Message from David and Kristin Williamson
Between us, we have been directly involved in creating and running four Noosa Long Weekend Festivals and of course have been actively involved in all 18 to date. Each festival has left us with many wonderful memories.
The first festival started in 2002 with a small group of friends in Noosa…
The first festival started in 2002 with a small group of friends in Noosa who became the foundation committee. Queenslander Brett Dean, who had spent 16 years as a violist with the Berlin Philharmonic, had just returned to live in Noosa and he became a driving force behind the idea of starting a local arts festival. He also agreed to procure classical musicians cheaply. Leonie Palmer, who ran the very popular Ricky Ricardos restaurant was our culinary expert and became the first president. Michael Gloster volunteered to enthuse guests about the local environment, David was responsible for theatre, Kristin for literature and we shared film. The five of us each put in $2000 and the festival was launched. When we look back now, reflecting on our naivety with this venture you could hardly say it was youthful enthusiasm!
We have indelible memories of ticketing in 2002. The box office was run from the kitchen table of two friends, Ros McCauley and Rick Clayton (who also contributed $2000), but because they were obliged to move house in the middle of the booking period, chaos reigned and breaths were held. But everyone got their tickets. Now we laugh at the memory, but it wasn’t funny then.
In 2002, we took roles in ‘Charitable Intent’. It was reminiscent of our earliest ventures on stage, in the 1970s at little theatres like Melbourne’s La Mama. We missed cues, muffed lines (David more than Kristin!) but the audiences didn’t mind and the season was extended. We were amazed.
In the first few years performers were not offered any payment, just an airfare and a few nights free accommodation at Noosa. For this they were expected not just to perform but to mingle with the locals and become part of the scene. Bryan Brown came down offstage and shared anecdotes with the audience over a few beers, and then disappeared into the surf for days with his newfound friends. Film critics Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton judged short films screened on a wild, stormy night in a huge tent that was packed with excited young film-makers and became mentors to many of them. Booker Prize winners Peter Carey and Tom Keneally waded in the shallows on Noosa beach with their trousers rolled up, chatting to other paddlers. A sceptical local audience confronted international journalist John Pilger but after his talk most of them queued up to buy his books and shake his hand. And who could forget the opening night when fireworks exploded from barges out to sea and lit up the whole of Noosa beach, after which hundreds of people of three generations danced in the sand to the performance of that timeless band, The Delltones.
If we couldn’t find enough free hotel accommodation for our actors, musicians and artists we asked local people to lend them a house. Michael Leunig and his family stayed for a week in a luxury house and managed to blow up the spa, but he generously donated so many paintings to the festival that we didn’t even mention it.
String quartets rehearsed in our living room and committee meetings were held on a long table on our veranda. Volunteers drove the artists to their venues, took them sightseeing in their boats on the Noosa River and cleaned up after the parties. There were no paid staff and the event had no office. But by the end of the first, ten day Noosa Long Weekend Festival we realised we’d have to keep going. The people had embraced it and were asking for more.
Since those humble beginnings we have seen some of the most talented Australian and international performers become part of the festival. All have helped to build the recognition and reputation it enjoys today.
Over the past eleven years, Noosa Long Weekend Festival has hosted a dazzling list of local and international talent.
In addition to those already mentioned guests have included (in no particular order) Clive James, Tariq Ali, Tim Winton, Nick Earls, Li Cunxin, George Megalogenis, Barrie Cassidy, Jack Thompson, Bruce Petty, Drew Forsyth, John Bell, Bruce Beresford, Rolf de Heer, the Goldner String Quartet, Russell Boyd, Marina Prior, Caroline O’Connor, Caroline Nin, Tom Burlinson, Band of Brothers, Toni Lamond, Carita Farrer, Mirka Mora, Bill Leak, Don Watson, Tim Ferguson, Ken Done, Piers Lane, Gerard Willems, Kate Miller-Heidke, Karin Schaupp, Jane Rutter, Max Gillies, Robert Connolly, Jean Kittson, Wendy Harmer, Campbell McComas, Tim Flannery, Alison Broinowski, Maxine McKew, Paul Kelly, Julianne Schultz, Andrew Rule, John Silvester, Peter Thompson, Geraldine Doogue, Kerry O’Brien, Ita Buttrose, Hugh Mackay, Robyn Nevin, the International Stars of Ballet (seven principals from the San Francisco Ballet), Robert Drewe, Anne Summers, Hilary McPhee, Bryce Courtenay, Kylie Kwong, Maggie Beer and many others. Now it is a great honour to be Patrons of Noosa Long Weekend Festival and to watch as it continues to evolve.
We are proud that the festival is 18 years strong and wish the committee every success and its patrons great enjoyment, for many more Noosa Long Weekend Festivals to come.
(Noosa Long Weekend Festival underwent a rebranding/name change in 2017. Now trading as NOOSA alive!)