Moosic Musters, Girgarre – Jan Smith.
Our town is alive and well thanks to a community’s willingness to try something new, and an amazing group of musicians. Girgarre is looking towards a spectacular and sustainable future.
I came to Girgarre in 1962 as a newly graduated teacher fresh from college. The one thing on my mind was to get out of this little ‘backwater’ as quickly as possible.
Girgarre was enjoying a boom time with the dairy industry prospering, its population expanding and new houses being built. It was a thriving little town with the necessary infrastructure for people to lead rich and rewarding lives, including a supermarket, a butcher shop, hairdresser, newsagency and a cheese factory.
It also was home to some very handsome country lads and, wouldn’t you know it, along came cupid to upset my plans of leaving. I settled down to married life with my husband on his dairy farm. Heads went down and backsides went up, as we started our life’s work. Forty years on when ill health made us pause and look around, and as has happened all over Australia, our town was all but dead.
Nowadays the school I had taught in has less than 50 children, not the 185 kids of years ago. The supermarket, the butcher, the hairdresser, and the newsagency are all long gone and the people of this once thriving town are disconnected. Dairy industry rationalization and drought have really done their job.
So, a few like minded people decided that something had to be done; we banded together and formed the old Development Group. It was during one of these meetings that I met my new next door neighbours, whom I had never set eyes on before they had only lived next to me at Girgarre for seven years. What a sad indictment of what we had become.
One of our group suggested that we run a farmers market. This raised more than one eyebrow but the strength of this town is that people are willing to risk everything in an attempt to reconnect the community. We planned to hold an event where people could spend a couple of hours on the second Sunday of every month to buy fresh local produce, socialise, and enjoy a free cup of coffee with their neighbours.
We also decided that music would help make the atmosphere more enjoyable. With very limited money I turned to Max, an old family friend and the Kinder photographer from Melbourne. I asked him to see if he could find us a musician who would work for love. Thus began the story of the Moosic Muster.
A small group of three musicians came to our first market and played their hearts out, much to the appreciation of all who attended. Our market began to prosper so 12 months on we invited our original musicians back. We were delighted when 10 musos turned up and entertained us all.
Another year has passed and with the market going from strength to strength it was decided that the musos and the Development Group would have a Music festival featuring bluegrass and country music. We had very little money and Max and a few of his mates set out to make it happen and happen it did. 60 musos turned up to Girgarre for the weekend – they taught the local kids to play music during the day and at night, we put on a free concert that packed our old hall out, in fact people were hanging out the doors. These wonderful musicians and all who attended were then rewarded with the best home cooked supper that people could ever want.
This event has been wonderful for our community at a time when we are locked in this ongoing struggle with drought, a drought that is ripping the heart and soul out of our remaining farmers. I find it amazing that this group of people connects so well with the people of our community that they would take the time to care. The divide that exists between city and country is nowhere to be found. It is a great example of that old Aussie way of a giving a hand up to a mate.
In a time when our whole lifestyle is under threat from drought, to have a group of city people join us in creating this amazing event is nothing short of spectacular. What an impact this has had on our town of 200 people. During the running of the market 40 people aged from 10 to 70 volunteer to cook breakfast, squeeze juice, make tea and coffee, set up and pack up. People who had never volunteered before were driving over the district nailing market signs up in trees to advertise the day. The financial benefits for our community include the funding of our community car, (so necessary as there is limited public transport), upgrading to CFA facilities and the school and the Recreation Reserve receive vital revenue.
Thanks to an idea of one man and the willingness of our community to back it, Girgarre looks forward to the future.