Loose Hay – Meredith Music Festival, More Than Just a Festival

RMIT’s summer school has commenced and the season’s festivities are done with for the time being, however, the memories are still fresh. In fact, last night I found a cluster of hay in a pair of tights I brought back from Meredith Music festival.

Being an employee of Meredith, I arrived  early at the festival a Thursday last December. I stood in front of the stage that looks out across the natural amphitheater and anticipated the 12,000 enthused festivalgoers that would arrive the following morning.

The Nolan family farm, located between Geelong and Ballarat, was soon to be filled with punters drinking avidly from their eskies that rest against the tall Cypress trees that grandfather Nolan planted 60 odd years ago.

I anticipated the patrons (and myself) relishing in the sounds of internationally acclaimed bands and local, independent acts from the likes of Brian Jones Town Massacre  (who were phenomenal BTW) to The City of Ballarat Brass Band.



From Meredith’s nudist race, known as The Meredith Gift, to the ecliptic range of music, there is a lot to observe in the happenings of the festival.

Meredith Gift

Photo sourced from http://www.abc.net.au/local/photos/2012

However, many wouldn’t notice one of the primary founders, Chris Nolan, listening contently and smiling from ear to ear from his wheelchair.

Chris along with Marcus Downie and Greg Peele founded Meredith Music Festival in 90’ – putting on the first Meredith in 91’.

Chris’ parents, Jack and Mary, allowed Chris and his mates to put what was originally an end of year celebration on at their farm by their family home in Meredith.

Five years into the festival running, Chris encountered an oppressing life changing illness while working as a lawyer in Hanoi, Vietnam. Chris was severely affected by a vicious bug that had not yet been recognized in Australia and had a multi-organ collapse.

The bug that forced Chris into a coma for six months also starved his brain of oxygen – leaving Chris with a crippling Acquired Brain Injury and a profoundly damaged communication system.

Chris awoke from the coma laughing at his cousin’s made up tale of a photograph about Chris and his father at the previous Meredith.

Despite Chris facing life as a quadriplegic and no longer having the ability to speak along with only being able to move his thumb, Chris’ family and friends continued what Chris started, the now internationally acclaimed festival.

“There was a passion for music for that independent, voice if you like, that was coming through and a passion for the land. But he had this vision of bringing people together and it worked and I think it still continues”, tells Mary in the documentary, ‘A weekend in the Country – A History of Meredith Music Festival.

Although Chris never recovered and resides in 24-hour care in a nursing home in Melbourne, Chris can now hear well and communicates through facial expressions. Chris still attends Meredith with his family and friends and shows signs of enjoying the music and the environment.

Chris, Jack and Mary Nolan _ MMF

Image sourced from http://2010.mmf.com.au/supernatural-amphitheatre/nolans-chris-nolan-jack-and-mary-nolan/

One early morning once the festival kicked off, myself and a small handful of patrons were enjoying The City of Ballarat Brass Band. It was then I saw just that. What would appear to be a content Chris Nolan by his father, Jack’s side. Watching Chris and his father in that moment warmed my heart and froze my body at the same time. It made me appreciate why I am a part of such a great “get-together”.