Putting the ‘F’ Into East Gippsland

Many East Gippsland arty-types like to play a game. They like to call it The F Game, but that’s more of a joke – the truth is, all these F’s just kind of happened organically. I’m sure you know what I am talking about – (f)route – F.INC – FROUTEVILLE – FOUNDRY – what are they? Where are they? WHO are they? And why do they all start with effin’ F?! Okay, let’s just start at the beginning.

(F)ROUTE
(f)route was borne from the idea of connecting visitors to our region with the abundance of fruit growing in the wild. We wanted to started a fruit trail… a fruit route.. a.. (f)route! (pronounced in exactly the same way as fruit). What began as a series of small bottling sessions over hot coffee in Nowa Nowa in early 2012 soon grew into something much bigger – a network of localism-loving people, spanning decades, who were dedicated to nature, botanics, fruit, sharing, and, funnily enough, art. Art seemed to be the really common and binding thread between us all. Bottling sessions grew into workshops geared toward harvest, sharing excess, getting to know your neighbours, providing for yourself and your loved ones, and creating beautiful symbiotic relationships shouting the virtues of creativity and community.

(f)route attracted a certain type of person; one whom was driven and practical but in awe of the slower pace of life. We began to bind together. From these connections grew conversations, seeds planted and watered over picking, and pickling, and stewing, and sowing. From our conversations grew ideas – like community breakfasts. Like a mini festival dedicated to art and localism (see FROUTEVILLE below). Like working bees and community gardens. But, it was the (f)route breakfast that became our calling card.

Andrea Lane and Josephine Jakobi (my faves) are who I would consider the fore-mothers of (f)route, and it was them who took (f)route on the road, connecting small communities with (f)route breakfasts, and using this simple combination of locally-made muesli, home-grown poached fruits, natural yoghurt and apple-fritters, were able to spark a lot of ideas in the brains and hearts of those all across East Gippsland. Art was encouraged in any format – story-telling, zines, cake-baking, photography, illustrations – but practicality was a skill forever-revered and it wasn’t long before a fleet of (f)route carts was dreamed up. A small amount of funding was secured to encourage the idea of community-made (f)route carts, designed for growing plants and food, or serving food, or serving another needed purpose. The (f)route cart project brought to life Josie’s apple fritter cart (complete with built-in compost) and – you will have seen it around – Gary Belsykj’s steampunk, teardrop (f)route cart. Now the hallmark of (f)route’s presence at an event!

In 2014, (f)route was invited to take over an empty retail/office space in Docklands, Melbourne. This space became (f)routelands – the beginning of the (f)route travel bureau idea, full of artistic installations showcasing East Gippsland talent. It was also from this space that the (f)route press was launched – a community-focused zine full of local contributions spanning recipes, images and stories. The interest of the people was now well and truly piqued, and (f)route was gaining an impressive reputation.

The development of the carts and the success of (f)routelands segued into the development of small creative enterprises, borne from a combination of (f)route breakfasts, (f)route carts, the ability to cleverly showcase local produce, and the unique catering options this allowed for. (f)route saw the possibility for a social enterprise business incubator and introduced many locals interested in operating their own creative business to formal structures and applied learning – from those in the know. (f)route was beginning to take over East Gippsland! And the seed of an idea had grown into a movement almost too big to contain. It was time to find a permanent, local, hub.

Around this time that the idea of Foundry reared it’s head – the concept of a collective retail store operated by local creatives. It was the perfect fit for (f)route, and Andrea Lane joined the foundry team as the (f)route representative, enabling her to maintain a local, tangible presence where the community knew where to find her. (f)route had been able, over the past few years, to encourage many creative pieces of art from talented people all over the region, and these wares were able to be sold in a retail capacity through foundry – generating funds that both supported the costs encountered by foundry as a collective, and by (f)route as a community group.

(f)route’s next big hurrah was Forage in February – a calendar of events across East Gippsland encouraging those in East Gippsland to host their own events based in nature, and in foraging, facilitated by (f)route and in conjunction with Love our Lakes. It was at this time that (f)route was generously given use of the old fish and chip shop, on Main Street in Bairnsdale, owned by the Gambles of Gamcorp.

We put this space – dubbed the F.INC space, short for (f)route inc. – to great use, basing Forage in February events and workshops, and the first of the Summertime Speakeasies. (f)route was beginning to attract a new, wider audience, dedicated to creative arts and broadening exactly what that could mean for East Gippsland.

F.INC

Once we had a real, true space to ourselves, there was no turning back. It was time for (f)route to take on a SERIOUS art-enabling role in East Gippsland, and to build upon all the fantastic work that had been done so far.

