THE INAUGURAL Whitsundays Songwriter Festival and Residency wrapped up, on September 26, as part of the Whitsundays Arts Festival.
The Songwriter Festival was co-founded by North Queensland performer Karen Jacobsen, and award-winning songwriter, educator, and founder of the ‘I Heart Song Writing Club’, Francesca de Valence.
“When I was growing up in Mackay, there were very few resources for somebody who wanted to have a career in song writing – it just didn’t exist,” Ms Jacobsen said.
“I really wanted to create resources for other young people here that I didn’t have growing up.
“It was everything I envisioned and more, and I had the dream to create a song writers festival for a very long time.
“When I spoke with Jessica Begun, she asked me where I saw the Whitsunday Arts Festival going in the future and I told her about my dream and she said, well why don’t we do it?”
The residency was comprised of a professional Songwriter Residential Retreat, from September 22 to September 26, with a one-day workshop event for emerging songwriters.
Over three days, the writers participated in a professional level Song Writing Retreat, connecting with the potential for co-writing and masterminding.
Six professional songwriters of diverse music genres, with a proven track record of released recordings and performances nationally and internationally, were invited to attend the residency.
“The thinking behind the residency was to bring professional songwriters from different backgrounds and genres together into a creative incubator, immersed in your own space, that opens a potential for creative magic to arise,” Ms Jacobsen said.
Included was Graeme Connors, country music legend and the most successful songwriter to hail from the region, with 20 albums and 14 Golden Guitar awards; as well as certified Platinum artist Tia Gostelow, a Queensland Music Award winner.
Other outstanding artists include Francesca de Valence, Karen Jacobsen, Bryce Sainty, and LT (Leanne Tennant).
Whitsundays Arts Festival director Jessica Begun said the residency was a ‘ground-breaking opportunity’.
“To be able to bring songwriters of this calibre and professional experience to this event is a ground- breaking opportunity for creatives and songwriters locally,” she said.
“Close access to learn, be inspired, and develop their own craft from such award-winning songwriters is uncommon, even in major centres.”
The Songwriter Workshop allowed emerging songwriters to experience a full day with professional songwriters, from creation, to development, to performance.
“I created I Heart Song Writing Club and have run workshops from Dublin to Rio De Janeiro, because as a young songwriter, I was unable to find a song writing community where mentorship was highly valued,” Francesca de Valence said.
“We had people coming who were local, but we also had people coming from as far as Brisbane because this is how unique this opportunity is,” Ms Jacobsen added.
“It would be wonderful if we come across a local benefactor, because an event like this has the potential of getting national recognition and would really help the area be known as a strong, creative place.”