Writing for pleasure to showcase the best Australia has on offer.
The love of country music - new talent & old favourites
Most of the avid country music lovers would have already bought tickets, secured campsites and\or accommodation, bus or aeroplane tickets to the iconic Tamworth Country Music Festival, which is held in January of each year. Brought to you by Toyota, the festival will clock up forty-seven years in 2019 and it continues to grow year after year as new talent emerges and golden favourites return.
2018 was my first Tamworth and I didn't really know what to expect even though I had plenty of friends giving me tips for the event. Although my friend and I travelled down with a tour company and stayed in an agricultural college's accommodation, there were plenty of others we met during our stay there, who had also camped, rented homes and used motel accommodation during their numerous times to Tamworth.
What an amazing experience Tamworth is if you have never been there before and just hearing about it is nothing compared to being in the daily mix of a buzzing atmosphere on every street, in every hotel, services club, concert venue, bars, pop-up stage, shopping centres and parks. Nothing prepares you for Tamworth and I can now understand why people go back year after year.
Since my friend and I had seen our favourites in concerts throughout the previous year, we had decided to watch as many new talent or lesser known country artists as we could; thereby expanding our appreciation to the new horizons.
The first thing to do is to purchase a wristband from any Tamworth Bus or from the Tamworth Festival Express Ticket Booth, which is located at the corner of Peel and Brisbane Streets. The wristbands will cost $10 a day or $35 for 10 days and will give you transport to any Tamworth venue including Nundle and most accommodation houses throughout the festival (19 to 28 January 2019). Just show your wristband to the bus driver and off you go. Bus schedules for Town, Rural and Festival Express Maps can be downloaded from the Tamworth 2019 website. The Festival map will show you the different routes to be taken to reach your destination; for example, Route 433 leaves every half hour and will take you to South 2 via West Leagues Club and Dibar Drive. Navigating the maps is easy after the first day. You won't get lost as there will be hundreds of others going to the same places.
Artists Getting Together To Play Music (Author's Photograph)
If you booked your trip to Tamworth through a tour company, you will probably be given a copy of the Official Toyota Country Music Festival 2019 Guide. This is something you cannot be without. It gives you briefs on artists, where they are playing on any particular day or night, stories from previous years and most importantly your official programme. You will find there are so many acts on each day that overlap others that it will be difficult to choose which one you would prefer seeing. My tip is to take a highlighter pen so you can mark off your favourites and juggle the rest later. If driving independently to Tamworth, a copy of the official guide can be purchased from any Tamworth newsagency or online. Of course for the technically minded person, the TCMF Official App guide can be downloaded onto your mobile.
Buskers can be found on every street, some only a few metres apart, but just far apart that one's songs do not mix with the others. You must register to be a busker and this can be done online here. Many country and other genre stars started out this way and along the streets of Tamworth, many children busking were found as well. Tamworth's main street has many bronze statues of well-known country artists – take the time to get your photograph taken with some of these. Everyone is so friendly in Tamworth that someone will gladly take your photograph.
Busking is one of the competitions held throughout the festival. Others include –
The Famous Golden Guitar Awards – Australia Country Music Awards where winners will be announced to the audience on Saturday 26th January 2019. This is a must and tickets can be purchased online now. Prices start at $49 per person for a bronze ticket through to Gold Plus tickets for $155.00 each. A transaction fee will also apply. This is a great opportunity to see the artists arrive and walk down the red carpet.
Queen of Country Music Quest – this is one of the long-standing traditions at Tamworth and was established in1984 by the Tamworth Business Chamber as a promotional event.
Toyota Star Maker - Aspiring artists are invited to compete in the Toyota Star Maker title with a prize package of a full album deal and 12-months use of a fully serviced Toyota Car. Applications are now closed for this event
Coca-Cola Country – This event has been going for 40 years giving everyone a chance to perform at Tamworth. Artists perform on the stage of the Town Hall as part of Coca-Cola Country's CCMA National Talent Quest. Categories include Battle of the Young Stars, Battle of the New Stars, Battle of the Bands, Battle of the Bluegrass or Walk Up and Sing. My friend and I attended the finals of these events and wondered why we hadn't made time to listen to the earlier amazing talent sung from this stage. This is the type of event where new talent captures your musical cords and the artists secure their new fan base. Zac & George Band won first place in "The Battle of the Bands" with their incredible harmony and music expertise. They also took out second place in the Busking Competition for 2018. Since Tamworth, they have been writing music in Nashville and are preparing to support Golden Guitar 2018 Winner's Aleyce Simmonds and Brad Butcher. Since Tamworth, I am definitely following Zac and George as one of their avid fans.
Australian Country Music People's Choice Awards – This award gives you the opportunity to vote on who you believe was the best country artist. Winners of this competition are announced at Our Lady of the Rosary Cultural Centre, Tribe Street, Tamworth, on Thursday 24 January 2019. Tickets can be purchased now for this event.
Accommodation in Tamworth is pretty well booked out for the whole period, so it is imperative you get in early if you are not venturing to Tamworth with a tour company. Many residents rent their homes out for families and groups of friends. Accommodation options include B&B, self-contained units, hotels, motels, camping and caravan parks, Air BnB or Stayz for home hosting options or even, where we stayed, in an agricultural college just outside of town.
You can make your stay at Tamworth as expensive or as inexpensive as you wish, depending on the amount of paid concerts you wish to attend. There is an extensive line-up of well-known artists giving free and ticketed concerts over 120 venues throughout the event, either on open-air stages or in clubs and hotels, so there is no need, if money is a restriction, to pay for concerts. Each night, thousands of festival-goers meet at the Toyota (Bicentennial) Park for a full night of free entertainment by well-known artists. It's suggested you bring a fold-up chair or blanket as surplus seating is not available. We saw Adam Brand's 20th Anniversary Concert in the park, all free.
Finish off your visit to Tamworth by watching the Parade (Author's Photograph)
As Tamworth is noted at that time of year to be extremely hot or perhaps wet, it is advisable to bring a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, good walking shoes or joggers and plenty of bottled water as you meander from event to event. There are plenty of pop-up food vans as well as great food to be purchased from clubs and pubs. You will not go hungry.
The Tamworth Country Music Festival has always been on my bucket list and now having attending one year, I hope to attend again. I have only skimmed the surface of this incredible event; go to the official website and read the information to be prepared for your visit to the Festival.
Put the dates in your diary - Tamworth Country Music Festival 18 - 27 January 2019.
Hi. You know I have always wanted to go to this. But work prevented me from getting up there. Now that is over I can hopefully go one day. I love Tamworth. Well done on your 500. What a hard slog that must have been. Regards, Kat.