Around 1986 Pip Mills, Sheila Howat and a small group started to develop a festival that would re-establish and empower the arts in the region through music. They progressed in an ad hoc fashion bringing a very wide range of music performances into the town. Fast forward to 1993 when Chris Hughes and the WA Tourist Commission offered support for the development of a Blues Festival that could be promoted as an attraction to interstate and international visitors.
A public meeting was called with representatives from all community interests to find out if the town would support such an idea. The answer was a resounding yes and a committee was formed to develop an event that would position itself as a leading music festival and attract large enough audiences, but not too large for the town over a three day period. That first committee – Pip and Sheila with Doreen Harkins, Jenny Greatwich, Tom Scott, Joan Krauze and John Roberts – delivered the inaugural Blues at Bridgetown event in 1993 which was put together in six months and attracted approximately 5,000 people. In its second year, the audience grew to around 12,000 people.
Over the 25 years that Blues at Bridgetown has been around many people have come and gone – within the organisation, within the community, within the music scene. No doubt some “up-and-coming blues talent of the future” from those early years made it, some perhaps not.
So. That’s how it all started 25 years ago, seeded from an idea a few years before that. What is it that has Blues at Bridgetown still here and going strong after all this time? Vision, passion, great music, community … and the individual people who have been a part of something special along the way, adding their special little bit of magic to it.
“Fine Blues” indeed.