Clarence River Arts Festival

Clarence River Arts Festival launch

WITH the official okay on an imminent federal grant only a short time away, the Lower Clarence Arts and Crafts Association is getting set for its biggest year yet with a monster move, a new festival and hopefully a new future for the arts on the Lower Clarence.

The LCACA applied for a federal grant to upgrade the old tea rooms at the Maclean Showground so it would be inhabitable all year round and create a hub for the arts and other Maclean-based community groups like Playgroup who already use the venue.

"We haven't officially heard back yet but are just waiting for the official stamp of approval," LCACA festival co-ordinator Alison Merrin said.

President of LCACA Jenny Thomas and life member June Alexander get together at the Maclean Showground - where the newly created LCACA festival will be held this year.
President of LCACA Jenny Thomas and life member June Alexander get together at the Maclean Showground - where the newly created LCACA festival will be held this year. Adam Hourigan

Once approved, works will begin on the upgrade, which includes removing the roof, lining it and putting it back on, installing whirlybirds and louvred windows on the back wall for ventilation, and adding an extra window in front wall for light and airflow. Alison said they had outgrown their former home at the Gulmarrad Public School and improvements would make the tearooms much more comfortable in the winter and summer.

"At the height of summer you can't use the rooms. It's unusable in any extreme weather so this will correct that," she said.

As far as any other improvements go, Alison said the council had already upgraded the toilet but that's as far as the internal improvements would extend. "Unfortunately we don't have enough funds to line or paint the internal walls. Hopefully this can be done next year," she said.

To celebrate these improvements, the LCACA is planning to re-brand its annual exhibition as a festival to mark the occasion of a new home and new beginning for the group.

The Clarence River Arts Festival will follow on from its highly successful 2015 Golden Jubilee Competitive Arts Crafts and Quilts Exhibition, and take the 50-year old tradition through its next era.

Alison said their aim was to widen the appeal of event for competitors and visitors by extending its run time and introducing a carnival atmosphere.

"We plan for it to go off with a bang. This is the first year of something bigger for the Lower Clarence so we want to make this inaugural festival a memorable one but we need help beyond the grant to do it successfully," she said.

As well the exhibition with the usual sections of, Fine Art, Sculpture, Junior Art, Photography, Jewellery, Wearable Art, Patchwork and Quilting and Creative Needlework, the LCACA is hoping to have live entertainment with buskers, face painting, jumping castle, craft market, demonstrations, food and beverage stalls and much more during the event.

Opening night is being set for Thursday, July 7, with the festival running across three big days on July 8, 9 and 10, with Sunday offering visitors a more relaxed day to view the exhibition.

But these carnival extras don't come for free, so LCACA has set up a Clarence River Arts Festival GoFundMe page calling for supporters to donate what they can to help see their dream to fruition.

At the moment they are $40 in to their $15,000 goal, which seems like a long road ahead, but every little bit counts.

"We are hoping to raise as much as we can. It's the start of a very long journey. We have a five-year plan but we want to start small and do it properly and leave a good impression," Alison said.



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