Gary Crow­ley - En­ter­tain­ment ex­traor­di­naire, Co­founder of ‘Stage in the Sticks’ with his wife Ruth

Dubbo Photo News - - News - - Photo and in­ter­view by Darcee Nixon

We’ve been farm­ing in the Trun­dle dis­trict for 125-plus years – we’re fourth gen­er­a­tion

farm­ers. We’ve got merino sheep, crop­ping and a few pigs. We got a crop in this sea­son, but didn’t get a crop off. We’ve got a truck­ing busi­ness as well to do a bit of har­vest work and stock car­ry­ing.

We founded the Trun­dle Abba Fes­ti­val, that’s our baby.

We funded it, got it off the ground and grew it from 500 peo­ple in the first year to 6000 peo­ple last year. We had a vi­sion for it, in­clud­ing get­ting Bjorn Again on board. They are the most suc­cess­ful trib­ute band of all time, in­ter­na­tion­ally, and they come to Trun­dle. They have told us that it is in their top five of all the things they have ever done, and they have been play­ing for 30 years all over the world.

In my late teens, I started play­ing mu­sic with some groups. And my tal­ent was that

I hung around with peo­ple who were re­ally tal­ented (laughs).

Trun­dle has got a Bush Tucker Fes­ti­val that has been go­ing for nearly 30 years, and I have been in­volved with that for 20-plus years.

I used to be in charge of the en­ter­tain­ment for the Tul­lam­ore Ir­ish Fes­ti­val. All of this has been done vol­un­tar­ily over the years, and you just do it be­cause you love it. The peo­ple you meet are in­cred­i­ble.

My wife Ruth and I have both formed our Stage in the Sticks busi­ness. Our first ma­jor

event will be Opera in the Sticks. It has been pretty tough lately on the farm, so it’s a fun dis­trac­tion to put on.

We have the phi­los­o­phy of al­ways us­ing lo­cal. The St Pat’s school in Trun­dle, where there are 27 stu­dents, are hir­ing their bus to bring peo­ple over for Opera in the Sticks, to earn money for their P&F. I would like to see Gil­gan­dra do that, or War­ren, so that these smaller com­mu­ni­ties ben­e­fit also.

We are pas­sion­ate about ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties,

be­cause that is where we come from. And ru­ral tourism. We go to con­fer­ences and skill our­selves up, and ev­ery­one is so will­ing to share. It’s all about net­work­ing.

Opera in the Sticks was launched in Oc­to­ber, with Aussie per­form­ers Mark Vin­cent and An­toinette Halloran. They have never sung to­gether, but they in­stantly liked each other. Mark was sup­posed to sing one song, but he ended up singing two be­cause he got car­ried away (laughs). Mu­sos can’t help them­selves.

Mark was our first choice.

We have seen him per­form be­fore; he was amaz­ing and very per­son­able. We’ve al­ways gone for the top shelf first. With An­toinette, we were told ‘this is our whole stable of so­pra­nos’ and we lis­tened to all of them. An­toinette has a very warm, round sound­ing voice. It’s not shrill and is very easy to lis­ten to. She is such a char­ac­ter – we in­stantly liked her.

An­toinette gen­er­ally does whole op­eras, and she doesn’t

get to talk to the crowd. But she is hi­lar­i­ous – she’s a real dag! She has also been on Spicks and Specks, twice.

They are pick­ing their favourite so­los and duets to sing, things from mu­si­cals and a bit of pop­u­lar mu­sic, and there may be a bit of a sur­prise with a cer­tain Ed Sheeran song. Mark Vin­cent will have his band play­ing.

I’m want­ing peo­ple that would not nor­mally go to an opera, to go to this event. We had a young girl there at the launch, and she was so ef­fected that she cried, and she had never been to an opera be­fore.

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