'Return to Country' the theme for 2014 Lake Bolac Eel Festival

LAKE BOLAC - Music lovers with an interest in art, environmental issues or Indigenous history and culture are invited to 'Return to Country' for the 10th Lake Bolac Eel Festival on the weekend of March 21-23.

A talented musical line-up will perform on the lakeside Festival Stage from 1pm till late on Saturday.

Neil Murray will join with fellow Warumpi Band member Sammy Butcher who is flying in from Alice Springs for the Festival.

Festival favourites Shane Howard and Carus Thompson return to Lake Bolac along with Brett Clarke and Miles 2 Go. Singer-songwriter Leah Flanagan, who is a member of the Black Arm Band and has appeared in Murundak and Dirtsong, will delight the audience on both Friday evening and Saturday while Tom Richardson will deliver a great blues sound and The MikMaks will delight younger members of the audience and their parents.

The art exhibition opening on Friday evening from 6pm will be followed by Leah Flanagan performing at the Lake Bolac Hotel. The exhibition, held in the Memorial Hall, is open all weekend and this year features the work of internationally recognised Mortlake wildlife artist Richard Weatherly. A recycled sculpture competition offering $200 prize money will be run in conjunction with the art exhibition.

Also on display at the art exhibition is 'WW1 Indigenous Servicemen of South West Victoria'.

This exhibition, which highlights the previously unknown and little recognized service of indigenous personnel, has been prepared by Hamilton historian Peter Bakker who will also speak at the forum on Saturday morning.

The Indigenous service theme will continue with the Twilight Celebration on Saturday featuring the premiere performance of 'Flayed Identities'. This project is supported by the Australia Council and will feature music composed for the Festival by Melbourne composer Thomas Reiner, as well as projected images and narration by Indigenous elder Ted Lovett. The performance will open with a traditional Indigenous welcome dance.

Saturday morning's forum from 11am to 1pm will reflect the 'Return to Country' theme. Festival goers will then be entertained with music from both the main stage and the buskers' stage, a colourful Punjabi Bhangra dance performance, and the much anticipated Twilight Celebration. Workshops include indigenous language, a voice workshop, kite making and circus skills. The popular 'Connies' return again this year and children of all ages will also enjoy Bill Allan's touch tank of live eels, the mobile zoo and jumping castle.

New for the Festival in 2014 is a Mini Film Festival with screenings to be held across the Festival weekend.

The Eel Festival offers an ideal day out for the entire family with good food, interesting and educational displays, and a craft and produce market, all in an attractive lakeside setting.

Details can be obtained from the Festival website www.eelfestival.org.au or by contacting the Lake Bolac Information Centre on 03 5350 2204. The Festival web site will be updated as the Festival program is finalised.

Tickets are available at the gate or can be booked ahead through www.trybooking.com/75040. A $5 discount for all tickets booked online applies.

The Lake Bolac Eel Festival is supported by grant funding from the Australia Council, Regional Development Victoria, Parks Victoria, Tourism Victoria, Ararat Rural City Council and also by generous local sponsors and supporters.

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