THE LOSS of the Denmark Festival of Voice would have significant adverse impacts on the town that would go far beyond the financial according to its many fans. While the tourist dollar it directly injects – more than $1/2 million dollars according to a recent survey – as well as the flow on effect is vitally important for local businesses, for many it’s what they see as its immeasurable social benefits that are where the real value lies.
Local resident, Shobha Day said the Festival was the high point of the year for her and many of her friends. “I measure my year from Festival to Festival”, she said. “I love it and it would be a terrible thing to lose it. The town comes so tremendously to life, with so many voices. There are fantastic performers but it’s not just the voices in song. It’s also the conversations, the connections that are made. For just those few days it’s like we stand in the centre of the world and the town holds it so beautifully.”
Denmark Festival of Voice artistic director, Vivienne Robertson, cautions against highlighting any one benefit over another when talking of the value of the Festival to the town. “The money and the tourism aspect of it are vital.” she said. “But it’s wider than just that; it’s about the whole social fabric of the community. It brings joy, people feel pride in their town, it brings a sense of belonging.”
One Denmark newcomer who moved from Melbourne two years ago paid tribute to the Festival and the community that creates it. “The Festival of Voice is a truly unique cultural experience,” Ms Verity Byth said. “It’s about the culture of the community and while it’s not the sole reason I moved here, it’s one vital thing that makes this place unique. The community pours so much energy and commitment into the Festival and the Festival becomes the town and it’s in every bit of the town. The world comes to Denmark for the Festival and they get to experience all the other benefits of this beautiful area.”
FOV artistic director Vivienne Robertson also highlights the community aspect of the Festival. “It’s hosted by the whole community, it’s a truly local community event”, she explained. “It’s not like Fairbridge where they set up on neutral ground. This is the community opening its doors, its businesses, its heart.”
According to a recent review, funded by the Great Southern Development Commission, the Festival injects more than half a million dollars directly into the Denmark community. And more than half of the crowds drawn to Festival come from out of town. This year the Denmark Visitor Centre reported it had 99.9% occupancy rate of its accommodation over the Festival long weekend and some accommodation providers indicated delighted Festival attendees had already rebooked for next year’s event.
Denmark Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Liz Jack urged the local community to find ways to get behind the Festival to ensure its ongoing status. “Many do support it now but this is an event of national and international interest and there’s scope for it to be an amazing export for our town”, she said. “It brings people to town and they do spend money. It’s an iconic event for our town and that’s worthy of investing in.”
The Executive Officer of the Amazing South Coast tourism body Peter Grigg said the Festival was a signature event for Denmark and it would be a great loss if it did not continue or was downgraded.