Elaine Forrestal

Western Australia’s own Brigadoon

Elaine Forrestal helping kids write their own stories in Balingup

Driving along the winding country road between the Bussell Highway and Nannup you will pass through many fly specs on the map. Actually they would be fly specs if they were even recorded on the map. Sometimes the speed limit changes and you’ve already passed through the town before you see that it has a name. For much of the year Balingup is like that. Two or three shops on either side of a straight road to somewhere else. But don’t be fooled.

Three times a year this almost invisible town bursts into life. And once a year, in the middle of winter, you will cross the bridge and find yourself right in the middle of a storybook world where the Queen of Hearts is handing out tarts, the Pied Piper is enticing people out into the street and a rather nervous grey mouse is taking its life in its paws to stop the traffic on the main road and offer cheese. Much like the Scottish village of Brigadoon emerging from the mists for just one day, Balingup fills us with awe and wonder.

Of course all this magic is wrought by sheer hard work and dedication. With the support of the whole community, the organisers of the annual Telling Tales Festival provide a range of book and story based activities for kids on the middle weekend of the winter school holidays. Their parents, who may have driven them from Kalgoorlie, Esperance, Perth or nearby Bunbury, often can’t resist the opportunity to join in the writing, drawing, kite-making, book-binding. Or they simply relax and soak up the vibrant and friendly atmosphere while their children’s imaginations are stretched.

Beginning in 2010 the Balingup Telling Tales Festival has survived economic downturn, shifting population and inclement weather. Long may it continue!