Memorable Tribute to Jimmy Little an Outstanding Success

Published on 18 June 2023

Kasey and Buzz.jpg



The first ever Jimmy Little Music & Arts Festival has been hailed as an outstanding success from all corners following an amazing weekend in Lightning Ridge. Thousands of festivalgoers engaged in the daytime festival staged over two days over the June long weekend.

 In what has now been arguably tagged, the largest, most significant music festival ever in the outback of NSW, the festival showcased some of Australia’s most iconic musicians, story tellers and artists performing some of our country’s most famous tunes. The event featured Kasey Chambers, James Blundell, Buzz Bidstrup (The Angels), Mark Callaghan (GANG-gajang). Supporting performers over the two-day gathering included Dean Ray, blues man Mr Buddy Knox Band, Brendan Gallagher (Karma County) Stiff Gins, James Henry and local artists JustUs, Kelsey Barker and dancer Joshua Doctor. Renowned comedian Anthony Lamond took on the MC role over the two days of free entertainment and festivities while the crowd were engulfed with rhythms and beats from an amazing line up of Australia’s famous musicians and artists.  Fortunately, the skies cleared the day prior to  event at the open-air venue, the Lightning Ridge Sports Fields.  The music festival was supported by twenty-seven stall holders, food vendors and sideshow alley also offered to locals and huge influx of visitors alike.

The festival kick started on the Saturday morning under picturesque blue skies with an Acknowledgment of County and welcome from Aunty Loretta Schuler, a heartfelt message from Buzz Bidstrup about the life changing impact Uncle Jimmy played in his life and an address from Jimmys daughter Francis Little. Council’s Manager Community Development and event leader, George McCormick welcomed the many for attending and offered an overview of what was to be two of the most enjoyable days had by many in Lightning Ridge.

Much acclaimed local band JustUs got the party started with a great set of music highlighting by a tribute to the late Tina Turner’s Nutbush City Limits in which many of the crowd performed at front of stage.   The festival also set out to offer local musicians and artists an opportunity to showcase their talents on the big stage with a talent quest in which seven musicians participated and engaged the crowd. Entrants included Rebel Black, Logan Loshe, Mitchell Steele, Garth Boulton, Muruwari Budjiti Dance Group, Helen & Friends and Rita May Walford, Congratulations to eventual winners of the quest were:  Mitchell Steele, Rita May Walford, and the Aboriginal dance team Muruwari Budjiti dancers who were presented their winning prize money from sponsor John Murray Art Gallery, Walgett Shire Council, Lightning Ridge Bowling Club and Walgett Newsagency.  The events team and star-studded panel of judges congratulated all performers and needless to say we have some amazing up and coming talents in our region.

 Australia’s own bluesman Buddy Knox and his band then entertained the crowd with some great tunes and rhythms during their set with an impromptu appearance of local songstress Kelsey Iris supporting . Buddy shared a story of his friendship with the late Jimmy Little and the continued closeness with Franny and the ongoing legacy of the great man.

The following performance by Buzz Bidstrup (The Angels), Mark Callaghan (GANG gajang, X factor runner up Dean Ray, acclaimed bass man Andrew Richardson and Buzz Bidstrup’s wife Kay wowed the crowd performing hits from their respective bands beating out to all at the open-air event with the Aussie anthem “Sounds of Then” drawing a huge reaction from the festivalgoers. The band ended their set with Franny Little on stage, back up singing Am I Ever Going to See Your Face Again in which the crowd applauded. Closing off the Saturday was headliner Kasey Chambers supported by her father Bill Chambers and ex-Angel Buzz supporting on drums. Amazing performance – totally spellbinding the crowd who were treated to a selection of her hits and more. The mosh pit was thirty deep as she ripped out some her well-known hits, Pony and Pretty Enough  which saw her inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame and awarded an additional fourteen ARIA Music Awards with nine for Best Country Albums. In true style, Kasey hung around following her performance and signed autographs, hats, shirts and such for the fans. A truly engaging human and a humble musician with an unforgettable voice.

Sunday also fired up to beautiful weather and clear skies as this was the opportunity for the talent quest winners to again perform in front of the audience. Although the morning started off slow in crowd numbers it soon picked up as you could hear the beats from a few streets away from the sports field venue.

