Festival fate in hands of the community
The future of the Manjimup Cherry Harmony Festival lies in the willingness of Manjimup residents to raise their hands for action to ensure its survival.
The festival committee recently voted to cancel the 2023 event and take a one-year hiatus from annual delivery due to insufficient volunteers. Without new people stepping into a range of crucial roles, the festival is non-viable in its current form.
The decision to postpone the 22nd iteration was a difficult, but necessary step, in determining whether the event has an ongoing future. With several of the previous committee retiring from their roles after many years of service (some over a decade, and outgoing Chair/Coordinator, Pam Bodsworth, providing 21 years of dedication) there was simply insufficient people-power to get the 2023 event off the ground.
Having celebrated its 21st birthday last year, with an estimated 8500 visitors (local, state, national and international) and income generation of approx $1 million, the festival represents a huge boost to the region’s economic and cultural prosperity. Details of that event and its impact feature the Festival Report provided to funding partners and participating community groups/businesses. It makes for really interesting reading and is an incredible testimony to the skill, vision and generosity of the volunteers who’ve built the event over twenty years.
The current committee are incredibly passionate about the value of the event to the town of Manjimup and the broader region. Volunteering has been a rewarding experience, with their efforts bringing the community together in celebration of local produce, industry and creativity.
Outgoing members are leaving to make way for new people to contribute to the event’s future, bringing new ideas and new energy. Secession is an important component of healthy organisations, with changing of the guard important for relevance and vitality.
The Cherry Harmony Festival is not alone in its challenge to recruit the next wave of volunteers. This is a global phenomena, well documented across all sectors of society. Locally it extends across emergency services (fire brigades, SES, ambulance), sporting, cultural, education and environmental groups. One wonders if perhaps volunteers are an increasingly endangered species? Events and organisations across Australia have had to evolve to respond to a growing tendency to civic disengagement. In the past, residents took action in their own hands to determine their collective future, supplanted by an expanding passivity and expectation that ‘others’ will provide.
Manjimup has the opportunity to reverse this trend. With a new team of volunteers joining forces with the current committee the 2024 festival can rise again. The question is, who’s willing to put their hand up to make a difference?