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Just an island away from a new discovery: Claire Aman and Kieran McAndrew. Image: 53 Islands

A home among the islands

Geoff Helisma|

“Our aim is to bring people together in our love of the Clarence river,” says Claire Aman about the aim of the 53 Islands festival (October 7 to 20, 2019).

Cryptically, the festival brochure says “it’s the question, not the answer…”

So, what is the 53 Islands festival and where did it come from?

“I’m on Susan Island board, we look after Elizabeth Island [in Grafton], too,” Claire says. “We were having a working bee in September 2018 – pulling vines off trees and weeding – and I started wondering how many islands were in the river.

“Kieran McAndrew went home and Googled it and said there were 53 named islands.

“We got a bit obsessed and thought we could have a festival – not salads and tents – and let’s just see how many community groups want to do something with an island theme.

“Over the past year, we’ve been talking to groups … and the response has been incredibly enthusiastic – people say the river is unappreciated.

“We want to bring everyone together who loves the river, from source to mouth, and explore all of the different ways of appreciating the river though its islands – to focus on it, love it and protect it.”

The festival is a collection of events, all of which occur within the timeframe October 7 to 20.

It’s about Clarence Valley’s photographers, artists, paddlers, scientists, sailors, nature-lovers, astronomers, writers, Aboriginal custodians, you name it.

“We have organised two weeks of island celebrations,” says Claire.

“There’ll be island tours, weed-busting, orienteering, science in the pub, star-gazing, nine art exhibitions, poetry, cruising, yoga, stories, history, a seed art workshop and a cane toad hunt, all culminating in the Clarence 100 paddle race.

“And we’ll be enlisting island-counters in an attempt to discover the true number.”

The 53 Islands team is Claire Aman, Kieran McAndrew and Glen McClymont.

 “And if nothing takes your fancy,” says Claire, “be sure to embark on your own island adventure and learning, and share it with us using #53islands on Facebook and Instagram.

“Got an island idea but missed the boat for the 2019 program? Do it anyway. We’d love to hear from you next year.”

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