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Getting the clan back together

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Phoenix Park proprietors (front row L-R) Virginia & Cam Stewart, together with Clan Jam founders Marty & Suzi Blackburn welcomed more than 300 people (young and old) to the festival over the Labour Day long weekend, pictured (background) with local band, Sharyn Jury and the Mellow Men. Photo – Jane Gardner

By Jane Gardner

Music festivals can conjure up all sorts of pre-conceived ideas – not all of them good. But there was one music festival recently, held on the outskirts of Ballan, that would have turned some of those pre-conceived ideas around on their dancing toes.
Over the Labour Day weekend in March, Phoenix Park hosted a music festival with a difference – The Clan Jam. Thanks to the combined efforts of festival founders, Suzi and Marty Blackburn and the proprietors of Phoenix Park, Cameron and Virginia Stewart, about 300 people (half under 15 years of age) camped out at the park to share a long weekend of music and family fun. The three-day event consisted of 18 live music acts (many of them local), street performances, and workshops – such as costume making, theatre sports, body percussion and family mindfulness and wellbeing.
In its second year, the Clan Jam offered families a safe and friendly space to play and dance together, participate in sport and art activities, as well as listening and dancing to a wide range of music genres. Combine all that with a merchandise tent, hot food stalls, powered tent sites (some set up for ‘glamping’) hot shower blocks, two live stages, a children’s playground (complete with bikes for the kids to get around) and you’ve got a winning family-festival formula. And some may say, rather sensibly, the music finished at 10pm each night, so families could rest up in preparation for the next day of fun.
Babies (some wearing cute ear muffs in case the music got too loud) through to retirees, took advantage of the festival’s friendly atmosphere, sharing chairs, picnic rugs, food and drinks on the lawn in front of the stage to listen to local acts such as, Sharon Jury and the Mellow Men and DJ’s Paul May and Trey La Trash. Headline acts, Kylie Auldist and Royalty Noise also featured, along with interstate act Too Slow Joe and other terrific talent such as Tumi the Be and Parmy Dhillon and the New Science.
The kids especially enjoyed watching children’s entertainers such as a juggling fire eater as well as much loved local, Anthony Verity performing as Mister Ants. Nalini Retreat from Daylesford was also on site in a pop-up spa.
As Suzi says, “Now Marty and I are parents of 6 and 10-year-old daughters, we wanted to develop an event that feels like a community fair without the thousands of people, queues, huge spaces and overwhelming costs. Our event is about bringing your clan and your friends for a weekend of comfortable camping and relaxing with some amazing entertainment on offer.”
In the true spirit of families spending time together, volunteers young and old pitched in to help make the Clan Jam the success it was. From teenagers doing face painting through to 10-year olds DJ-ing at the kid’s disco and under 8s designing their own costumes to wear for the weekend, the Clan Jam embraced all age groups.
So, if you’re looking for a wonderful weekend of family fun, look out for the return of the Clan Jam next year. There’ll be plenty of great music and entertainment on offer, along with enough bikes for the kids to ding their bell while weaving their way through the dancing crowds.