Our History

At the beginning of the 1990s, a group of friends who shared interests in fine music and the wonderful local scenery around Bermagui were brought together by the idea of arranging concerts in the open air. These friends – Michael and Judith Brimer, Sheena Boughen, Bill Caldicott, John and Zoe Ellingworth, Neilma Gantner, and Rodney and Beth Hall – were later joined by John Cooper and Geoff Hammond to form the first committee.

They asked architect, Hans Hallen, to consider the concert potential of a hillside, sloping down to a small lake and surrounded by tall trees. Initially, three grassed terraces were built facing the lake, and a small stage, with a plywood sound reflector. With very little environmental impact, a natural amphitheatre had been prepared for its musical baptism on 7 April 1991.

25 Yr + Logo White Square

This first concert was opened by actress Patricia Kennedy reciting poetry, and featured Michael Brimer who coaxed a gritty keyboard through a program of Chopin, Liszt and Clementi, and accompanied Rita Hunter in operatic arias and songs. In 1992, it was already a two-day event, and by 1993, the stage was enlarged, partially surrounded by a moat, and a backdrop of Perspex added to provide sound reflection and wind protection without interrupting the lake views from an increasing number of terraces.

By the mid-1990s, Four Winds had established a reputation for diversity and excellence – with performers as varied as Tom E. Lewis and Chris Young on didgeridoo and clarinet, Riley Lee on shakuhachi, the Senarius Saxophone Quartet and the Goldner String quartet. The Festival had been fortunate enough to present multiple virtuoso performances of major works by pianists Michael Brimer, Michael Kieran Harvey, Geoffrey Tozer and Bernadette Harvey Bolkus, and for beautiful chamber music by groups like the Macquarie Trio, the Baermann Trio and the Goldner String Quartet.onjunction with Landcare Australia.

Astoundingly, Four Winds Festival continued to grow in attendance and musicality, and year by year, established a reputation for excellence in music that was enhanced by being performed in a magical site, where artists, winds, birds, even on occasion a Four Winds frog, all contributed to the proceedings. In 2011, it was recognised by the 2011 APRA/AMC Australian Art Music Award for Excellence in a Regional Location.

Four Winds strongly believes in the importance of community and is incredibly proud of our community-based collaborations such as the 2009 Inspiring Four Winds school music program, and The Seagull in 2012, an innovative, community-led project developed by internationally recognised, award-winning Melbourne sound designers, Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey.

Since its inception, the ambition for Four Winds was to move beyond the festival and to begin to implement some of the board’s larger priorities such as community engagement, natural conservation, and inclusion of the local indigenous community. In 2014, with the help of architects Phillip Cox and Clinton Murray, the Four Winds site was transformed into the Nature’s Concert Hall. The site includes an outdoor amphitheatre, the Soundshell, and a beautiful, all-weather acoustic space, the Windsong Pavilion. This permanent venue now provides real ‘music-in-nature’ experiences, and has allowed the Four Winds to begin providing music and environmental education such as their mentorship and live streaming programs, as well as the development of the Native Species Arboretum in conjunction with Landcare Australia.

Four Winds is committed to being a part of the South Coast community and finding more and more ways to encourage and inspire people through music. We are excited about where the next years will take us and very thrilled to have our community and our audiences along for the journey!