Belgrave, nestled in the leafy surrounds of The Dandenongs in Melbourne’s outer east, is home to End of the Line Festival. The aptly named festival (Belgrave is in fact the end of the Belgrave train line) made its debut in 2012 and achieved resounding attention for its showcase of musicians, performers and artists who live in this friendly, village suburb and throughout the hills.
Belgrave has long been a tight-knit, open-minded and creative community, holding strong ties amongst other villages scattered throughout the hills. So, it was only natural for End of the Line Festival to emerge and give talented creatives a supportive medium from which to deliver their art.
Like any fabulous idea, End of the Line Festival holds its humble beginnings from casual conversations being transformed into effective collaborations between talented people, as Festival Coordinator Brent Dakis explains. “My wife CJ and I were continually having a conversation within our store, Limerence, about the fact that there just wasn't a large scale event or platform to bring together artists and other creatives. That seemed odd considering just how many artists live in the hills. We would continually say 'someone should organise a festival' but at some point along the way we realised 'well, why don't we?'
"End of the Line began in 2012 from an absolute need for a large scale public creative outlet. The community had so many incredible artists and musicians, and it was getting close to overflow. So, CJ, myself and Joshua from Peg Leg Productions joined forces to create a contemporary arts and music festival that helped awaken our sleepy and incredible little town called Belgrave.
We did a Facebook call-out to hold a meeting at the local alehouse to gauge whether people felt it was a good idea, and to our surprise the venue was filled with enthusiastic locals all with great ideas about what the festival could represent. It was at this point we joined forces with Joshua Levi who had just moved into the area. He was full of great ideas and vision and the inaugural End of the Line Festival was spear-headed with the overwhelming support of our local community.
"This year, Kathleen "Snowy" has jumped on board to help with the music coordination. The festival has grown and become even more unique in its short lifespan and has attracted more community involvement in ways such as grant writing, artists, musicians, volunteers, sound engineers, and performance, all donating their time. It's incredible to see so much talent coming together for the sake of community, art and music."
End of the Line Festival attracted 5,000 visitors last year. Over 40 musicians took part across five stages and 200 artists came together to collaborate and create 25 exhibitions spanning across the town. These exhibitions appeared in unlikely spots such as laneways and even the local laundromat! This year, Brent has the daunting, yet exciting task of squeezing 500 artists into the program as well as workshops and market stalls. Plus, he’s expecting up to 10,000 visitors to the festival.
It’s clear from Brent’s insights that visitors won’t be disappointed. “The main stage is, again, going to have an incredible line-up of music. This year, we’ve added a few more stages; there’ll also be music in the front courtyard of Earthly Pleasures Cafe, a youth stage at the Tiffaney Bishop Collective, and music and performance at Belgrave’s new venue Sookie (previously Ruby's). There’ll be many more exhibitions and Collective Consciousness is making a come-back too. There’s going to be a very exciting audio/visual experience inside a room underground behind the main stage as well.”
The festival is brought to life by the passion, generosity and donations of musicians, artists and performers as well as from the community. It would not be possible without the countless support from these artists as well as dedicated sponsors, and the festival is also garnering healthy support from crowd-funding through Pozible. “It's such an incredible platform; all of a sudden creatives have the ability to generate funds for projects and ideas at the important stage of their work and, in a way, almost pre-sell their idea. Pozible is a way that we can not only generate the funding needed to put on an event like this, but it also allows people to feel a part of it and be able to say 'I helped make this happen'. Even if it's a $10 donation – it all still helps.”
It’s encouraging to see End of the Line Festival continue into its second year as the benefits are two-fold. “The first and main benefit is to the artists themselves – to establish powerful connections with other locals. Such is the nature of a lot of creatives to be rather insular in their practice, and this event is an opportunity for them to come out and join a very large artistic community and network; we have a host of stories about new friendships and collaborations resulting from last year’s event. Secondly, it’s a huge boost to the local economy, bringing both a large amount of tourism and locals to the town. Shops and cafés gain a much larger level of exposure than they would normally. One of the best things we heard after last year’s event was: 'I didn't know how much Belgrave has changed. The quality of shops is exceptional, the atmosphere is vibrant and we will certainly be back soon.’”
First time festival goers will experience a relaxed and happy vibe; the kind of vibe that’s the beating pulse of Belgrave. It’s a community-spirited and inclusive day for everyone, from the lifelong locals to the day-trippers heading to The Dandenongs. Those who come to the festival are welcomed unconditionally. “The community here is unlike anything else we have ever experienced. For people who haven't been here before, the festival provides that experience for them for the day; that feeling of involvement. We jokingly talk amongst friends about not being able to leave 'the Belgrave Bubble', like it's a big warm hug in bed that you just can't ever seem to justify getting out of. Yeah, I think people who come along will not expect to feel it, but will be hit by two very large open arms.”
Take the Belgrave train from Melbourne's CBD and head to End of the Line Festival on Saturday November 30. The festival runs from 10am to 10pm and entry is free. The festival's program will be released very shortly so keep yourself posted by visiting End of the Line Festival's website.