‘Gigfest’ creates a buzz for local musicians

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Headliner Vendulka

THE Canberra region is suddenly awash with arts festivals.

The recently-announced “Where You Are” festival is into its first full week of operation, the Tallagandra Hill Winery has launched a series of special events as part of the “We love Local” festival and now former “The Voice” contestant Vendulka Wichta is headlining a virtual video festival.

“Covideo Gigfest”, the newest festival on the block, has been designed by Canberra business owner and aspiring musician Ben Ashman to support local musicians who have lost their livelihoods since the onset of the Covid pandemic.

Ashman, who owns IT recruitment company Recruitment Hive, put out a call for entries on social media and paid the 15 artists who sent him a video performance up to $800 each.

I Progretti

From this Thursday, July 16, Canberrans can log on to the “Covideo Gigfest” and experience performances by Canberra talent like The Australian Voice Collective, directed by Paul Bissett and Rachel Campbell, and the Progetti Chamber Choir, directed by Charis Messalina de Valence.

Canberra arts insiders will be especially interested in the “David Branson Memorial Stage Gigs” by Renae Stone, Eden Plenty and Tom Woodward and the “Sylvie Stern Memorial Stage Gigs” by Renae Stone, Arianne Tan, Karen James, and Michael Bones and Michael Liu, which pay homage to two of the ACT’S most-mourned artistic movers and shakers.

Country music singer/songwriter Dana Hassal

“It’s been more than 100 days since restrictions were imposed on entertainment venues, meaning hundreds of musicians have been without their livelihoods,” Ashman says.

“One thing the crisis has reminded us of is how much we rely on the arts for our mood and quality of life… But many artists have seen their income drop to zero overnight. We wanted to support Canberra’s musicians in these tough times, and raise the profiles of local artists as much as we can.”

His headliner, 21-year-old singer/songwriter Vendulka, for instance, was booked out more than three months in advance for shows all over the country, all of which disappeared overnight.

Michalel Liu and Michael Bones

Electric violinist Michael Liu, “Mr Michael” to his fans, says he’s used the time to rethink where he finds his audience members, saying: “ I’ve had to explore and re-conceptualise where to find an audience, but it’s really tough to monetise.”

Ashman hopes that when life returns to normal, Canberrans will seek out these artists, attend their performances and help return their industry to normal as fast as possible but in the meantime, he says: “We’ll make as much noise and generate as much buzz and viewing traffic as we can.”

The Canberra 2020 COVIDEO Virtual Gigfest is accessible here recruitmenthive.com.au/virtualgigfest

The line-up includes: two-time National Busking Champion, Vendulka; Weston Creek busker Eden Plenty; classical guitarist Campbell Diamond; country music singer/songwriter Dana Hassall; folk singer/songwriter Dean Abbott; the Australian Voice Collective; acoustic musician Renae Stone; Progetti Chamber Choir; acoustic trio Chillin; classical violinist Arianne Tan; singer/songwriter Tom Woodward; Tanner Clark aka Kloudiil; violinist Michael Liu; and DJ Bios.


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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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