Rough justice

MOTHER of eight Mitzi Hodgkins is making sure the band plays on - even after her husband and head of their musical family, Bob, was jailed for traffic offences dating back 20 years.

The Perch Creek Family Jug Band has been fighting for its survival ever since Bob was jailed in March for 15 months for driving while disqualified.

The charges stemmed from a series of parking offences Bob racked up in Sydney 20 years ago.

The band is formed by Hodgkins children and regularly travels around the Tweed district to give charity performances at nursing homes and community events.

It is also the main source of income for the 10-strong family who live at Midginbil west of Murwillumbah.

Mitzi, 42, said yesterday that Bob continued to drive while trying to use a portion of the family's meagre finances to pay off the fines because they were often left with no choice.

"We tried to do the right thing," Mitzi said.

"I drove myself home from the hospital only a few hours after Lenny was born - but sometimes we just found ourselves completely stuck."

The family unsuccessfully appealed the severity of the sentence in the District Court at Lismore.

Mitzi said she did not condone Bob's decision to drive without a licence, but feels the punishment far outweighs the crime.

"He was very bad to drive, but he has never driven dangerously - the sentencing is all over the place," she said.

"It has been a bit of a vicious cycle where he has been unable to get a licence.

"We got to the point where we had paid off about half of the fines with money we saved each fortnight, but then he was disqualified for five years, so even if we paid them off he could not get a licence."

Since March, Mitzi has overcome her lack of confidence behind the wheel and has taken sole responsibility for driving her children to music and dance lessons including a twiceweekly journey to Currumbin.

"It has been huge for a while I was re- ally worried that it was going to be impossible to keep playing," Mitzi said yesterday.

"But music and dance means so much to the kids and the show must go on."

The community that the family band has supported for the past few years is now looking to repay some of that generosity with a 24-hour music and dance festival to raise money to cover legal costs and the children's music tuition.

"The local community has been wonderful - really supportive," Mitzi said.

The fundraiser for the band has been supported by other bands and artists from throughout the district and will be held on June 17-18 on the Hodgkins property at Midginbil.

For more information on the music festival call (02) 6679 7058.

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