'Never before so important': State-wide Mandurah festival goes virtual

COLOURFUL: A scene from an entry by Halls Head Primary School.
COLOURFUL: A scene from an entry by Halls Head Primary School.

For a while, the COVID-19 lockdown had Mandurah's annual Youth on Health Festival (YOH Fest) on the ropes - but calm and creative heads prevailed.

In the bowels of the darkest moments of the nationwide lockdown, when uncertainty swirled about how long the lockdown would last and what the future would hold - the organising committee thought of an innovative solution to their dilemma and committed to it.

The idea of a virtual festival - instead of a real one - is more common now, but back then was no more than a vague idea. There was also the genuine possibility looming that the festival might have to be cancelled.

YOH Fest coordinator Karen Lyons said no-one wanted to cancel.

"But the whole world was shutting down at the time, so it definitely appeared a realistic possibility in the beginning," she said.

As for turning it into a virtual festival, Mrs Lyons said once they committed to wanting it to go ahead, they had to come up with an alternative platform.

"So it was then that the seeds of an online digital showcase were sown," she said.

And that's how the 2020 Act-Belong-Commit YOH 'Screen' Fest was born - and it only seemed fitting to also make 'Isolation' this year's theme.

The new platform has allowed all students to become involved - regardless of their geographical location.

"It's been great," Lyons says. "Students have been able to stay right where they are, create their item - and submit their entries online - rather than have to deal with all the logistics, impracticalities and financial limitations of getting to a real time festival from isolated settings."

So this trusted vehicle for effective youth health promotion is going ahead for 2020. Overcoming all the unprecedented challenges and bleak times that this unique year has unfurled, has seen the festival enter a new paradigm of social dynamic and practice.

Never before has it been so important to give a voice to those who are marginalised and isolated. Support for the mental and social health of young people is paramount in these times.

This year's festival has been dedicated to the YOH Fest founder, Ann Leaver, who sadly passed away from cancer in August.

Ann was working as a school nurse back in 1998 and had a love for the Performing Arts - so she started YOH Fest as a fun and creative way to engage students in health education.

Now, 23 years later, YOH Fest has grown into a state-wide program.

IN MEMORY: This year's festival has been dedicated to the YOH Fest founder, Ann Leaver, who sadly passed away from cancer in August.

IN MEMORY: This year's festival has been dedicated to the YOH Fest founder, Ann Leaver, who sadly passed away from cancer in August.

All entries will be available for viewing via the link on the YOH Fest website from November 1.

A showcase show reel will be streamed at 6pm on Friday and Saturday, October 30 and 31.