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Rootbound Festival brings Hinchinbrook a message of consciousness and hope

6/August/2021
The main stage featured a variety of performers during the festival.

Ingham’s population swelled by nearly twenty-five per cent last weekend, as over 1200 devotees gathered from Townsville to Cairns and beyond, for this year’s inaugural Rootbound Festival, held at Mungalla Station from July 30 to August 2.

Rootbound Festival is a celebration and participation in music, art, education, and land care, and comes from the combining of two smaller, more localised festivals, Sprout, which focussed on land care, and Coalescence, which focussed on tree planting and will continue to have small, local, land care events focussed particularly around Mission Beach. Featuring a range of educational workshops, such as hydroponics, community gardens, and collecting and growing rainforest seeds, the festival made its eco-ethical focus front and centre, while entertaining the masses with its variety of other options… even hosting chill-out and hang-out tents. The festival catered to a reasonably broad range of musical tastes, with bands featuring a more reggae and chill line-up on Saturday and a more dance and techno line-up on Sunday, interspersed cleverly with a variety of fun acts from comedians to acrobats, to poets, in a quality and thoughtful programming schedule. Most artists were peace-promoting, although some had a more activist bent.

The event was surprisingly family-friendly, with many young families with small children in tow, and a children’s entertainment area with activities in the day and family films at night. A pop-up art gallery sat in a naturally cool Geodesic dome tent featuring Ingham’s own Joanne Cassady, amongst other quality artists. Even stallholders were feeling the warmth, local market stalwart Colleen King saying “I feel the love here more than other places, many customers would ask how I am, and the organisers went out of their way to help when we had an electrical issue. You just wouldn’t get this level of care in other places.”

The event has a “leave no trace” policy, with a fundamental desire to give more than it took, and, as such organised a major tree planting event to restore Mungalla’s wetlands. 

Rootbound’s three directors, Arron McDonald of Coalescence, and Jacob and Luke Macmillan of Sprout, combined forces to create a bigger event and impact. Aaron is a sustainability student at JCU and installs roof top solar in houses for work. His former partner in Coalescence had to bow out when his social work caseload became too large to stay involved in the festival, necessitating the merger. The festival was originally supposed to be held at Woodley Station, but there was too much red tape to get through in time, and former smaller festival host, Dudley Park, did not want to do events anymore. So, six weeks out, they had to find a last-minute venue, and in stepped Mungalla Station. That was not the last of their trials, though; border issues limited numbers and the festival could not afford to refund everybody from farther afield who gambled on the lock down, so they shut sales “five or six days out” and directed everybody to their resale platform.

The Hinchinbrook Shire Council really stepped up to the plate for this festival. Normally councils can be very difficult to deal with for festival organisers, but Hinchinbrook welcomed the organisers with open arms and donated wheelie bins for the event. It even promoted the festival on its social media, advertising a special locals-only offer of $20 for a day pass for anyone in the 4850 postcode. The Hinchinbrook Chamber of Commerce also chipped in with its promotion efforts. One of the Council’s staff members even offered to bring down some fish from a weekend fishing expedition! The CEO reportedly said, “we want you to make your home here.“ McDonald joked “Now we’ve had the event, we’ll see if they still want us!”

The festival organisers plan to hold the festival at Mungalla from now on. 

“We like it here,” McDonald said. “We want to make land care and environmental education accessible to the public, attracting them here by the music, and we love to work with Indigenous groups. We are big on social justice.” 

He went on to explain other social justice initiatives, such as giving quality female DJs opportunities in an otherwise boys-club industry. 

“Indigenous Elders already being here is a big tick for us, and they’ve already got wetland restoration here, so it’s not a big sell like it can be to a normal property, who may not understand its importance. You’ve already got the Social and environmental stuff here; other than the fact that you can’t swim due to the crocodiles, the location is perfect.” 

“An added advantage is proximity. The graphic crew from Townsville has worked with them for about 5 years since Coalescence, and it is ideal to now be closer to them. They also have a big following in Cairns. The location helps knit the two communities together, uniting the two tropical QLD cities, and locations in-between. An added advantage in hosting it at Mungalla, is that there is much more room for growth.”

For more information on Rootbound Festival, and to sign up and stay in touch with future events and volunteering opportunities, visit rootbound.com.au.

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