British Australian Community Britfest 2018

I had the pleasure of attending BRITFEST 2018 which was held in one of the inner suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria. The spacious hall was a pleasant venue for such an occasion and an audience of about 250 enjoyed the British-centric entertainment on offer. Organised by the capable office bearers of the British Australian Community, the BRITFEST has been running for about 30 years and showcases some of the great British traditional entertainment that many might have forgotten.

Dave Astin (left) visiting Sherwood Forest with the late Jock Spooner

The history and culture of Australia from 1788 until recent times is simply an extension of the history and culture of the British Isles. English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh (plus a few related Northern Europeans) came to Australia and created the culture that we now recognise as traditionally Australian. The purpose of the non-political, non-sectarian BAC is to

  • Represent the interests of British people and their descendants in Australia
  • Promote British culture and its uniquely Australian expression and evolution
  • Make representations to Federal, State and local governments and statutory bodies and the media in support of our community
  • Combat prejudice and misunderstanding regarding British people and their descendants
  • Provide social activities for our community that celebrate our heritage and identity.

Anyway, to BRITFEST 2018:

I arrived around 10am on a beautiful autumn day and was pleased to see all manner of British flags in evidence, covering walls, windows and hanging from any available vantage point. The room was filling nicely and after a brief welcome to BRITFEST 2018 by the BAC President, we headed straight into a display of Morris Dancing by a local team of Morris Dancers, resplendent with their multi-coloured coats, shin bells, handkerchiefs and sticks. Sometimes subtle, sometimes rather brutal with the wafting and hitting of sticks, each demonstration of this traditional dance managed to finish without injury to the participants or audience.

Next was a performance of an all-girl singing group who regaled us with some beautiful traditional and more modern songs performed in the Welsh language.

Despite the efforts of the Plantagenet kings, Scottish dancing has survived through the centuries and we had a Melbourne-based Scottish Dance Group, accompanied by a piper, sweeping the dance floor with a flurry of tartan.

Scottish Dancing at Britfest 2018

What would any festival of Britishness be without some readings from Robert Burns? We all enjoyed the background information and readings from the great Scottish poet followed by a military re-enactment group who showed us some drill whilst dressed in early 20th Century uniforms and carrying interesting looking long rifles with bayonets. Because this year’s BRITFEST was held indoors, the soldiers couldn’t fire their weapons, but a few hearty shouts of “BANG” at the appropriate times by the men in uniform (with the occasional audible ‘click’ shout, depicting a misfire) certainly gave us the idea of what was happening.

During the day, these artistes performed varied items in a revolving cavalcade of British entertainment. A Punch and Judy show was also available for the littlies who had tired of skipping unhindered around the dancefloor in 19th Century style clothes).

Of course, watching these people showcase their talents and applauding them with gusto, one tends to build up a thirst and a healthy appetite. The BAC had that covered, with a wide range of British beers available in cans and bottles; unfortunately no draught, but that is understandable. There were also scones with jam and cream, black pudding, haggis, Cumberland sausage and other delicacies available and, this being Australia, all was cooked on a sizzling BBQ (apart from the scones, of course).

As the afternoon meandered on and I became rather partial to a Speckled Hen or two (ahem), I made my way outside to meet some of the audience who were also in need of sustenance. It was a welcome sight to see Australian men and women in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s rejoicing in their antecedents’ heritage and discussing their background with pride in broad Australian accents.

The whole show wound up about 4pm and all who attended seemed very happy at the standard of the entertainment and refreshments. I might have flown 1,000km to visit this event, but it was certainly worthwhile and as long as the young men and women can resist the multicultural garbage being pushed by our current and past range of politicians, I believe that the BAC and BRITFEST will have a healthy future. Why not look at attending BRITFEST 2019? It might be a long way away from Britain, but the trip will be worthwhile, if only to see that, in this outpost on the other side of the world, some truly British traditions remain.

If you would like further information, please see britishaustraliancommunity.com for more details.

Wassail!

DAVID ASTIN

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