TUMBLEWEEDS are flying around in all directions down Peel Street in Tamworth as a wind of change sweeps through the city’s annual country music festival. The January jamboree, which celebrated its 40th anniversary this year along with its sister, the Golden Guitar Awards, is heading in a new direction next year — one the new organiser of the events, Tamworth Regional Council’s Destination Tamworth office, hopes country music virgins from across Australia and beyond will follow. A shuffle of personnel and organisations has left the Country Music Association of Australia, for what seems like thousands of years the backbone, the stagecoach and the gunslinger of all things country in the NSW city, with a reduced role. Destination Tamworth has taken the reins and a few months ago sent a team of representatives, the DTs, to Nashville to see how things are done in the world’s country music capital. Among the new initiatives for next year is the embracing of social media, not something that has been uppermost in the minds of the average festival-goer in the past. An online competition, conducted through Facebook, will allow a few lucky punters to spend a day with one of the artists at the festival and attend the Golden Guitar ceremony. Also online, applications for the treasured busking spots that are an integral part of the 10-day event will be conducted through YouTube auditions. One would hope this will rule out some of the more cheerfully incompetent musos and ne’er-do-wells who choose to make Tamworth their home in shop doorways every January. Things don’t look good for the Chook Man, just quietly (if you’ve been there you’ll know who he is). The DTs are keen to do a makeover of the festival without losing its core audience. No mean feat. And they’re not restricting their marketing strategy to 10 days in January. High on the agenda is bringing international (read American) acts to Tamworth all year round. The Eagles’ Glenn Frey will be there in March. Not everyone is happy with the city’s festival infrastructure, however. Some long-serving Tamworth artists have been complaining that the price hikes introduced by accommodation providers during the festival makes it hard for them to make a buck while they’re there. More news from Tamworth in the coming weeks. WHILE we’re on the topic of community festivals, if you happen to be down Murwillumbah way in NSW today, a host of Aussie acts are on the bill for Rock the Gate, part of a campaign against coal-seam gas mining. Leading the line-up are Pete Murray, Blue King Brown’s Natalie Pa’apa’a and the Round Mountain Girls. Broadcaster Alan Jones had been scheduled to appear at the rally but was told his services were no longer required, not least because of a threatened boycott of the event by locals if he turned up. SD has been scanning affectionately the just published edited by English writer Hunter Davies, who was the Beatles’ official biographer. It’s a beautifully crafted tome, pieced together from almost 300 pieces Lennon wrote, the first of them when he was 10 years old and the last an autograph he gave to a fan on the day of his death. Lennon was an avid writer outside of his songwriting and the collection contains images of the original documents — postcards, bits of paper, lengthy, typed diatribes — sent to newspapers, to friends, family members and musicians. There’s even a note to his laundry. It’s published by Hachette, $45.