Clarence Valley Independent

No raw prawns here, just people working for their community

Live Prawn Productions chose its new executive committee last week: (l-r) Tania Williams, John Webber, Kate Matthews (secretary), Done Corben (vice president), Gary Brisbane (president), Dane Byrne, Kerrie Howland and Phil Nicolas (treasurer). Image: Geoff Helisma

Geoff Helisma |

Back in 2004, Dom Ferry, then chair of the Clarence Valley Council Cultural Committee had a vision, to create and facilitate a cultural festival in his home town, Yamba.

Mr Ferry had a long history as a street performer and held credentials such as program coordinator for the Coffs Harbour Festival, program coordinator and festival organiser for the Fremantle Busker’s Festival and busker consultant at the Sydney Olympics.

His ‘vision’ was the Surfing the Coldstream Festival, which came to fruition in 2005 and ran every year until 2016, except for 2007 and 2013 – in 2010 it was temporarily re-badged ‘The Yamba Comedy, Music and Arts Festival’.

Mr Ferry steered the festivals in 2005, 2006 and 2008 before stepping down and several other people subsequently took on the leadership role.

But it has never just been about the leader of the organisation that ran the festivals, Live Prawn Productions Inc. (LPP) – behind the scenes and front and centre at the festivals there have been groups of dedicated volunteers, some LPP members, others who volunteered their efforts specifically for the days of the festivals.

Live Prawn Productions has also run the Yamba River Markets since 2008, with profits underwriting the festival.

Last week, Phil Nicholas stepped down from his leadership role at LPP’s annual general meeting.

“Having been involved in LPP since 2014, I think the one constant is that there is a small group of people totally dedicated to what the association is able to achieve in the community, even though, aside from the markets, that [group] changed a lot over time,” he said.

“The markets are valued and constant, while festival and other arts activities come and go, depending on who is driving them.”

Under Mr Nicholas’s leadership, LPP broadened its tenure in 2017, calling an end to the festival and, instead, explored “alternative ways to deliver great community-driven art and cultural events”.

“We’re completely open to hearing ideas from the floor,” Mr Nicholas said at the time.

“If it’s not a single day extravaganza such as a festival, it could be all manner of smaller events, partnerships or community arts programs.”

As a result, LPP restructured itself as an ‘arts organisation’ to, instead, fund “arts and cultural activities”.

In 2018/19, LPP conducted ‘kids’ art’ workshops at the three riverside picnics run in conjunction with Clarence Valley Council at McLachlan Park, Maclean; ran various workshops at the markets and co-funded (with CVC) a circus workshop held at the Raymond Laurie Sports Centre, Yamba.

It also commissioned several arts projects and underwrote a small music festival recently held in Yamba, ‘Salty Sounds’ (there was no outlay, as the promoter made a small profit), as well as making the river markets more ‘festival-like’ by staging special events and hosting the recent ‘Plunge Art Market’ for the second year running.

Gary Brisbane, who has been an active member of LPP since its inception, was elected to the president’s position at the AGM.

Mr Brisbane, who is also the river markets coordinator, thanked those who help make all of this possible in his annual market report to the AGM.

“We have had great support from our stall holders and volunteers,” he said.

“I would especially like to thank Roz Woodward, Caz Stott, Tania Williams, Julie Henry, Juliet Rooney, also Greg Addison and Geoff Little, and the many of whom who come down early every fourth Sunday; also Carmel Hale and Robyn Germon, who turns at helping out most months.”

He said people who would like to join LPP or volunteer at the markets can go to LPP’s website: Yambarivermarkets.com.au.

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