Have you ever felt uninspired or in a rut when planning an event at your club? Anyone who has ever been involved in the process will know that event planning can be just as stressful, overwhelming, and tedious as it is incredibly rewarding.
The usual challenges faced when event planning can be amplified in rural communities where the resources and population are on a much smaller scale. However, this didn’t stop Narembeen Club from pulling off their show-stopping Heat & Dust Carnival with aplomb in November 2019.
Despite a population of just 800 people, Narembeen Club didn’t shy away from pulling out all the stops, ensuring there was out-of-the-ordinary entertainment for all demographics. With the help of a Lotterywest grant, the carnival was a series of summer entertainment complete with circus acts, drag queens, and acrobats.
So how exactly did the humble Narembeen Club get their Heat & Dust Carnival up and running? “I have always thought it unfair that our community did not get access to the live performers and festivals that you have every weekend in the metro area,” says Kyla Padfield, the club’s Treasurer and Secretary.
“So we started with a simple pilot project that our club paid for: an outdoor movie screening with rural cinema.”
Serendipitously, the Lotterywest Grants team happened to be road-tripping through regional areas and noticed Narembeen Club’s promotional posters for its outdoor movie. The grants team suggested that the club use the movie night to gauge how a series of entertainment would work, and implied that there was a high chance that Lotterywest would be able to provide financial assistance if the club applied for a grant. As they say, the rest is now history.
There’s no denying that the diverse range of entertainment provided during the Heat & Dust Carnival isn’t your typical carnival fare. So how exactly did Narembeen Club decide on what types of entertainment to provide? The club knew that it was essential to cater to all demographics within their community, from its ageing population down to its young parents with children under five years of age. “We narrowed the entertainment into segments: live music, outdoor cinema, circus, comedy, et cetera,” says Kyla. “We then created a small survey and asked what people wanted. From there it was easy to find the entertainers.”
Naturally, just like any other event planners, Narembeen Club harboured their own set of concerns regarding providing such modern entertainment to their rural community. “I was a little worried about the drag queens,” admits Padfield. “The ‘girls’ rocked into town and couldn’t believe that all the utes were left unlocked! As it turned out, they were welcomed warmly by our community. The Drag Bingo was a huge hit, with the drag queens mingling with the cricket boys and giving them a good old laugh. It really broke down some barriers with the LGBT community.”
As for the carnival’s name? “Anyone that has been to Narembeen in summer would very likely have seen numerous dust devils and experienced the heat we have here. So the Heat & Dust Carnival was all about celebrating Narembeen in summer.”
With the success of planning the Heat & Dust Carnival now well behind her, we asked Kyla if she had any tips and insights to share with other clubs when planning events, particularly for clubs in other rural communities.
- Book the entertainers in advance. This was a significant challenge that Narembeen Club experienced. “You need at least three months’ notice for most performers – but you can’t actually book them until you have the grant!”
- Create an events plan. “If you do the hard work upfront, on the night it’s so easy.”
- Share the workload and allocate jobs to your volunteer committee. “I have some great staff and a great committee that helps on the night, with simple things like installing outdoor fencing, putting the Lotterywest signage up, and stacking the cool room. If everyone knows what they are meant to do in advance, it makes life a lot easier.”
Unfortunately, Narembeen’s Heat & Dust Carnival for 2020 was cancelled due to COVID-19. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s the end of Narembeen Club’s time spent pushing the envelope with their community events.
“Lotterywest extended the remaining funds to the end of the year so our ABBA and John Lennon tribute bands (aimed at our 50+ membership group) and our outdoor movie (aimed at our young families’ demographic) were held in October and November,” says Kyla of the community’s revised plans. “After this, we have partnered with our local Community Resource Centre to apply for other funding. Fingers crossed we continue to see great entertainment in our small Wheatbelt community.”