The “Man From Snowy River Festival” (Corryong)

April 11th, 2014 | 'Banjo' Paterson, Festivals, Photos

Last weekend, for the first time, I attended the “Man From Snowy River Festival” at Corryong.

Although this festival has long been one of the ‘blue ribbon’ events on the bush poetry calendar, I have for many years been wary of attending.

Corryong, a beautiful town in north-east Victoria, sees itself as the home of “The Man From Snowy River”. It was the home of Jack Riley, said by many to be the model for the leading character in Banjo Paterson’s classic poem.

I have read that Riley himself was no fan of the town of Corryong. He was gaoled there for six months after being found guilty of stealing cattle. He maintained his innocence throughout, and left Corryong immediately upon his release. He lived in a small hut in the nearby mountains for the rest of his life, only returning to Corryong to be buried.

Anyway, that is ‘by the by’.

The festival is as much about horsemanship as it is about bush poetry – probably more so – and, traditionally, the main reason for horses to be in the high country if for the purposes of moving and mustering cattle. I have long believed that the grazing of cattle in the high country is an outmoded and environmentally damaging practice, and this is why I have been reluctant to attend the festival.

With my book being published this year, I was planning on attending the festival for the first time. I suppose we all make rationalisations where commerce is concerned, and mine went along the following lines.

1. From all reports, the festival is really good, with many purveyors and fans of bush poetry in attendance.

2. The scenery is beautiful, and the facilities excellent.

3. There is undoubtedly a place for the celebration of Australia’s rich heritage of high country horsemanship. (I have always loved the poetry of Banjo Paterson, and he mostly writes about horses!)

4. The battle to keep cattle grazing out of the high country is very close to having been won already.

However, a delay in the printing of the book meant I decided to cancel my plans to attend.

Then two things happened. First, I managed to acquire a supply of books in April, rather than having to wait until the release date in May. Second, a friend, poet and reciter Ken Prato, rang last Thursday evening to ask if I was going to Corryong.

I had lost track of the calendar, and did not realise it was on that weekend. I suddenly realised that, with a bit of a last minute scramble, I probably could attend.

I had commitments in town most of Saturday, and was required at work on Monday morning, but there was no reason why I could not head up on Saturday afternoon, and return on Sunday evening.

So that is what I did.

My timing proved exquisite. It rained heavily in Corryong on Friday and Saturday, but Sunday was fine and sunny!

Needless to say, I had a great time. I won’t go into all the details, but I met many friends, and sold many books. Indeed, it is thrilling to see just how well the book is being received.

I arrived halfway through the Saturday evening concert.

Saturday night concert copy

The fine weather allowed the Poets’ Breakfast on Sunday morning to be held outside for the first time for the weekend. There was a large and very appreciative crowd. I performed “The Chinstrap Penguin”, and received plenty of positive feedback afterwards.

Poets' Breakfast 1 copy

Poets' Breakfast 5 copy

Thank you to Jan Lewis for allowing me to throw down my swag in the hall on Saturday night. It saved me the inconvenience of pitching my tent in the dark.

Congratulations to all concerned for creating a wonderful weekend of bush poetry and warm human fellowship!

2 responses to “The “Man From Snowy River Festival” (Corryong)”

  1. Tony Lambides-Turner says:

    Dear Stephen.

    Beautifully written piece for a first-time festival attendee, hope you will be seen at many more.

    Warm Regards, Tony

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