HONK! festival brings new beat to Wollongong

HONK! festival brings new beat to Wollongong

Dr Lotte Latukefu will be celebrating with the best of them when the HONK! Oz Festival kicks off in Wollongong.

Inspired by the annual HONK! festival of activist street bands in Somerville, Massachusetts, the event will feature musicians from the United States and across Australia perform a variety of styles of music that opera singer and lecturer Dr Latukefu hopes will get people dancing.

“People should expect to find themselves in a carnival or mardi gras atmosphere at the festival. We hope people will feel like joining in, as it will be quite interactive. It will be loud, particularly with all the brass and wind instruments,” Dr Latukefu, who is also a UOW graduate, said.

Multiple creative minds and supporting organisations have come together to produce the festival, the first of its kind to be held in Australia, including Wollongong City Council, the Wollongong Culture Band, The Illawarra Folk Club.

Members of The Con Artists, a Wollongong-based community band with which Dr Latukefu sings, have been heavily involved in preparing the event.

“The members of the Con Artists are all volunteering in different roles for the festival, they are billeting visiting musicians and they are playing in the festival, they are constructing big art works that will appear in the festival. So they are well and truly involved in the process and the final festival.

“The Con Artists are an amazing example of what happens when community music really works well. In about three years the band has grown to include approximately 50 members. To cut a long story short we were interested in other similar community bands who played the kind of repertoire we play and stumbled across the US HONK! website. It just seemed to be a perfect fit and that is why we decided to use it as a model for our event.”

The Curious Rendition Orchestra, an offshoot of the Con Artists with a group of adults who haven’t touched a musical instrument in years, are also involved in organising the festival.

Highlights of the event include performances and workshops by:

  • The Junkadelics from Perth, who make their own instruments, use puppets and parade;
  • The Brassholes, who play second-line New Orleans music, are very energetic, and were a hit on Australia’s got talent;
  • The Environmental Encroachment Band, an energetic group led by Mike Smith from Chicago;
  • The Red Brigade, a feisty all-girl group
  • Macedonian street music workshops with Linsey Pollak

While the performers are entertaining the crowds, anthropologist Mike Antares, from Austin, Texas will be recording the action for a documentary and research project about the HONK! phenomenon. Mr Antares has spent four years documenting festivals in North America - Somerville, Providence, New York, Seattle, and Austin. He will also live stream the event for HONK! fans in the US.

“We hope that the research Mr Antares is conducting will not only document best practice in community music but may also be extended to looking at ways in which participatory community music can add to the resilience of communities such as Wollongong,” Dr Latukefu said.

The HONK! Festival will be held at the Arts Precinct in Wollongong from 9 January to 11 January.

Read more:
Honk festival kicks off in Wollongong (Illawarra Mercury)