The times, they are changin': Showbags celebrate Tamworth talent pool

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One of the festival’s newest initiatives this year comes from one of its oldest and most senior stakeholders.

Rural Press Events, a sister publisher to The Leader, this week unveiled its 2013 lineup with a local launch.

And for the first time, it has also produced a showbag, but one that sings the praises of the Tamworth event in a triple CD release The Birds, The Blokes, The Bands – a compilation of 60 tracks of Tamworth festival performers.

It personifies, says RPE operations manager Kate Nugent, but more importantly promotes too, the “amazing talent pool” Tamworth has provided to the industry.

The events management and marketing company might have only been around in its present guise since being acquired by the Rural Press media company in 1997, but its roots in country music go right back to the early days of the festival.

It was spawned by the 2TM founders of the festival and the Golden Guitar awards through the BAL company.

RPE general manager Barry Harley said the launch this week was also a salute to sponsors – because the whole festival wouldn’t happen without them, he said.

The group is probably the single biggest organiser of different events in different venues, apart from the council, but more importantly is doing things it has done for years that have added to the festival’s unique character.

Their commercial sponsorship relationship with Coca Cola, now in its 35th year, is the longest serving continuous sponsorship in the event industry. The Coke concerts at the Hands of Fame Park go back to the late 70s and were one of the earliest of the walk-up gigs where unknowns got to get on stage. 

It began the national talent show Star Maker, now a long term Toyota event, in 1979. It ran the Golden Guitars awards for a few years and in 1994 enticed Toyota to be a golden sponsor.

That 20-year anniversary milestone this year, convinced the vehicle maker to get onboard with the council as a full festival sponsor.

RPE also produces and publishes Cap News, the homegrown bible of the industry’s artists and has run the Festival FM radio station, a 24/7 on-air broadcaster of all things festival for years. This year it will have something like 200 interviews but more than that, it will see Golden Guitar winners and aspirants man the mikes as announcers.

Perhaps one of the biggest accomplishments, and another feather in the cap of the country music capital company, is the publication of the Festival Guide.

It has been doing it since 1975, and according to Harley, is like nailing jelly.

This year’s production was even more intricate. Collating all of those artists, with all of the venue information was not without headaches, Kate Nugent admitted yesterday.

This year’s guide has 2443 acts, featuring 463 individual artists over something like 106 venues.

It is a long way from the first one they produced, back when they had a different name, but essentially the same mandate and mission.

“That first one boasted eight pages, with the headline ‘Tamworth calls the tune’ along with a photo 

of Mr Hoedown, John Minson, 

resplendent in top hat promoting the then Australasian Country Music Awards sponsor, Wrangler jeans,” 

he said.

“It contained a total of 11 scheduled events for the festival, which included a barbecue at Mal Gardner’s place in Kootingal.”

This year, the Festival Guide is also online, with an app allowing visitors to access all the information they need on their smartphones.

Value-adding to the events and introducing new products, not just for the festival, but for other big name marketing initiatives like AgQuip, is the strength of the company, says another long time event officer, Di Lockwood, who has been around since just before it changed stables.

Ms Lockwood, the long term RPE site organiser, says the team – mostly numbering eight and nowadays something of a family affair when the kids come home for holidays and get roped in to doing labour duty on events – prides itself on moving on, introducing new competitions and new concerts and new products.

Mayor Col Murray paid tribute to that company mantra at the launch this week, acknowledging the events marketer’s major role in the success of the city and the festival. 

They gave him one of their first showbags to celebrate. He loved it; he’s a country music man through and through, and a proud and loyal supporter of those who have guided the festival brand and stuck their support behind it.

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