The writers of Australia’s two most iconic anti-war songs will both be performing at the upcoming 53rd National Folk Festival, which was officially launched on Wednesday night (20 February) at the Canberra and Region Visitors Centre.
Eric Bogle’s And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda and John Schumann’s I was Only 19 are now seared into the national consciousness, and both will appear separately across the Easter weekend from 18-22 April, in a major coup for the Festival.
Scottish-born Bogle will receive this year’s NFF Lifetime Achievement Award at the opening concert on the Thursday night, and will perform then and every day of the event.
Festival director Pam Merrigan said it would be a welcome return to the National for Bogle, whose now signature song only managed to take third place at the 1974 NFF songwriting competition.
“He hasn’t done the National for quite a long time, so it’s about time. It’ll be great to have him, he’s much loved, and such a prolific songwriter,” she said.
Bogle is back in the studio recording a new CD and he will no doubt be airing some of that new material at the National.
Ms Merrigan said it was interesting how Bogle’s and Schumann’s songs had been taken up by veterans and were now fixtures at Anzac Day services.
“John Schumann was telling me how he goes to bases and the soldiers say your song is our anthem, and they all have it on their iPods,” she said.
Schumann, of Redgum fame, and Shane Howard from Goanna will team up with their Red Rockin Dirt Band for two shows, Songs for Times Like These, no doubt laced with the political comment for which both are noted.
Ms Merrigan said they would be a standout national act and not to be missed.
“I’m really excited because that’s my era. I’m really looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be a fabulous show,” she said.
This year’s festival boasts a huge and diverse line-up of more than 180 acts across Australia and around the world, with a 1000 hours of music programmed for the weekend.
The two feature states/territories are Western Australia and the ACT, and a number of well-loved local artists are on the bill including Guyy & the Fox, Sparrow Folk, and East Row Rabble.
Satirists Shortis and Simpson are sure to hit the mark with a show about the perils of borrowing tunes, Happy Little Copyrights.
Among the many international acts, Ms Merrigan points to Irish quartet JigJam as more than just another Celtic band, drawing on Americana influences to create their own unique sound.
ACT Minister for the Arts and Cultural Events, Gordon Ramsay launched the festival, and harpist/singer Elska from the Gold Coast, who will be attending her first National, was the feature artist.
Diversity has become the Festival’s keynote and this year there are 14 countries represented.
There will be more than 750 shows throughout 20 venues over its five days, but the National is much more than music with a kids festival, themed bars, food and market stalls, roving entertainment and an engaging, multi-discipline arts program.
For more information and tickets, go to folkfestival.org