Eisteddfod?s cry for help

By JENI FAULKNER

IMAGE a dream where you've been perfecting a performance piece all year and you take to the stage only to find no one is watching.

This is the nightmare being faced by the Coffs Harbour and District Eisteddfod Society this year as, for the third year in a row, audience numbers and volunteer ranks fall dramatically.

Now in its 33rd year, the eisteddfod runs on a shoestring and organisers have spoken out this week to say if things don't improve the event will suffer severe consequences.

Fiona Hulbert has been president of the committee for three years and she's tired at the lack of support coming from every avenue.

"It is very disappointing, the teachers and peers are the only ones who attend all the performances, and each year they see them over and over again," Ms Hulbert said.

If more volunteers and supporters are not available by this time next year the eisteddfod committee has said it could be forced to stop some programs.

"About six people are needed to organise each performance, but during this eisteddfod there has been a time when only two of us have been there to organise the day, this is just ridiculous," she said.

It takes 11 months to prepare each eisteddfod, so when one is over work begins for the next, and so far no new volunteers have come forward.

Treasurer for the committee, Sandy Birch, said even more depressing was that things were being done by only a handful of people and none of them were getting any younger.

"The money towards the eisteddfod comes from entry fees, audience attendance and sponsors," Ms Birch said.

"The cost for last year's eisteddfod was $35,000 and we lost $5000 on that event and this year we have only raised $19,000 towards the total cost."

At last year's Gala Concert only 90 people attended, the event raising just $450.

"Entry fees don't even cover the cost of trophies, it never has, and we just seem to be running at a loss," she said.

"We just want people to come along and support it, some of these kids are very talented and the worst thing for them is that they practice all year and then stand up to an empty room."

There is no age limit to being a volunteer for the eisteddfod and there are plenty of jobs to go around, from the box office to canteen and announcing."

This week the eisteddfod will feature secondary school speech and drama at the showground gymnasium and some Higher School Certificate students are presenting some of their major works in the evening sessions from 5pm.

The dancing will be held at Ex-Services Club from June 11 to 17 and the Gala Concert will be held at the same venue on June 22.

Cost for the Gala Concert is just $5 for more than two hours of entertainment. General performances cost only $4 for adults and $2 for children.

n For more information and to help the eisteddfod get back on its feet phone 6658 2783 or 6653 3866.



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