It was natural to continue under the banner of F.INC, and once the idea had blossomed a serious committee came forward and began the task of creating their own incorporated association that would lead with great governance, witty ideas, talent, connection and true passion. We dedicated ourselves to learning proper governance structures, and with support from Regional Arts Victoria (RAV) were able to host a small education event in Bairnsdale that explained all the nitty-gritty to us.

F.INC is also continuously benefiting from wonderful mentors – committee members with many, many years of experience who are sharing their knowledge and leading us through the paperwork. Teamwork is the true strength of community arts and creating positive partnerships is our favourite thing!

We continued utilising the F.INC space for meetings, workshops, studio-space, events such as book launches and gigs, and even creating our own community exhibitions: Get Stuffed and Clockwork Orange – a handmade, freeform textile and clock exhibition, respectively. When eventually our time at the space came to an end, we continued to meet and talk and set tangible ideas about how we could enable great arts in East Gippsland. This focuses on visual arts, collectives, festivals, performance, music, workshops, exhibitions, print media – the list is endless!

F.INC is currently the body behind two really prestigious East Gippsland art projects FLOAT [a small town transformation] and FROUTEVILLE 2017. The process of building the framework possible for us to host such enormous projects is again due to strong partnerships and a multi-talented committee. Through the processes of creating these projects, we have learned an endless amount of skills revolving around preparing funding applications, creating budgets, communicating with interested artists and acts, managing paperwork and maintaining our governance structure.

F.INC has big dreams for East Gippsland. We wish to support all the great things that are already happening in the region, and to help grow these happenings in both quality and quantity! We are currently renting a small space at the Community Hub in Bairnsdale, and are looking into ways to develop these existing spaces into thriving community centres. Exhibitions, events and workshops are what we are currently putting our energy into – and a local zine to share all our exciting news!

(f)route still exists as its own entity, under the big, broad umbrella of F.INC – like sisters!

FROUTEVILLE

The first FROUTEVILLE was dreamed into existence in 2012, and was touted as a ‘bigger than usual (f)route breakfast;. Fast forward to 2016 and we are in the midst of planning the biggest FROUTEVILLE yet for 2017 – full of quality art, performance, workshops, local food and of course, the famous (f)route breakfast.

In 2013, we launched the first FROUTEVILLE, at the Nicholson River Winery (due to generosity of the owners, our hosts, Ken, Juliet and James Eckersly. It was to be an event to launch our artist-made (f)route CARTS, celebrate the beginning of autumn – a new fruit season, enjoy ukulele workshops, activities for adults and children, and learn about exactly what (f)route was. Entry was free and everyone was encouraged to bring fruit for sharing for the breakfast. The first (f)routeville was a success, and attracted a lot of like-minded people, eager to explore social enterprise opportunities in East Gippsland – such as glamping – and to encourage tourists to the region.

In the years that followed – from 2014 to 2016 – FROUTEVILLE grew in capacity, offerings and support, and each year we grew bigger and smarter. We ran a crowdfunding campaign to design, build and launch the prototype of the (f)route CAMPSTER (a portable, bespoke structure designed to provide cosy, overnight shelter while walking and cycling the (f)route, which we launched at FROUTEVILLE in 2015. We grew to offer an evening feast, showcasing even more local producers. Performers, puppeteers, musicians, sculptors, makers – all began to flock to FROUTEVILLE! And the public loved it. The word spread. There’s way too much to fit into this article – we supported such unique brainwaves as the INSEKTON hotel, the (f)route travel bureau, the Global Feast of Circular Delights, (f)lanterns, the travelling (f)route museum, The FRUITSCAPE photo competition, fermentation workshops – we even had Costa Georgiadis from Gardening Australia come along and join in the fun!). By 2016, FROUTEVILLE had grown to attract over 700 people over the course of one day, hailing from all over the state.

Now – going into 2017 – we have been planning harder than ever before and gathering all of our skills and resources so we can throw a truly great little-big festival. Thanks to support from Regional Arts Victoria and the Regional Arts Fund, F.INC has been able to secure a small amount of funding dedicated to making FROUTEVILLE not only a reality, but to ensuring local artists and contributors are paid for all our their hard work and expose’ of talent. Our theme for next year’s FROUTEVILLE is the FAR EAST FROUTEVILLEANS – the little grass-roots festival you know and love – with a vaudevillean-twist! We have also changed venues this year into the beautiful bush in the Colqhuon Forest at the Brackenbush Equestrian Centre, in Lakes Entrance – plenty of room to spread out, enjoy the festivities, stay for the evening music, camp overnight and enjoy the famous (f)route breakfast the next morning. For our feast we are making our own PEDEL-POWERED PASSATA with home-grown tomatoes enjoyed with pasta made on-site during hands-on workshops.

