After catastrophic bushfires, a rolling pandemic and ongoing world turmoil, Kangaroo Island farmer and chair for the not-for-profit East End Events committee Andy Gilfillan thinks people may have forgotten what a good time feels like.

“We’ve had so much fear in the world, and particularly throughout the island with the fires, and the virus and the international issues,” Gilfillan says. “Everyone is ready to just have a good time because they’ve forgotten what it’s like to laugh, be happy, enjoy some good food, dance and be joyful.”

New Shoots Music Festival is about just that. The inaugural festival is set to attract thousands of people to the island on April 2 to hear a line-up headed by Melbourne band Something For Kate, veteran rockers Jebediah and local favourites Bad Dreems at Penneshaw Oval.

They’ll join Ash Grunwald, Maddy Jane and more at the concert, which will raise money through ticket sales and merchandise for Blazeaid, a volunteer organisation that provides labour and financial assistance to help people rebuild after natural disasters and Breakthrough Mental Health Research Foundation.

Covid restrictions have postponed the festival twice now. Gilfillan says the new iteration will be the island’s biggest festival in more than a decade. “We had everything lined up and then Covid dropped and we couldn’t deliver and so we had to rethink it,” he says. “We pushed it back a number of times, and I think in the end it’s worked out well. The music industry has been through a really tough time too, and so we have been able to source some funding from the Federal Government to pay for the bands and other costs.”

Festival-goers will be able to sip on Kangaroo Island Spirits, wine from KI producers Dudley Wines and False Cape, and beer from Pirate Life. There’ll also be locally roasted coffee and food stalls peddling Thai street food, burgers and more.

Gilfillan says KI has largely rebuilt after bushfires ripped through half of the island, destroying wildlife, terrain and infrastructure. “I think the island and its economy have bounced back incredibly well and New Shoots really provides an opportunity for islanders to have a bit of a reset, and to bookend a pretty tough time and come together,” he says.

“It’s also a great opportunity for people from the mainland to come over and see what all the fuss is over here. The ferry ride is heavily discounted and it’s a chance for people to use the camping grounds or get a house and spend some time here. The island is really lovely at this time of year.”

For those who’ve visited before, the changes will be apparent. “The landscape is now different, physically and emotionally. To say that KI has had its challenges in the last two years is a massive understatement,” says Gilfillan. “It would be a bold statement to say the worst is behind us, but it is definitely time to loosen the shackles.”

New Shoots runs from 12pm to 11pm on April 2. It is a fully vaccinated event. Tickets and further details, including information on how to get there, are available online.

See also: A Weekend Guide to Kangaroo Island