The festival was timely in bringing some much welcomed cheer and economic and social buzz to the iconic mining town following the tragic deaths of three staff at the Mt Lyell mine and its switching from production to care and maintenance.
Around 3,000 locals and visitors took part in the festival which included arts exhibitions and heritage displays.
The 2014 Queenstown Heritage Arts Festival marked the centenary of the Lake Margaret Power Station, 10 kms north of Queenstown. The power station was built in 1914 by the Mt Lyell Mining and Railway Company to power the Mt Lyell copper mine. In 1985 Hydro Tasmania took over the station. It is the oldest operating hydro-electric power station in Australia.
One of the great things about the festival, among others, was meeting and talking to the proud and interesting West Coast locals and expatriates at every turn and learning some of their history, such as living at Lake Margaret village.
Many of the village’s houses are still standing, though in need of care and maintenance.
Local Queenstowner Bill Tiddy, father of the Festival’s Director Travis Tiddy, reminisced about visiting his aunt and uncle at the Lake Margaret village as a child, where his aunt and uncle lived for 39 years. There was an average of just 50 people who lived in the village during its peak period 1914 – 1964.
It seems that most people have very fond memories of living at Lake Margaret. One of these is Frank Martin, who has written a book about his birthplace called Born to Rain, an appropriate title considering that Lake Margaret records the highest rainfall in Tasmania.
“Any day was perfect if you were a kid at Lake Margaret,” Frank Martin said to the ABC. “I had a Meccano set for the wet days and we made and flew paper aeroplanes into the town hall. Badminton too.”
Fifth generation Queenstowner and Queenstown Heritage Arts Festival director Travis Tiddy said the festival goal was to create an event that’s authentic and an opportunity for visitors to connect with the environment and community. “It’s important that it’s local, we have designed and created this for local people,” Travis said. “We have an absolute commitment to quality and connecting visitors with our community.”
The Queenstown festival was launched in 2010 and held again in 2012. After its thrice-repeated success, it will hopefully become a fixed festival on Tasmania’s events calendar.