The Might of the Music- Bellingen’s Annie Arnold

For Bellingen local Annie Arnold of Cool Events Bellingen, music is the gel that holds us all together. She talks about lthe local music scene during lockdown and how she hopes it emerges from these dark days.

Music can raise us up, excite us, calm us or even frighten us. It is integral to life and for centuries it has been used as a language of cultures, binding communities together, providing solace and meaning.

For Bellingen local Annie Arnold music is the gel………..

It is the one essential in life, integral to every major life event from the beginning of life until the end.  Music holds everything together.  In times of war and peace there is always the music. And for me personally, it is the essence of who I am.” 

If you have attended any event or live gig across the Bellingen Shire in the past twenty plus years, odds are Annie was bashing it out on stage or behind the scenes, making it all possible.  As an event co-ordinator,  drummer, sound/lighting engineer and owner of Cool Events Bellingen, Annie’s life is music.  But the current live gig hiatus has afforded her a well-earned break and possibly a chance to rethink the future of live local music.

Annie has music always played an important role in your life?

Absolutely.  My mother June was a WW2 singer and a chef. I was raised in cafes and restaurants, so all of my earliest memories feature music.

For Bellingen local Annie Arnold of Cool Events Bellingen, music is the gel that holds us all together. She talks about lthe local music scene during lockdown and how she hopes it emerges from these dark days.

Annie in her happy place (photo credit Sandy Clark).

My brother first brought home a drum kit when I was seven and I was instantly hooked.  But I also knew from that very early age that I wanted to stage events.  I would make elaborate event posters with the words ‘WOW’ and ‘FAR OUT’ emblazoned across them.  I would clear spaces at home or find a space I could stage an event, bring my cassette player, fiddle with the lighting and wait for the crowds.

What brought you to Bellingen back in the nineties?

My then partner and I were working as women’s refuge workers and rape crisis counsellors in Canberra.  We needed a change.  The work was hard.  Many of our sisters in the workplace were being diagnosed with terminal illnesses due to the stress, long hours of nurturing others with no time to nurture self.  And we were at risk of physical harm from the partners of those we were protecting.

We yearned to live and be a part of a productive, healthy town. We looked from Bermagui to Byron Bay.  When we first discovered Bellingen we saw amazing postboards covered in flyers announcing men’s groups, from parenting groups to drumming groups. We got excited.  It looked like the men were talking to each other, that this was a place where consciousness raising was happening.  We were also after career changes and music was part of the dream.  The restaurant at 5 Church Street was on the market and so began ‘Cool Creek Cafe’.

For newbies to town can you describe the vibe of Cool Creek Cafe?

For nine years we ran this family friendly cafe and live music venue, employing more than 300 locals over that period and staging more than 800 live gigs. It was a strong feminist environment, which empowered many of the staff, both women and men. Our staff were cared for, nurtured and fed well and exposed to possibly new ideas. For some it was life changing.

For Bellingen local Annie Arnold of Cool Events Bellingen, music is the gel that holds us all together. She talks about lthe local music scene during lockdown and how she hopes it emerges from these dark days.

Annie and Michelle Moore at the Cool Creek Cafe

When we first opened in 1996 we struggled to get traction.  Despite the changes that Bellingen had already seen in the 70s and 80s, there was still some homophobia in town.  We were two lesbians and the vibe was pro feminism/pro humanity, which was hard for some to accept. The cafe became a meeting place for minority groups.  Parents of gays and lesbians use to meet in the restaurant on a Sunday night, we hosted the International Women’s Day ‘reclaim the night’ celebrations, and many rally marches through town began and finished at our cafe.  Cool Creek Café served as a space to educate and build acceptance.

I do think having my dear old mum June, attired in a twin-set, sitting in the cafe polishing the silver, probably helped to gain a wider patronage to the cafe.  A role model for acceptance, she made everyone welcome.  In the end the older straight community became our greatest supporters.  And town folk soon realised we could be relied upon for our adherence to advertised business hours, quality entertainment, local produce and cleanliness, and for providing a safe environment, accepting of all.

How important is music and festivals to our Shire?

Our community needs to appreciate the length and depth of the music industry here that holds this place together. Modern day Bellingen was built on its festivals. So many members of our community were first drawn here by the festivals and so many of our community are festival trained, reliant on these festivals for income in some capacity.  Music and festivals are crucial to the survival of this place.

These days you operate Cool Events Bellingen.  Covid-19 has impacted the music industry harder than most.  How do you see the local music industry emerging post social restrictions?

To be honest, the local music industry wasn’t working pre lockdown. There has been a very slow death in part due to a lack of understanding and support for the industry, despite how important it is to our community.

Unfortunately, there is a mentality or at least an expectation that music is free.  Musicians need to be paid and valued, including all support staff.  This can only result from ticketed gigs, with reduced dependency on already exhausted volunteers.

My vision is for a music alliance in this community, bringing together event and venue operators and all members of the music industry.  This would incorporate a database of skills and equipment from across the region, from lighting engineers to door staff, to musical instruments that could be shared with visiting musicians.  The alliance would have representation on the Chamber of Commerce and a dedicated grant writer who can secure more funding for local events.  Let’s reclaim our rightful place as a festival town.

In my perfect world the music industry would be better funded, better supported and given greater respect. Musicians often aren’t good at self promotion. They deserve to be able to get onstage, perfom their music of all cultures, allowing others to support them to perform, in a safe and respectful way.

 

32 Comments

  • Margot says:

    Love your work Annie!

