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Topology’s Small Town Creative Bootcamps

Classical music maestros in tune with Bundaberg communities for inaugural Milbi Festival



Acclaimed Brisbane-based music ensemble Topology was the artist in residence for Bundaberg Regional Council’s inaugural Milbi Festival in November 2019.

Milbi is a Gurang word for turtle, and the new arts and cultural festival, which built on the success of the region’s decade of Crush Festivals, was developed to mark the beginning of the region’s turtle season and celebrate the identity, spirit and livability of the region.

Topology collaborated with local filmmakers, schools, First Nations people and arts organisations to provide a specially tailored multi-discipline arts program designed to empower, educate and inspire regional communities to create, perform, tell their stories and celebrate this unique region of Queensland.

The program involved workshops, creative bootcamps and live public performances throughout the Milbi Festival, with a closing-night performance in Bundaberg as the final event.

Communities also developed short films showcasing their local areas, with soundtracks written by students and community members under the guidance of composer and Topology Principal Artist John Babbage.

Topology conducted 25 workshops covering composition, songwriting, improvisation, film/music video scoring, lyric setting, performance, multimedia and film editing.

The group aimed to engage as many members of the community as possible and contacted every school in the Bundaberg region to encourage participation by all young people.

Topology are award-winning music educators and renowned as composers of contemporary classical music, collaborating across genres and art forms.  They believe that anyone – regardless of location, age, skill level or musical interests – should have access to quality, affordable music education and experiences.  Established in 1997, the group has released 15 albums and toured extensively nationally and internationally.



When and where

18-30 November 2019 in Bundaberg, Woodgate, Waterloo, Gin, Childers, Mount Perry, Burnett Heads, Waterloo, Goodnight Scrub


Key stats

  • 5 one-day Small Town Creative Bootcamps and ‘mini festivals’
  • 25 composition and songwriting workshops 
  • 5 community performances (Childers, Gin, Woodgate, Burnett Heads and Waterloo) and a final concert in Bundaberg showcasing compositions and films made during bootcamps
  • 826 attendees/participants (attendee numbers were impacted by bushfires in Woodgate, as residents had only just returned after being evacuated) 
  • 5 short films created with original soundtracks composed by young local composers.
  • 48 Queensland artists and arts workers employed




$30,000 through Queensland Arts Showcase Program, supporting diverse arts and cultural experiences for Queensland communities

Topology receives $125,000 annually in core AQ funding through the Organisations Fund (2017-2020, extended to 31 December 2021). The Organisations Fund provides multi-year funding for the core operations of Queensland small to medium organisations.

Topology also received funding from the Bundaberg Regional Council’s Regional Arts Development Fund (RADF).  RADF is a partnership between the Queensland Government and councils to support local arts and culture in regional Queensland.



  • More than 200 people of all ages and experience participated in the inclusive workshops, including the Found Objects Orchestra.
  • 53 Bundaberg-region schools were invited to participate in the project. All schools involved in the workshops and performance events have expressed interest in continuing to work with Topology. 
  • Community and sponsorship support for future events and workshops by Topology in Bundaberg were confirmed for 2020 including financial support to record the new works created by this project. Work has been impacted by COVID but Topology continues to pursue.
  • Learnings from the Milbi Festival are helping Topology in the development of a new format for curating festival programming.



From survey participants:

Brilliant week with many fantastic performances all around!

I am amazed at how much work John does. He is also an awesome mentor to these young composers. So proud to be working with him on these projects ... just blows my mind how talented he is.

I have a very inspired little kid in the back of the car!  "It was so awesome."

A great experience from very talented and wonderful people! Don't miss them!



Learnings and reflections

Topology reflected on what worked well with this project:

Every school within the Bundaberg Regional Council Local Government Area was contacted directly by Topology via email or phone and invited to participate and be involved. 

Community groups were invited by both Topology and the council to design pre-show activities to draw in locals and create a festive atmosphere specific to their community and celebrating their venue. Twenty-five community groups engaged in the delivery of the Milbi Stories events. 

Despite local bushfires community members were enthusiastic and appreciated the opportunity to participate.


Learnings from the project included:

Topology will ensure a project manager or producer is included in the budget for future events, in addition to council staffing, to increase engagement with the community and stakeholders. 

Marketing will be managed by Topology in future, to ensure we maximise these kinds of projects in the regional communities. This will be in addition to any marketing and communications generated by council marketing departments, increasing the media and promotion of the project. 

Topology staff will ensure delivery of all products are on time if from an external contractor, with tighter contractual arrangements to improve and increase community engagement and audiences.


Tips for others

Hard copy flyers and posters are essential marketing tools for projects in small communities, in addition to digital marketing and media releases.


What next?

Bundaberg Regional Council has recorded compositions by students that were created through this project. 

The schools in the Bundaberg LGA are now engaged with Topology’s Top Up music education program and are keen to increase participation with Topology on Top Up education and regional projects in coming years. 

Bundaberg media company Associate Media has approached Topology to create and design the soundtrack for an upcoming television series.

Topology is also working on a similar project in Dalby for the 2021 Delightful and Delicious Festival. The festival was to occur in August 2020 but was postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions. 


Find out more

Topology music website

Milbi Festival

Voice in the Dark (ABC Wide Bay Voices)