h

Festival Of King Island is bringing three days of bliss to the tranquil Tasmanian island

The site where we have our festival overlooks the harbour and the sun sets down behind it. It's probably one of the best festival sites you could ever se

For Festival of King Island's Troy Smith, it's been a busy time of year. There's a pleasant easterly breeze to enjoy as he works on the running sheet for the upcoming event, which will see hundreds flock to the tranquil Tasmanian island for three blissful days of reggae, soul and roots.

"Our festival's been quite a little journey," Smith says. "It's something that came out of nowhere almost six years ago and we've managed to turn it into quite a neat little event that really adds to King Island."

The story of FOKI is a tale as incredible as the festival's surroundings. After King Island's beef abattoir shut down, the community of less than 1,800 sadly saw the loss of approximately 100 jobs. As luck would have it, a resident of King Island was attending one of folk musician Kim Churchill's shows and spoke to him about the island's troubles. Concerned, Churchill reached out to now-FOKI President Kim George and asked if there was anything he could do to help.

"From that, we put together a concert," Smith says. "We didn't know what we were doing. We'd never done one before. We got a shipping container, and threw it on the ground, grabbed my amplifiers and guitars and a bit of stuff – a drum kit from the school – and borrowed all this gear and organised for him to come over. We ran the initial event – there was no entry fee or anything – it was a pick-me-up for the island community. It all started with Kim Churchill."

From those humble beginnings evolved an integral cultural cornerstone for the residents of King Island. Expanding from a committee of just three people for the first three years into a plethora of hard-working enthusiasts, last year's FOKI saw guests including Dave Faulkner & Brad Shepherd of the Hoodoo Gurus – with this year's lineup boasting Bobby Alu, King Social, The Wanderers and Chile's The Silent Garden, to name a few. One important factor has always remained, however – every FOKI reflects the casual, fun-loving vibe of the island itself.

"People will come over for the experience of going surfing," Smith says. "Or indulging in the cheese, and going on lighthouse tours, and going beach combing. Then the festival itself is so easy-going – there are no queues, there's no waiting in line. We've got the waterslide that goes 100 metres down through the coast's hills, you can walk out the front of the festival and jump in the harbour, and have a swim, or jump off the jetty.

"The whole way it runs is magical. Even the site where we have our festival overlooks the harbour and the sun sets down behind it. It's probably one of the best festival sites you could ever see. I've been to a fair few, but it's just so natural and so beautiful."

A dairy farmer by day, Smith has been heavily involved in the community. Throughout his life, he's been president of a football club, been involved in amateur theatre and plays music himself as Rusty Falcon. After badly breaking his leg last year, Smith had six months off work and found himself diving head-first into his passion – coming back with a five-song EP.

All that hard work pays off in unforgettable memories. From "an almost-out-of-body experience" listening to Shaun Kirk as the sun set, to the time he did guitar tech for Faulkner & Shepherd, Smith has seen the creative impact FOKI has had upon the community – and can't wait to see what this year has in store.

"We've got a lot of support from the locals and also a lot of the independent musicians that come here," Smith says. "They come here for nothing, so I always like to give our punters and the bands that come and play for us a big shout-out. They're all fantastic. It's been a wonderful experience."

Festival of King Island takes place from Friday January 26 until Sunday January 28, featuring King Social, Bobby Alu, Wanderers, and more.