- Q: Is it hot in Tamworth?
A: Boy is it hot. It's the hottest month of the year. It's stinking hot.
But every venue is air-conditioned.
In fact, there is so much air conditioning running full bore that
the electricity company had to upgrade all the substations.
In political-speak that's called "gold-plating the poles-and-wires"
just to cater for those few days every year where the demand is abnormal.
- Q: Do they have floods in Tamworth?
A: Yes, huge floods are possible.
The main part of town is only just above the river
and it has flooded during the festival several times.
However, the town is now protected by huge levee banks which you can
admire by exploring along the street from Diggers, behind the Albert Hotel.
There are videos on Youtube of the 2007 Tamworth floods.
- Q: Can we go swimming in Tamworth?
A: Yes, there is an Olympic Pool right in town on the corner of
Kable Avenue and Brisbane Street. There is another full-sized pool,
opposite the Southgate Hotel and
next door to the West Tamworth Leagues Club.
- Q: Is it true they close all the streets?
A: For the duration of the festival they close three blocks
of the main street and two blocks of side streets.
On the last weekend of the festival they close a fourth block
of Peel Street from 4pm on the Thursday.
They used to close Brisbane Street, but not any more.
- Q: What are the Peel Street Buskers?
A: There are buskers along both sides of Peel Street
for four blocks from dawn to dark for the entire festival.
Every sort of country music is represented
and they range from just dreadful to simply wonderful.
Australian Idol eat your heart out.
These buskers need your support.
The best answer is to get ten $2 coins and pick your favourites,
giving points for trying, and for potential as well as skill.
The charm of Tamworth's Peel Street is the anarchy.
It all seems to happen without organisation or effort.
It's not perfect but it's fun and people enjoy it.
Over the years, enormous efforts have been made by the organisers
to solve the "buskers problem", but mainly these efforts have failed.
For example, three years ago, the worst buskers were banished
out of Peel Street. It was sad and pathetic to see
buskers standing alone in the park with no passing audience
while good spots in the main street remained vacant.
Only a 'we know best' atitude can create such foolishness.
Deluded lefties want to organise everything.
Commonwealth voters take note: Whatever happened to those
two local turncoats Rob Oakshott and Tony Windsor
who voted with the Greens in 2007?
- Q: What are some changes since last year?
A: For January 2017, there are only small changes since last year.
Some examples - Honky-Tonk music has returned to the Family Hotel, Tribute Shows are more common
and very gradually there are more paying shows.
K-Mart Arcade, also known as City Plaza, is now called Tamworth Square.
North Tamworth Bowling Club is affiliated with the Tamworth Services Club.
In January 2016 there were many minor changes compared with the previous year.
Some examples - the Tourist Bureau moved to the Golden Guitar
centre near the Longyard Hotel.
The ACMF museum moved from Brisbane Street
into the old Tourist Bureau building.
A new Officeworks store opened in Brisbane Street,
opposite the Good Companions Hotel and just near Diggers.
Tamworth Town Hall regained its iconic status
as the "mother church" of all the festival venues.
The Central Hotel closed.
The Locomotive Hotel pretty much dropped out of the music scene, with only one or two events all week.
The Vault became The Pig and Tinder Box.
- Q: Why does everything keep getting renamed?
A: Goodness only knows, but when you have a degree in marketing
it's important to rename things, as a signifier of your ability to innovate.
It's far easier to rename things rather than improve the web sites,
the food, the occasional ear-splitting sound or the bus services.
If doubt persists, attribute all problems to Climate Change.
From 2016, the Down Under Bar at the Services Club was renamed to the Songhouse.
Back in 2014, the Down Under Bar was the new name for the Dungeon Bar.
Possibly this renaming was to help erase the memory of Tamworth's
worst-ever gig, held in the Dungeon Bar in 2012.
In 2015 the Frog and Toad was renamed to the EconoLodge Conference Centre.
Econolodge still sounds rather 1960's.
- Q: What are the sponsors doing?
A: All Coca-Cola activities such as battles of the bands
have been moved to Tamworth Town Hall.
The Town Hall will be busy all day with free events in the mornings,
plus paid concerts in the afternoons and evenings.
The two main sponsors are Toyota and Coca-Cola.
The Telstra Road to Tamworth has quietly vanished,
but the Toyota Starmaker competition continues strongly,
as do the competitions organised by Coca-Cola.
For the duration of the festival, Bicentennial Park
(a pathetic name at the best of times) is renamed to Toyota Park.
Coca-Cola Country is co-located with the Town Hall.
- Q: Is there a Tamworth versus Nashville Problem?
A: Behind the scenes there is ongoing controversy.
The arguments about Aussie versus American,
or Tamworth versus Nashville
or Modern Country versus Traditional Country
have been simmering away for 40 years.
In 2015 our Aussie-Traditional versus American-imported
music controversy boiled over, but things have calmed down now.
If you follow the politics of country music, be alert
- anything could happen, and the media are ready to pounce.
Otherwise take no notice, just get on with enjoying yourself.
Anyway, millions of living Americans hate country music.
And America has its own divides - Nashville (Tennessee) versus Austin (Texas),
and millions of citizens who think rap music is way better than country music.
If you don't believe me, search Youtube for "Country Music Sucks"
to see the rantings of the under-educated, poorly-dressed and ill-informed,
Amazing comments too - boy, do they hate Taylor Swift.
- Q: How many pubs in Tamworth?
A: There is a golf club, a services club, a leagues club called Wests
with a branch called Diggers and four bowling clubs.
