We all know Alice Springs as the consummate host of many quirky events, enjoyed by locals and visitors Australia-wide and stamping the outback town with its own unique caricature.
The Alice Springs Beanie Festival is high on the list, and Narrabri resident Noeline Kiss sent off a knitted and crocheted entry to the festival earlier this year.
Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the event, from June 25 to June 28 more than 4000 beanies were on display at the Araluen Cultural Precinct in Alice Springs, with 5000 visitors walking through the doors to view the iconic display.
Originating in 1997 with a ‘beanie party’ this event has grown into a four-day event where Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal artists share their culture and exhibit together.
The festival aims to promote Aboriginal women’s textiles and culture and promote the ‘beanie’ as a regional art form.
Compiled from more than 6000 entries across Australia by creative knitting and crocheting enthusiasts, the sight is one to behold.
This year, a total of 5418 beanies made a sale at the festival.
In addition to this, each year numerous donated beanies are sent to an indigenous grandmothers’ camp held out in the desert.
Throughout the year the Araluen Arts Centre has organised five workshops where indigenous communities can learn the art of beanie making, travelling to Titjikala, Yuendumu, Santa Teresa, Tennant Creek and Ampilatwatja.
Narrabri resident Noeline Kiss was delighted when her beanie was accepted for entry into the 2021 festival.
“My son-in-law filmed the festival some years ago for a TV series, and I had always wanted to enter,” Noeline said.
“When I saw the advertisement in the Yarn magazine this year it just seemed right, and after discussion over a cup of tea it was decided I would enter.
“I filled out my entry online. This was in early May.
“The closing date for entries was set for June 30, so I thought I had plenty of time,” said Mrs Kiss.
“The beanie was progressing well but not quite finished when I received an email from Jo Nixon, the festival coordinator, asking where my beanie was.
“When it was explained that the postage would take three weeks to get to Alice Springs, panic stations set in.
“I was so unprepared. I hadn’t yet completed the paperwork and I hadn’t named the beanie. Yes, you have to name them!
“Making a long story short, thanks to Jo I made it in time, my beanie was entered in the display and ticketed ‘exhibition only’.
“I named my beanie ‘Floral Bounty’.
“It was an amazing feeling to be part of this event which celebrates the story of the wonderful First Nation women in remote communities, who started the festival 25 years ago and continue to guide its progress.
“The cheque received for the sale of my beanie is now banked in a special account, put away for a trip to Alice Springs, although at $12.50 I will need to work on that!
“The commission from my sale has been distributed to wonderful causes, as entry fees and commissions are donated to various charities in the area.
“The hardest part of our current COVID journey is the social isolation and the closure of creative centres like the Narrabri Craft Shop workshops.
“I am very fortunate to be part of what we call Mad Monday at the Craft Shop, a group which meets every Monday.
“My beanie was crafted at these sessions.
“All creative people are welcome, with knitters at one end of the table, potters at the other end, and needleworkers in the middle, all organised under the watch of convenor Pat Hlad.
“Everyone is welcome, learners are encouraged and the whole team is very supportive of each other”.
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The annual beanie festival began in 1997 as a ‘beanie party’. It has now grown into a four-day festival.
Top view of ‘Floral Bounty’ crafted by Narrabri resident Noeline Kiss.
Side view of ‘Floral Bounty’ crafted by Narrabri resident Noeline Kiss.
It is a time for sharing with old and new friends, who have become part of the ever growing ‘beanie family’.
The beanie festival is a celebration of the humble beanie, with creativity and storytelling by indigenous artists and beanie makers from across the country and around the world.