Funtavia is an annual Festival held in Geraldton, Western Australia. MEPAU has been sponsoring the event since 2018.
Chairman Rob Jefferies says the festival is an important community event that gives local performers an opportunity to perform.
“Local development of artists is a big part of what we’re about,” he says. “Funtavia is a platform for local artists to put together an act and perform it. Some only perform locally, but others branch out and perform further afield after their experience at Funtavia.
The festival has an incredible community feel to it,” he says. “We have over 100 volunteers helping to run the event. They do a whole range of jobs, and they dress up and have a lot of fun. Local businesses sponsor the event but they also provide a lot of in-kind support. Around 70 artists perform. There’s a sense of everyone working together to create something fabulous.
“MEPAU’s support is welcomed particularly as their operations have a long-standing presence in the Mid West. MEPAU and their predecessors have been a part of the regional community for almost 50 years.”
Creative Producer Julian Canny says sponsorship is essential as it allows the festival to maintain a strong focus on innovation and investment in the community. “Sponsorship really helps us financially. New and creative ideas need a significant investment, so we work with a lot of sponsors to allow us to put on a high quality event.”
Local performers, local cultural identity
Julian Canny is Funtavia’s founder, along with Jodi Reilly. They ran the first festival in 2016. Julian says the festival was their answer to a gaping hole in the Geraldton performing arts scene. “There was no platform for local performing artists – nowhere for local people to get up and show what they could do, and no opportunity for people to invest in that local talent.”
The local focus remains an important part of the festival’s ethos.
“It’s important to us that the community gets to see themselves reflected culturally,” says Julian Canny. “When local people get up and perform their own locally created work, it’s a unique experience. The performance arises from the local environment, from the way the performer feels about and interacts with the local surroundings. The audience then feels that as a shared cultural identity, which is very powerful for building a strong community.”
Rob Jefferies says the Geraldton postcode, 6530, was the theme of the music at the 2019 festival. “We asked artists to perform meaningful experiences that were part of living in Geraldton. Some spoke about growing up in the area, some about the sea and the beach and the environment. It was fabulous, and an important way to help build Geraldton’s cultural identity.”
Independent, award winning festival
Funtavia started as a Fringe World Regional Hub but after the 2019 event the organisers decided to break away from Fringe World and run the festival independently. Rob Jefferies says, “We ran some small focus groups and learned that people really wanted more flexibility than we were able to offer as a Fringe World hub. Going forward the essence of Funtavia will be the same and many of the performers will be the same, but we will be able to weave in some of the benefits we want to offer our patrons.”
Although in its early years, Funtavia has already started collecting awards. The festival was the winner of the 2016 Fringe World ‘Best New Venue’ award, and in 2018 the festival won the Judges award at the Mid West Chamber of Commerce and Industry Business Excellence Awards.
Rob Jefferies says, “We have a lot of very skilled people organising the festival, people who are really committed to putting on an extraordinary event. It’s great to be recognised for that.”
Rob points to the pop up bar where people can hang out even if they’re not attending a show. “The venue itself is an important part of building community and we were delighted to learn from our focus groups that young women feel safe in the environment we have created. They can dress up, go out, see some performances and they feel completely safe. That’s important to us,” he says.
Julian Canny says they’re starting to see indicators of local performers using Funtavia as a springboard before moving onto bigger and better things. “Funtavia gives local performers a starting point. They can try out something new and if it works and they enjoy it, they can go on to perform at other venues. For example last year our local act ‘Fat Girls in Bike Shorts’ went on to perform at Adelaide Fringe, among other places.”
Julian says one of the benefits of the festival is that it adds to the vibrancy of the local community. “Funtavia helps make Geraldton an attractive place to be,” he says. “That has all sorts of other beneficial flow on effects both for businesses and individuals. A community that laughs together, bonds together.”
The 2020 Funtavia Festival runs from 30 April to 2 May. More information is available here.