North Richmond Youth Centre has been allowing up and coming bands to get off the ground with their monthly band nights for a long time now. However, the young people organizing the event found it hard to get bands off the ground, when they didn’t even have a stage for the band to play on. Bands were happy to play of course, in North Richmond they love having an audience, however several young people thought it simply wasn’t good enough. And from that thought grew what has blossomed into Rock Across The River.
Rock Across The River is set to be a one day music festival on 2 June, with a youth focus combined with a family festival attitude. The whole day is aimed at making money for a new stage for the bands from now on, so it’s music for music’s sake, and also to give the local people something to do, and local bands an audience to play for with a big name act.
I met up with a few of the girls on the steering committee for the event and was amazed at how this had all come together. From their description it seemed to have grown almost unassisted out of a tiny idea. Apparently a few girls got a spark of inspiration, and ran with it, then some other people came on board. Then some people got off board and it just happened. It took a bit of talking to coax the harder stuff out of them, but once they got started it was hard to stop them.
According to the girls, their area isn’t the most youth friendly place to live. One young woman even told me that kids from the area go other places because they are so isolated. The name of their event reflects her concerns.Rock Across The River is an invitation for young people to cross the river for some great live music. Pamphlets and fliers are being distributed as far as the Hills District and the Blue Mountains, thanks to the dedication of all the girls (and let us not forget the hard working male) who have been working hard on this project. One of the young women involved, Brittni, is a local musician herself and understands that young people in the Hawkesbury area don’t often have a lot of opportunity to have their music held. She loves the fact that North Richmond had the monthly band nights, but thought this event was really taking local youth music in the area to the next level.
The girls explained to me that it had been hard but fun working with this group of people, one of them told me that they would not take a project like this on again unless at least one of the same people was there as well. Perhaps it might be easier to do another time, the girls are involved in full time work or study, in fact Brittni is in her HSC year this year. The dedication and camaraderie between the girls made the whole process seem more fun. I wondered why there weren’t more boys on their committee, and was about to be disappointed in the male community of North Richmond, but the girls put my fears to rest, telling me that the boys were working hard performing on the day and networking to get bands like the big name Bagster to perform on the day. I felt satisfied knowing the boys were in fact working hard. The one boy I did meet, Anthony, was drawn in by an article in the local paper about the event, which just goes to show the positive power of your local paper. In fact local sources got most of the committee involved. People brought friends or sisters along to a meeting and if they liked what they were doing they would stay and help. Seems easy enough, if you have friends willing to share your cause then get them on board. It certainly worked for this group, who seem to have had their membership confirmed by the time I got to see one of their meetings.
What I saw of their meeting, where I learned most of what was going on, made the whole event look easy. And as the girls and women explained to me, it has been. Under the supervision of North Richmond’s Youth Development Officer, Michelle, the team has come up with some truly ingenious ideas. Michelle says that once everything was structured it became very easy, though the young women tend to think she did a lot more than that, attributing a lot of their funding success to Michelle’s “snazzy words” and flair for letter writing. On further research I found that they received an initial funding grant from Indent (see below), after sending a great package of promotional items for their already existing band night. After that, it was up to hard work and community support. Rachel, the youngest member of the dynamic group, aged only sixteen, put together a very enticing sponsorship kit which went out to local business, with a fair bit of money coming in from that. The other members of the group saw her extreme dedication to the event as a clear reason why publicity and sponsorship had happened. Of course, a lot of the money came from hard work in the community. On Election Day this year the young people were at the voting booth hard at work selling sausages and raffle tickets.
Of course it hasn’t all been sunshine and lollipops for the group, but as one of the girls, Mel, pointed out to me “If you have a good team willing to put in the effort, you can achieve anything.” I quickly learnt that a good team is great, but a connected team is better. Every single girl in the group (Michelle included) knew someone, or knew someone who knew someone who could help. I thought about that for a while and realized that it wasn’t just some mafia-like connection circle North Richmond has, but in any group of young people putting on an event you would be able to find connections, and these girls were not afraid to use them.
Nor were they afraid to think slightly to the side, a quality that can make a hard situation much easier. The creative juices in the room were flowing at full speed when they showed me the tickets for the event. Beautiful glossy design and full colour tickets like these would usually cost a lot of money, but apparently had not. A local business had donated to them 2000 free prints for digital photos. Wondering what they would do with 2000 prints other than raffle them off, the thought ran to the back of their minds. Until someone had a light bulb moment to turn the ticket into a digital file and print them off with their free prints. Of course they didn’t need 2000 prints, so still have some left to raffle off. Both Michelle and I were highly impressed by that stroke of genius and decided that was something only a group of young people would come up with.
The girls also have the advantage of being in touch with the young folk using the right medium. Local newspapers, posters around the community and of course, the website for the world, MySpace, are all being used. The team has constructed a beautiful MySpace (see below), which has blossomed to a fuller friends list than mine could ever hope for. Local businesses approached for sponsorship also got a brief lesson in what MySpace was as well, making sponsorship seem even more worthwhile.