"I'm going back to live in Byron Bay. Nothing juicy like that ever happens around here" - such was Belgrave local Neil Bateman’s response to a report he had just watched on the ABC's 'Sunday Arts' program about a huge community arts event in Northern NSW.
Cheered on by a crowd of 23,000 people, large lanterns in a multitude of mythical shapes were paraded at dusk through the streets of Lismore to celebrate Winter Solstice. It involved the whole community - school kids, teenagers, football clubs, the local traders association, the elderly ... it wasn't a bunch of professional artists/performers putting on a show to entertain the masses - it was the community celebrating the community. And it has been happening and growing stronger every year since 1994.
Neil realised he didn't need to go anywhere, that it could happen down here in the hills, it just needed someone to put the idea out there and start getting it together - he knew that there were heaps of talented & community minded people round these parts.
Shatki McLaren was one of those people. Shatki organised an initial meeting, inviting key stakeholders, where Neil could share the vision. Nurturing the seed, with Shakti as Project Coordinator and Neil as Artistic Director, the group behind the first Belgrave Lantern Parade of 2007 was established. Members believed in the philosophy of total inclusiveness and the ideas around Community Cultural Development, that a healthy community is one where all people can feel like they belong, and that community-based arts activity add to the overall well-being of that community.
Since then, Belgrave Main Street has been filled with light at winter solstice every year ~ come join us and help warm the heart of Belgrave.
The Belgrave Lantern Parade has inspired so many since the first working party of 2006. With the support of the Yarra Ranges Council and Dandenong Ranges Community Cultural Centre along with commitment to our shared vision, the project has gone from strength to strength. The Belgrave Community Arts Partnership (BCAP), co-founded by Shakti McLaren and Neil Bateman, was formed to nurture the Belgrave Lantern Parade and explore other opportunities to develop community arts in the region. The work of BCAP has been welcomed by the Belgrave Traders Association and we are very grateful for the ongoing support of our major partners.
Belgrave Lantern Parade has also been able to rely on the ongoing support of our community volunteers. In particular, we acknowledge the tremendous support of our local CFA brigade members ensuring our safety and the smooth running of the event due to their traffic management support and presence along the parade route.