Good cheers: Backers of the new city’s new Carols by Candlelight event, including Harcourts Director, Jason Gigliotti, Santa, Mayor Samantha McIntosh and organiser Matt Hustwaite celebrate the event’s saviour. Photo: CHIPPY RIVERA

Community carols to continue at Christmas

August 8, 2019 BY

BALLARAT Carols by Candlelight will continue uniting the community with song this Christmas at new home, the City Oval on Sunday, 22 December.

Having been coordinated by church groups for 48 years, the city’s festive event was suddenly cancelled in July due to lacking finances and resources. New not-for-profit, Ballarat Carols by Candlelight Inc. has launched in response, to ensure the tradition lives on.

President, Matt Hustwaite is leading the organisation with support from some of the city’s theatre production experts, previously behind hit shows Cats, Mary Poppins and The Boy From Oz.

The new event will be in the mould of Melbourne’s Christmas Eve carols, and a strong cast of Ballarat performing artists who have found success at home and on professional stages nationally will come together over the next few months.

This year, the evening will be presented in partnership with Real estate agency Harcourts Ballarat, and the tradition of supporting the 3BA Christmas Appeal will continue. Mr Hustwaite said the iconic local event might be in new hands, but they’re safe and enthusiastic ones.

“Like most people in Ballarat when I saw the news, I had a pretty emotional response. I have two boys, we’re a massive Christmas family, we love the season, and coming together to celebrate as a community at Christmas is something that everyone enjoys.

“Carols by Candlelight is an innately Australian and Victorian tradition, it’s been a cross-generational part of our lives and it’s one of those experiences that’s always there,” he said.

“To not have the local opportunity to come together with our neighbours and community, to enjoy the talents of our fellow community members, Christmas wouldn’t feel quite the same. It would leave a hole.”

Having the chance to support the 3BA Christmas Appeal resonated strongly with Mr Hustwaite.

“We want to ensure the families that rely on the appeal can have a good Christmas. I would hate to think of what it must feel like to wake up on Christmas morning, have no presents under the tree, not enough food or blankets, clothes and warmth to enjoy the season,” he said.

“It’s so important to us to be able to support the appeal and the agencies that benefit like Uniting Ballarat, Anglicare, St Vincent de Paul Society and the Salvation Army.”

Mr Hustwaite took action to bring the new group together as soon as the cancellation news broke. They worked the phones and spoke to prospective sponsors and partners.

“Others on our committee contacted technical experts, musicians and the like, so it was a pretty instantaneous thing to go to council and say, we’re here and ready to go should the churches decide to definitely not proceed,” he said.

The City of Ballarat gave their support. Mayor, Cr Samantha McIntosh said preserving the carols emphasised the “strength of our city’s community spirit.”

Mr Hustwaite said the council had been “very kind” to host the event at the City Oval.

“It will provide a wonderful bit of character with the heritage aspects of the grandstand and lots of trees in that precinct.

“It’s going to be a lovely atmosphere with plenty of room to welcome as many Ballarat people as we can, sitting on picnic rugs, rugging up and enjoying our carols event.”

Director of Harcourts Ballarat, Jason Gigliotti said his business is thrilled to be on board.

“It’s an event that has continued to grow and is loved by the families of Ballarat. We have always felt it important to put back into the community with volunteering time and funds to charities and awareness,” he said.

“When asked if we could support a cause such as this that brings assistance to so many Ballarat families, we certainly wanted to help and do our part.”

Ballarat Carols by Candlelight Inc. now seeks volunteers and performers, inviting Ballarat to register their details at ballaratcarolsbycandlelight.org.au.

“As we move closer to the event proper, we’ll be coordinating our volunteer force and performer list. We welcome any and every volunteer that wants to express their interest,” Mr Hustwaite said.