There are 15 traditional hotels that serve food and drinks
and have a programme of country music during the festival.
- Q: Is Tamworth safe?
A: Generally yes, country towns are safer than Sydney.
But don't walk between venues after midnight, as local yobbos
who hate country music are out looking for people to mug.
Note that Wests and Diggers have a "lockout" policy after 12:30 am at night.
You can't get in after this time. Even if you just pop out to get
something from your car, they still won't let you back in.
- Q: Do Newspaper and TV Reporters come to Tamworth?
A: Yes, in a big way, although nothing much newsworthy happens,
unless it floods or there is a riot or a disaster (like
the Brisbane Floods, the Cronulla Riots or the Granville Train Disaster).
Basically you will see the cameramen taking pictures up and down Peel Street.
Basically it's the same theme every year - they want colour and movement.
First they film a few major stars and then they roam up and down Peel Street
searching for the most over-the-top people they can find -
people with chickens perched on their head or handling dangerous snakes,
and anybody best described by playing "Duelling Banjos".
Sydney TV audiences (especially in Tanya Plibersek's electorate)
then watch this stuff on their TV news
and say "Oh my God, look at them, I knew it was like that".
The ultimate reporter's dream would be footage of redneck-country-bumpkins
and pensioner-grey-nomads battling it out with the police-riot-squad
after a bystander got bitten by a drug-sniffer-dog.
One can only be reminded of the ancient Everly Brothers song "Poor Jenny"
where Jenny (probably aged about 16) is on her first date
and has never been to a party before
but manages to get arrested after everyone else has fled.
Next day the newspapers said "Jenny is the leader of a Teenage Gang".
- Q: Are there lots of artists from America, especially Nashville?
A: Basically the answer is "no". There are a few, but the organisers
have never encouraged an annual invasion from Nashville.
The exception is made of course for Aussies who have gone to America, and
there are always one or two minor artists who add a bit of colour.
- Q: Do the "Big Names" of Australian Country Music come to Tamworth?
A: Basically the answer is "yes", although many people will say "no".
The household names tend to have only one paying concert,
so you have to be on the ball and get that ticket.
Also the free concerts in the park tend to have big name artists.
- Q: Any other "Things to Do" in Tamworth?
A: There is a six-in-one cinema complex.
There are two olympic pools, so bring your cossies.
There is a golf club, a lookout with splendid views of the town,
a historic-cottage-museum called Calala Cottage,
a Country Music waxworks,
the regional botanical gardens, and a museum about electric power.
The Museum of Country Music has re-opened in a new location.
Tamworth is very proud of the fact that they were the first country
town in NSW to have electric street lighting.
If you or your kids (or even your inner child)
are into steam engines then the museum is a must.
Several buildings in Tamworth are on the State Heritage Register
including the Post Office and the Railway Station.
There are many fine buildings in Tamworth,
but some amazing things have been demolished,
judging by the old picture books.
Just imagine a three story hotel with wrought iron lacework balconies
in Peel Street, along from the Tudor Hotel.
Or just go shopping. All the shops stock up
on country music DVDs and CDs for the festival;
and yet another book on the history
of country music was published in 2013.
- Q: What's the History of Tamworth, in a nutshell.
A: Tamworth was founded around 1840 as a safe place to ford the Peel River.
There were no bridges way back then,
let alone the railway line or the highway.
Tamworth grew into the major town of the New England region of NSW.
Note that Tamworth is a long way west of Armidale,
so passing through the regional centre is
quite a detour if you are heading north.
- Q: Where does the Peel River flow to.
A: Basically the Peel River flows from east to west
and eventually reaches the sea at Adelaide.
It is part of the Murray-Darling basin.
Early Australian explorers made great efforts
to follow these rivers to the sea.
Actually the Murray River is a major scandal - it is kept blocked
at its mouth by the South Australian government and does not flow
into the sea at all. By comparison, river mouths in NSW
are kept open and are dredged regularly.
- Q: What's the Geography.
The town of Tamworth is on the north side of the Peel River,
and the street that runs along the riverbank is called Kable Avenue.
Parallel to Kable Avenue is Peel Street which is the main street.
The next street, a bit higher up the hill, is Marius Street
which was also the New England Highway in earlier times.
Then comes the railway line and the Tamworth Railway Station.
The two main cross streets are Brisbane Street (where the Central Hotel was)
and Fitzroy Street (where Post Office is).
The suburbs of Tamworth have exciting names like East Tamworth,
West Tamworth, South Tamworth and North Tamworth.
Newer suburbs have fake names like Westdale and Oxley Vale
whilst Nemingha is on the road to Armidale and
Tamworth's industrial suburb is called Taminda (yikes, that's Tamworth+Industry).
- Q: Does the river really flow east-west?
A: At this point it gets very confusing. Really the answer is no,
but most the maps of Tamworth in the guide books
are not drawn with North at the top of the page as you might expect.
Actually the river flows from the south-east to the north-west.
Thus, as you arrive from Sydney in South Tamworth,
the highway road runs almost exactly north-south.
Then you drive through West Tamworth
and over the bridge into Tamworth proper.
North Tamworth is up the hill which is reasonable,
and East Tamworth is pretty much
in the right position. However the road to Armidale runs due
east out of Tamworth and not north as you might have expected.
Q: Is it hot in Tamworth, again?
A: Yes, of course it's hot.
People who say it's too hot as their first comment
about the festival simply don't like country music.
Ask them what other festivals they have been to recently.
They will never be pursuaded and they won't know the fun they are missing.