  • Regina Saunders says:

    God luv ya Annie. Rock on

  • Marg says:

    One of the first people to welcome us to town and to honour my husband and I as first time parent of our now 22 year old, Annie exemplifies why we moved to this little town and why we love it so much. Annie is a champion and holds a special place in my heart and the heart of Belingen.

  • Errol Wood says:

    Thank you Annie for all your tireless work over the years. What a pity you aren’t still running the Cool Creek Cafe the way it was. It was a wonderful venue

  • patricia amundsen says:

    Through thick and thin you braved the storms of ignorance and prejudice to bring flavor and colour to the town of Bellingen Annie. You were a Messenger of Love long before THE MESSENGER OF LOVE came to 2bbb, and you continue to be so. May the Divine Light continue to illuminate your pathway and all those met upon it. May joy be your companion and fulfilment your wealth all the days of your beautiful life. Love and appreciation.

  • Todd Walter Vercoe says:

    We love live music Annie and we love you and the vibe you radiate. Much love xx

  • Celeste says:

    What an incredible advocate you are on all fronts. Thanks so much for all you’ve done to better the mindset of this town over the decades. Full respect Annie!

  • You took me under your wing Annie and I shall never forget those Cool Creek Cafe days. You have given so much to so many artists.
    I wish you all the very best from the bottom of my heart forevermore. X

  • Joie Vanrenen says:

    So many wonderful memories of you Annie over the years – cool creek cafe and music – including our kids music performances with Susan McGowan. Such a treasure for this community Thankyou Thankyou Thankyou for your deep commitment to high quality sound in every event you have supported. We love you ❤️🌹

  • Merridy Huxley says:

    As a relative newbie to this great little town, Annie is one of the locals who underpin the true essence of music!!! Thank you for all you do Annie!

  • greg sheehan says:

    Well done and well spoken Annie.. you’re a blessing to this community!

  • Angelika Aulerich says:

    I remember meeting you 1st @ Cool Creek Cafe with Peter 1998 & we both loved the vibe there ^ food..it took us 7yrs to finally move to Bello & been happy here 15yrs what a place thanks for welcoming us…HOT CHILLI MAMA..Angelika..😎

  • Annie Arnold says:

    I am overwhelmed with the Love and good wishes everyone, Thankyou. A big Thankyou to Jo Keers for the painless interview, It has certainly stimulated many memories for me.

  • Kerilyn Harper says:

    Annie you and I met 47 years ago when Junie walked you to your very first day at a new school in Narrabri. Met you at the school gate, took your hand and we’ve besties ever since. What an amazing interview to read… I could hear your voice saying every word! Your passion and enthusiasm has never changed my friend. Bellingen was blessed the day you called it home. WOW & FAR OUT Annie Arnold I am so proud of you and everything that you stand for. Great job Feather! Big love, Hubba XXX

    • Susan says:

      Hi, it’s that really you Kerilyn? I’m an old friend of yours..i remember you loved to sing. I have been looking for you.
      Susan Duchesne
      0417333829

    • Susan says:

      I am sorry. I owe you $50. No stress. I just want to clear my debt with you. Thanks Kerilyn. You could text me your number and I will ring you..
      I owe no-one a cent but you… I need to make things right..
      All the best wishes
      Sue

  • Trina Sydee says:

    Thank you Annie!
    I love you and are so grateful to know you. X

  • Digby Duncan says:

    You found your place and it found you and Bello was extremely lucky. June would be so proud of you and happy.
    Best wishes for the next chapter of your life.

  • Lynn Tizzard says:

    Love your warm welcoming attitude and obvious enthusiasm for your work, Annie. Love your idea of the music alliance. Thank you for choosing Bello!

  • Persia says:

    Annie I was at the opening of the Cool Creek Cafe and enjoyed many terrific evenings there, sometimes as part of a performance troupe and sometimes as audience. Your care and respect for musicians was unwavering and you have the same consistent ethic in your production and promotional work. Much respect to you.
    Your vision of the alliance is essential to refresh the musical spirit of this vibrant village.
    I wish you the very best on and off stage.

  • Julie Hutchinson says:

    Bellingen is so much more for you being here Annie. Your encouraging positive warm heart had been essential in many artist’s lives. And hey – the best sound person ever – wouldn’t want anyone else.

  • Lots of love Annie! Thanks for everything and keen as to get a union happening!!

  • Carolyn Davison says:

    Thank you Annie, for your loveing heart, the music you bring for us to share, I appreciate all you are, all the gifts you give to our community. Deep Gratitude and Respect.🙏🎶💖💕 Love you, Carolyn Davison.

  • Jenny Beatson says:

    You rock, Annie! Rock on sister!

  • Elaine Ghali says:

    Thank you Annie I appreciated your welcoming smile and hugs at No. 5 open mic arvos. I felt seen and accepted. Precious gifts like these come from a good egg with a good heart. Blessings

  • Ian Thomas says:

    Great respect to you and all you stand for, Annie. The number of great comments here certainly says a lot about the woman you are!

  • Zoe Everingham says:

    Thank you Annie for sharing your story. Your perseverance has helped to make Bellingen the beautifully diverse community that it is. May you and your partner continue to sing wonderful music together.
    Blessings
    Rev Zoe

  • Susan says:

    Last comment, I miss you Kerilyn and would love to catch up…don’t be a stranger…please I miss you….xoxo we had some good times and I will never forget Nth Curl Curl….:))

  • Michael Clarke says:

    I really admire you Annie, your total commitment to decency, compassion, unbelievably hard work and quality in all you do is inspirational. And so many replies here, says it all.

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