Local songstress Kelsey Iris then performed her set, her captivating voice ringing through the crown as she sung tunes in language. A stella performance by Kelsey who was also supported by Buddy Knox on guitar. Jimmy Littles grandson James Henry delivered a blend of traditional Aboriginal and contemporary music supported by two outstanding dances from Bangarra Dance Company who journeyed to the Ridge led by local lad Joshua Doctor. The crowd were totally fascinated at the diverse music and dance performed by these accomplished dancers and music composer, artist. As the afternoon progressed a story from Australian music industry - singer, songwriter, composer, author & performer Brendan Gallagher led into a laid-back series of songs and melodies engaging the huge crowd yet again. The Stiff Gins along with their groupie following had all and sundry bouncing to the great sounds Nardi Simpson and Kaleena Briggs deliver to the people. Nardia a Yuwaalaraay woman with family connections to Lightning Ridge and Kaleena a Yorta Yorta women have close connection to the Ridge and the crowds appreciate their performance. The band is one of Australia 's best known and most loved Indigenous music acts.  The next performance of the day featured the man acknowledged by many as the act that single-handedly shaped modern Australian country music, James Blundell and son Briar on guitar. What an outstanding series of hits they performed along with Buzz from the Angles yet again supporting on drums.

The final act saw performers all come together for the last song of the festival. The crown and supporters where thanked and Jimmy Little was again acknowledged and admired for his contributions and the legacy he created for the betterment of all people.

George said, “the many objectives the festival set out to achieve have been well and truly ticked and the small organising team are overwhelmed at the successful outcome. Our intentions from a few years ago when the previous Council General Manager Mike Urquhart and I struck up the concept have grown and some of the outcomes are unexpected but welcomed. The focus was to create a musical tribute to the late Jimmy Little through a festival acknowledging and sharing his limitless & selfless contributions to the music industry, his genuine friendships with many, pathways he created through music channelling Aboriginal recognition, reconciliation and advancement as our countries first and most recognizable Indigenous recording artist and popstar, but many other messages were underpinned in the successful delivery of the festival.”

Through our State Governments funding program “Reconnecting Regional NSW” objectives of increasing social connections & capacity, showcasing local talents, economic opportunities and building and creating community togetherness has been significantly achieved through implementation of this 2-day Festival and celebration of Jimmy Littles life & legacy.

George said, “our small events team of Sandra Bladen, Mason Allen, Deb Bladen, outdoor staff Anthony Leader and Simon Gordon are to be thanked for their commitment to this massive festival. We are a small team of three and delivering this, the pre- planning, the work before and after was huge. The festival has consumed us all, we have all been invested for  days weeks and month in the lead up to this event and spent many sleepless nights setting about implementation of a festival to remembered.  This has been in the forefront of everything for the past few years but working alongside Buzz & Franny has been a godsend and truly appreciated, they were closest to Jimmy and the connections and love they have guided how and who and why the festival showcased and the messages we set out to share and promote.

 From our teams perspective, along with a meaningful tribute to Uncle Jimmy Little we committed to ramming home the message that you CAN have a fun time with family & friends without the use of drugs and alcohol and this was evident with not one incident across the entire festival. The economic boost to our town and broader region was off the charts with all accommodation and caravan parks  booked out  in the township and some visitors traveling each day from outlying townships to attend and majority of stall holders reporting great business over the two days.

 Event consultant and support Buzz Bidstrup said: “The inaugural Jimmy Little music festival in Lightning Ridge was a huge success. In my eyes as someone who has organised many similar events this was the start of something big.

 It may not reach Woodstock proportions, but the support and enthusiasm of George and his few council co-workers made my job very easy.  I honestly believe with the same local support and enough funding; this event could grow into a significant annual or even bi-annual event that would greatly benefit the region. The town was buzzing and so many of the patrons told me it was one of the best organised and delivered local events they had ever seen or had the pleasure of experiencing. Congratulations to everyone involved and I look forward to doing it all again in the name of Jimmy Little and for the people of Lightning Ridge and the surrounding area”.

The festival ensured a selection of music  types would be offered and enjoyed from blues to country and rock. Our major supporters, Walgett Shire Council, NSW Government, John Murray Art Gallery, Walgett Hunt Camp Fish Newsagency, Lightning Ridge Bowling Club, Jimmy Little Foundation & Jimmy Little Thumbs Up organisation are to be applauded as without them, this would not have taken place.

Council’s Manager Community Development Mr George McCormick said, “this has proved a winner on so many fronts…. It was and we hope will continue to be the biggest outdoor - open air music festival in the history of Lightning Ridge, Walgett Shire and possibly the whole outback NSW.” Possibly the most positive feedback came via the performing artists and headliners with all expressing interest for a return should the festival continue in The Ridge.  In the words of Paul Kelly… from little things- big things grow.  Sincere thanks to all of community for your support, the events team, and let’s hope this can become an annual event.

Manager Community Development - Mr. George McCormick (02) 68286107

Youth Development Officer- Ms Sandra Bladen  (02 68286126)