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17 November 2020
The entire Lifestyle Wimmera Edition 6 is available online. READ IT HERE!
By Dylan De Jong
When searching for a place to enjoy live music, people typically gravitate towards Melbourne with its reputation as the ‘music capital of Australia’.
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A small town in the far reaches of Victoria’s northwest in the southern Mallee is rarely a location associated with a booming music scene.
But a musician from the community of Rainbow is aiming to change that.
Farmer and musician Ben Gosling is helping to transform a decommissioned primary school building, at what is known as The Oasis, into a musical hub in his home town.
Just weeks before the first COVID-19 wave hit Australia, Berlin-based band The Bees made the 400-kilometre journey from Melbourne to Rainbow to play in front of an eager country crowd.
Mr Gosling also managed to attract American act Ordinary Elephant to the town in early 2019.
Rainbow’s reputation as a go-to destination for bands started growing after the town hosted its inaugural Big Sky Festival in August 2018.
Mr Gosling has since received many requests from artists across the country who want to get a taste for performing at the venue on the fringes of Victoria’s Big Desert.
“It’s just a new experience for the bands compared with playing in the cities,” Mr Gosling said.
“Rainbow is a really friendly community – everyone makes the artists feel very welcome. They have a chat after their show, sell some CDs, hopefully make a decent income out of the night and just really enjoy themselves.”
Mr Gosling said the traction he had gained was thanks to a $350,000 small town transformation State Government grant, which enabled the community to save the town’s 120-year-old primary school from ‘certain demise’.
The town has used the grant money to revitalise the site to serve many functions, with a stage for creative performances, garden and exercise spaces, a skatepark and classrooms for a newly formed Rainbow Innovation Centre.
For Mr Gosling, the building had sentimental value, having completed his primary schooling there in the ’90s.
“We feel like we saved it – it would have left a big hole in the town if it had been knocked down,” he said.
“It was all overgrown and things were quickly falling apart. Now that things are happening and different groups are involved, people are starting to see the importance of what it can become.”
Before the pandemic, Mr Gosling and brother Andy were busy exploring the world of music while juggling farm duties.
Mr Gosling was born and raised at Rainbow. He headed off to Bendigo in the early 2000s to study graphic design at La Trobe University.
After working in his profession for four years, life on the farm was calling him back.
He returned to the farm in 2006, about the same time as his brother.
The brothers have since written and produced a slew of original tracks under the name Lazy Farmer’s Sons.
More than a decade on, they have gone on to play at folk festivals across the country and made regular appearances at the annual Patchewollock Music Festival.
Their music, which they describe as ‘Drought Stricken Aussie Folk’, is inspired by the harshness and isolation of the land around them and the people that make up the rural community of Rainbow. Their songs are backed by guitar, mandolin and harmonica to create a ‘haunting twist’ on the Australian bush ballad.
“My brother and I moved back to the farm at a similar time. When Andy came home, he had heaps of songs under his belt that he had written,” Mr Gosling said.
“I played music all through school. My dad Peter is a singer and songwriter as well, so there was always a guitar in the lounge room as a kid. I remember we were probably forced to have piano lessons growing up. Looking back on it now, I really appreciate learning that skill.”
Although all gigs have dried up in 2020 due to restrictions to indoor and outdoor gatherings, Mr Gosling is eager to build on Rainbow’s reputation as a live-music destination when restrictions ease.
He said the support he had received from the community inspired him to continue running events.
“I love Rainbow. If you want to organise an event, someone will bring in a front-end loader at the drop of a hat and they’ll just do it,” he said.
“People are just willing to make stuff happen. It’s such a friendly and strong community.”