Southside finds its soul
By EMMA CORNFORD
EVERY second Wednesday, musicians gather at the Naked Bean Cafe in South Grafton.
They are there for two reasons ? to entertain those catching up over dinner or a cup of coffee, and to practise their craft with an appreciative audience.
One after the other they take to the stage, playing solo or performing with a band ? just as '4 Way Street' are doing the night I visit the cafe to find out about South Grafton's developing love affair with live music.
Naked Bean owner Greg Wayman says the music nights started as an opportunity to offer something different.
"When we started this place, we always had the idea that we could incorporate music because we come from a whole family of musicians," he says.
"Hopefully this will set a precedent in the area. Ben (owner of the Royal Hotel) already has live music as well. I'm not doing this as a monetary thing, it's about having a venue where people can play their own music or whatever they want to play."
Most performers use more traditional instruments but Greg says everyone is welcome.
"We've had all sorts of people come along and play. We've had harp players, banjos, ukeleles and even one guy who writes poetry. It's very broad ? anyone can come and play."
And to help give young people some experience, TAFE students run the sound on the night. Greg is also hoping that the music nights around South Grafton will lead to the formation of a songwriter's group.
"It will give people an opportunity to gather with other musicians. We could organise gigs in other areas and that kind of thing ? I think it would really take off."
Even if the group doesn't come to fruition, it seems South Grafton will continue to embrace live music.
Along with the Naked Bean and the Royal Hotel, there are plans to get live music performances up and running at the School of Arts community hall at the corner of Spring and Skinner streets.
South Grafton Emporium manager Annie Dodd said the nights could include musicians, dancers and performers from other areas of the arts.
"We ran them at the Emporium for years, but they became a bit big and awkward here, so we decided to move," Ms Dodd said.
"It's a bigger and better space ... and it's a really family-friendly atmosphere, which is good."
Starting in August and running on the first Friday of each month, the nights will also provide a fundraising opportunity for community groups.
"There's a $3 entry charge which will go to improving the venue, but community groups will be able to run the kitchen to help them raise money," she said.
South Grafton has taken live music into its bosom and it seems the people love it.
"It's a good night and as long as people keep coming along, we'll keep running it," says Greg.
Let the support continue.