Settlers Night

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Settlers commenced after the Easter of 2001, initially as a music session focussing on Australian music in the Bar at the Turner Bowling Club. It began as an activity based around Mulligan's Flat. It stayed in the Bar for about a year. Then in May 2002 the Bush Dance Display Group suggested that Settlers be used as a practice session and it turned into a session and dance event, a format which it retains to the present. At that time it moved from the Bar into the larger space next door. Another advantage of this move was that it gave the Merry Muse a one week break per month, time for organisers to rest and do something else. Settlers moved to the Polish White Eagle Club with the Merry Muse in May 2004, where it has remained.

Over the years Settlers has had the support of large numbers of Canberra's musicians, with as many as 20 on some occasions and some musicians regularly travelling considerable distances to be there. Likewise the support from Canberra's dancers has kept Settlers going. In those first dances in the Bowling Club there were no callers but as Settlers became more organised callers emerged. The callers have been particularly supportive of Settlers. I would like to thank them all; musicians, callers and dancers for their support. Personally, it’s been a pleasure.

The benefits have been considerable. Over time there has been a lot of music and a lot of dancing, and a lot of fun as a result. And not just in Canberra, but Australia wide. Settlers turned out to be the inspiration and platform for an expansion into other endeavours; first into the sessions in the Session Bar at the National Folk Festival, where hundreds from all over Australia have participated over the past six years. Four years ago Bush Traditions was established as a vehicle to promote and organise the Gathering, which happens in the Old Goulburn Brewery on the October long weekend. The fourth Gathering will take place this October. But wait, there’s more! This year Bush Traditions embarked on an even more ambitious event at Bundanoon: a wonderfully successful weekend of dancing to live music over the June long weekend. This is a great dividend.

Settlers has come to an end for several reasons. It has been running for eight years, and personally I feel that the time has come for a change.

The patronage of both musicians and dancers has fallen away to a point where it is barely covers the cost of Hall hire, in part because there is a great variety and depth of dance available to both dancers and musicians in Canberra. No bad thing at all.

More pointedly, the White Eagle Club has decided to raise the hall hire fee from $80 to $150 for these evenings. I do not complain at that, the Club have been very supportive and needs to cover its costs.

Taken together Settlers has become unviable and it time to move on.

Ray Mulligan,

July 2009

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