On a normal school day there would be 350 hungry boys devouring their breakfast in readiness for a day at the books. But, it’s a Thursday morning in January during school holidays and the Refectory is buzzing with diners eagerly relishing their ‘Full English Breakfast’. So, no it isn’t term time but, being high summer in Tamworth can only mean one thing – the Tamworth Country Music Festival is in full swing.
During the 10 day festival Farrer plays host to between 250 and 300 paying guests who travel from far and wide to enjoy the genuine country hospitality on offer. Many revellers have been coming back to Farrer for well over 20 years and all agree that it is the delicious breakfast, the inviting pool and the friendly staff that makes them return time after time.
One particular gentleman, Tom from Koroit near Warrnambool, told me he has been coming to the festival for 24 years and being a keen busker divides his time between enjoying the music and busking on Peel Street entertaining the crowds.
When I spoke to Neil Smart, the tour operator from Warrnambool, he said “I’ve been bringing visitors to this festival for 24 years, originally with my own coach business, and for 22 of those we have stayed at Farrer. I wouldn’t change a thing about the trip – Farrer is a highlight, the pool goes down a treat and the country location is appreciated.” Neil also said that nowadays he is the guide not the driver and is ‘supposed to be’ semi-retired. This year he brought 54 guests to the festival, some even flying from Perth to Melbourne to join his group.
First timer Jeff told me that the music festival had been on his bucket list for years and having finally made it in 2018 said “I’ll be back”. Another country music fan, Madeline from Gippsland, has been to the festival six times, with this being her first year at Farrer and she had nothing but praise for the school facilities and friendly staff.
Once the majority of country music devotees had left for the day I went in search of Jenni Goodridge, our TCMF accommodation coordinator, and found her in the canteen fielding phone calls and selling snacks and newspapers. It is obvious that Jenni is one very busy individual who heads an extremely well oiled team, of Farrer staff and PT&F volunteers, to ensure that every guest is catered for. The laundry will even do your washing (at a price of course!). Clearly there’s no time to spare in the mornings – there are rooms to be cleaned, linen to be laundered and essentials like coffee and tea to be re-stocked in readiness for the incoming guests. It’s all hands on deck that’s for sure.
The Farrer Hilton (as the school is affectionately called) with its dormitory style accommodation 10 kilometres from Tamworth, is a quiet retreat from the hustle and bustle of the town and with a regular bus service to the major venues, a beautiful swimming pool and a nightly BBQ it makes a very appealing and sought after venue for tour groups.
Since its inception in the mid nineties the Country Music Festival accommodation initiative has been the most significant annual fundraiser for the school, each year raising substantial funds which have enabled the school to improve facilities for students. So, with this in mind, I am sure Farrer will continue to offer its beautiful campus to groups of country music fans well into the 21st century. (Angela Monticone)
(L-R) Bernie & Tom enjoying breakfast with Neil Smart
Madeline and Tom