Make the most of the Shepparton Festival

By John Lewis

I've been putting this off for a while - but it can't go on any longer, and now is the time.

As coronavirus rages around us and the world grinds to a halt, the Shepparton Festival could be the last time anyone has the chance to mingle and discuss the fundamental nature of things while drinking Gewurtztraminer and eating White Stilton Gold.

The 24th Shepparton Festival launches tonight with a packed program of the weird and the wonderful spread across the city, small towns, bars, wineries, galleries and paddocks over the next fortnight.

Because I am an art critic of enormous authority whose influence spreads far beyond Instagram, I feel it is crucial that I add my top five favourite festival events to the growing list to others who have posted theirs on social media.

I believe people are hungry for opinion, especially mine.

So here goes:

Number one

The Quarry Chorus which takes place tomorrow night at Dookie Quarry.

This is a perfect example of a grass-roots community event driven by local people with vision and passion.

It takes place in a spectacular jewel of the Goulburn Valley landscape with music, lights, dance and a home-grown choir singing an original song against a curtain of geological time.

What's more - it's free.

Unsurprisingly, the event has reached capacity so no more registrations are being taken.

Number two

Kyabram-born muso Ryan Meeking returns to his old stomping ground to write, perform and record a unique piece of music in the delightful surrounds of Shepparton's music hub - Chapel off Maude.

A great example of bringing it all back home, and a chance to wander in and see how the intangible art of music is made.

Plus, Ryan's a decent, humble bloke who loves a chat.

Number three

Cabaret - it's sophisticated, seat-squirmingly funny, contemporary and probably quite rude.

But who doesn't love some naughtiness?

There are three on offer - Women of the White House, Blak Cabaret and Ovariacting: A Period Drama.

Take your pick, or if you're a very naughty person, go to all three.

Number four

Yurri Wala Woka - a performance in bushland between Shepparton and Mooroopna which will combine the ancient and the contemporary stories of our unique indigenous culture.

There's food, dance, lights, music and storytelling in a bush setting.

This promises to be very special.

Number five

Shepparton Theatre Arts Group's annual Ten in Ten mini-theatrical festival which offers ten 10-minute plays.

This year the subjects include amnesia, crooked financial advisers, ghosts and struggling relationships.

These plays are written, directed and performed by local people just like yourself.

Some are first-timers, others are veteran thespians - all of them are in it for the fun and the possibility of a Netflix career.

These are my selections - have a look at the program and make your own choices.

There's so much more, from classical, soul and jazz music, circus, writing, photography, film, whisky, gin and cider classes - the list goes on.

So get out and about - just don't kiss or shake hands.