Bluesfest volunteers rise above the flood

Lismore Flood Appeal Volunteers , Bridget Ninness, Ilona Harker, Georgi Brooke, Abbie Cardwell and Rainer Brooke, 14, collect donations from patrons of 2017  Bryon Bay Blues Festival.
Lismore Flood Appeal Volunteers , Bridget Ninness, Ilona Harker, Georgi Brooke, Abbie Cardwell and Rainer Brooke, 14, collect donations from patrons of 2017 Bryon Bay Blues Festival. Sophie Moeller

FOR the Rise Above The Floods Volunteers who stood in "the sun and dust” collecting donations for the recent floods on the Far North Coast, it was the Bluesfest patrons who were the stars.

Charity organiser, Ilona Harker said "people volunteered from everywhere” to come and stand with buckets at The Bluesfest gates raising tens of thousands of dollars for those impacted by the natural disaster.

"Celebrities donating large amounts is one thing but the patrons at Bluesfest have been so incredibly generous, which just proves the smallest amounts, when put together, can make a huge difference,” said Ms Harker.

Volunteers from the charity were invited by Bluesfest to collect money at the festival and patrons have also been giving generously as they enter the festival.

Patti Smith at Bluesfest 2017 in Byron Bay.
Patti Smith at Bluesfest 2017 in Byron Bay. Cathy Adams

Bluesfest announced early in the festival that Patti Smith had kindly donated $10,000 AUD to the local charity organisation working on a ground roots level to help those impacted by the recent flooding. Patricia Lee "Patti” Smith is a singer-songwriter, poet, and visual artist who became an influential component of the New

York City punk rock movement with her 1975 debut album Horses.

Smith performed at The Bluesfest as part of her last ever Australian tour.

But it was what Billy Bragg said during his set that helped engage the patrons at the festival, said Ms Harker.

"He told the audience: 'give whatever you can', and that is what the Bluesfest patrons did, and that is what has personally moved me.

"It is said people don't give but I have seen the opposite,” said Ms Harker, "people are generous and they do care.”

Ms Harker came up with the idea for the Rise Above The Flood campaign having been "inspired” by what the "Helping Hands” volunteers did for the flood appeal in Lismore.

"It was the most extraordinary thing I have seen in my life; how those people came together and how much they gave.”

Ms Harker said Bluesfest Director Peter Noble agreed to supporting The Rise Above The Floods umbrella charity because the proceeds will be distributed to the three local community groups of Mullumbimby, Murwillumbah and Lismore.

All the proceeds from 'Rise above the Flood' will be donated to:   

-        Murwillumbah Council - Mayor Appeal Fund for Flooding

-        Helping Hands Lismore - A community run organisation with flood assistance packages

-        Northern Rivers Community Gateway - Direct Flood Assistance.

-        Mullumbimby Neighbourhood Centre - Direct Flood Assistance.

The Rise Above The Flood volunteers are working with the community groups to make sure that monies raised will go directly to the community and not to administration of a national body.

Bluesfest Director Peter Noble OAM commented: "Being here at the festival it's easy to think everything is fine. The truth is, it isn't. There has been perhaps one billion dollars in damages to homes and property with many people unable to pay expensive insurance premiums. Saddest of all is that people have lost their lives. It's not hard to give a little, it will mean a lot.” 

You can find Rise Above The Flood here on Facebook and you can contact their organiser Ilona Harker via 0402 637 739 or

Topics:  bluesfest 2017 helping hands lismore patti smith peter noble rise above the flood

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