19 April 2019

Bogle's night as National Folk Festival gets under way

| Ian Bushnell
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Eric Bogle performs at the National Folk Festival’s opening concert. Photos: George Tsotsos.

Life seemed to turn full circle for Eric Bogle on Thursday night when he received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the opening concert of the National Folk Festival at Exhibition Park in Canberra.

That’s because Canberra is where it all started for the singer/songwriter and national folk icon, and where he wrote his signature song And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda back in 1971.

A man not that fussed with awards, this one was special because it came from his industry and peers, he told Region Media in an interview beforehand.

“Being recognised by your peers is always good,” he said. “To be recognised by the industry you work in, their appreciation is good. I’m quite pleased about.”

Bogle has brought old songs and new to this year’s festival, his first National since 2011, some fresh from the studio where he has been recording a new album.

A couple of them are tributes to his guitarist of 40 years, John Campbell Munro, who died last year. Several of Munro’s songs will also adorn the new album.

For Bogle and those who knew Munro, it will be an emotional time at the Festival.

“It’s going to be quite emotional for quite a lot of us here, for the people who knew John and there’s hundreds here who did,” he said.

“So when we sing those songs I expect some fairly raw emotion. But that’s what music’s about.”

Bogle is heartened by the resurgence in folk music, as a new generation take up the call and reinvents it.

But the groundwork was laid some decades ago when festival organisers looked outside the box and opened up to the world beyond the narrow Anglo-Celtic stream.

“There was a very small group of artists, and I was one, and a very small group of audience and we all knew each other, and we all had a good time at the festivals and the music was just going round in circles and in danger of disappearing up its own fundamental,” Bogle said.

“Once that diversity was introduced it started to live again, plus a new generation came in. The grandkids of us now are coming back into the scene.

“And being young, they have no fear. They’re doing all these incredible things, and when they learn their stagecraft along with their incredible musicianship, they’ll be a force to be reckoned.”

After receiving his award, Bogle played a 30-minute set, finishing of course with And The band Played Waltzing Matilda, prefaced by an introduction almost as long as the song, charming the audience and eliciting a standing ovation.

Food glorious food: A great range of food is offer to keep festival goers’ energy up.

The festival is now fully under way after the Thursday night opening that included a taste of the broad and diverse range of musical offerings across the weekend – from Shortis and Simpson and the Worldly Goods Choir, Portuguese band Vila Navio, Bogle, the infectious Bluegrass Parkway and the amazing Canadian step dancer and fiddler, April Verch and her band.

More than 180 artists will perform over the next four days on multiple stages across EPIC, with balls, dance, craft and instrument workshops, as well as circus, street performers and children’s events.

Dozens of market stalls can help with your every need, from fashion, accessories, jewellery to getting a massage.

The famed food stalls are back, representing just about every quarter of the world, and it seems like there is a more diverse range this year. Don’t miss the paella.

The festival has been blessed with beautiful autumn weather and organisers are happy with ticket sales and the prospect of heavy foot traffic right through till Monday night.

For more information and the festival program go to https://www.folkfestival.org.au/

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