We are currently well underway in our search for contributing artists and in early 2017 the details of artists and foodies and creatives involved will be revealed. If you are interested in good conversation, great community and a thoroughly entertaining time, make sure you come along on March 4, 2017!

FOUNDRY

Now, this is a little bit of an exception to the rule – Foundry is an artist collective operated by three local women (Clare River, Jill Hermans + Jes John) – a community-based retail shop that truly operates some radical breed of business.

(f)route was one of the main reasons that Foundry could exist in the beginning, and although it does not operate as an incorporated organization like much of the above, Foundry is all about supporting the community.

Foundry only stocks the wares of artists and makers living in East Gippsland – and 85% of the shop’s total profits go straight into the pockets of artists, paying them for their fine work! The other 15% is dedicated to running costs such as rent, rates, bills and such, and all work undertaken at Foundry in the shop is on a volunteer basis.

Currently, Foundry stocks the wares of around 38 local artists, and we sell an amazing range of goods, from vintage clothing + wares, to handcrafted sterling silver jewellery, to zines, greeting cards + illustrations – and we have just launched our brand new homewards range, featuring hardwood chopping boards, rustic cheese knives, natural soaps, the amazing beeswax wraps [never use plastic wrap again!] and hand-formed ceramic pieces. We also support Environment East Gippsland and GECO by selling their plant guides, clothes and advertising material on a no-commission basis – 100% of the profits goes directly to the cause!

Foundry has been operating since mid-2014, and as time goes on, things have only been getting better. The partnership team has developed and changed over the years, and diversified to include a broader range of artists. There is an online store operating also, and lately Foundry has been on the road, attending markets and even speaking at a few conferences.

The MOST important thing about Foundry – we think! – is that when you make a purchase with us, you are supporting local artists and grassroots business, unique and creative economics, and our radical dream concept of supporting ourselves through honing and utilising our passions + skills!

FLOAT
FLOAT is a really spectacular community project – and the first official major task undertaken by F.INC. It is the BIGGEST project any of us have EVER been involved in.

FLOAT is a Small Town Transformation project based at Lake Tyers Beach, East Gippsland, Victoria. The Small Town Transformation program invited small towns across Victoria to imagine what transformation might mean for their town. After an intensive selection process, six small towns of less than 2000 people were awarded $350,000 each, over two years, for projects that would realise their big ideas.

In a nutshell – FLOAT is a STUDIO – for lake-loving artists-in-residence. FLOATing on Lake Tyers. FLOAT is an ARTWORK in itself. FLOAT is for OBSERVING weather. NAVIGATING nature. Telling STORIES. Making ART. FLOAT will produce a MAP – by which to navigate & camp @ Lake Tyers. FLOAT will kick start an ART CAMP – that can underpin a glamping social enterprise. FLOAT FM is the radio station – that will broadcast our story to the world.

FLOAT is already attracting artists who are inspired to respond to this fabulous Lake. Their work and the conversations they start, will bring global attention to the environment we live in, by creating a MUST DO journey for adventurous artists and environmental travellers. With cross-cultural co-operation we will create EXTRAORDINARY Art Camp enterprises, that will economically, culturally & ethically sustain our small communities. The plans for the floating art studio itself are well underway and the conversations stemming from this collective meeting of minds are super inspiring.

WHO IS WRITING THIS?
Jes John is a young East Gippsland local living in Bruthen who has dedicated her past 10 years to growing, nurturing and creating great community and art. With a passion for words, zines, photography and collaboration, Jes has been closed involved in (f)route and FROUTEVILLE since the very early beginning, and is now the chair of F.INC, growing in knowledge every minute of every day. She is one of the founding partners of Foundry, and cannot believe how much it has grown and developed since day one – and when she isn’t doing business maths, shop-sitting, walking her dog, painting love letters or endlessly planning FROUTEVILLE 2017, she is working on strengthening rural youth opportunity with the Gippsland East LLEN or making (drinking) coffees. Jes believes the future of economics is small-scale collaborative collectives and is all about always doing what you know you love!

LINKS

froute.com.au
finc.org.au
finc.org.au/frouteville-2017
float3909.com
ifoundthefoundry.com

or, find us on facebook and find out more about jes @ jesjohn.com

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