia. Please feel free to use the story in any form of media. The story sources are linked in with the copy and all contacts are willing to talk further about the story.

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