10 June 2022

Folk Festival and Katie Noonan part ways after one event

| Ian Bushnell
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Katie Noonan

Katie Noonan’s vision for the Festival was not everyone’s cup of tea. Photo: Supplied.

The National Folk Festival is on the hunt for a new Artistic Director after parting company with Queensland-based Katie Noonan.

Ms Noonan delivered a Festival this year that sparked passionate debate about the direction of the annual Easter event at Exhibition Park.

The Festival announced the news in a statement on its website, with board president Stephen Gallacher thanking Ms Noonan for her contribution.

“Katie and the National Folk Festival have mutually agreed to part ways effective 15 June 2022,” Mr Gallacher said.

“The National Folk Festival is very grateful for the role Katie played in staging the successful return of the Festival this Easter following a two-year hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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Mr Gallacher said her time in the role included many firsts, including funding partnerships with EventsACT and VisitCBR.

“The NFF acknowledges Katie’s invaluable support in the Festival’s Australia Council and RISE Fund applications, whose combined grants delivered $1.1 million for the support of Katie’s artistic vision in 2022 and ongoing for the Festival in 2023,” he said.

“We wish Katie all the best in her future endeavours.”

Ms Noonan’s departure will be received with mixed emotions.

Ms Noonan’s particular vision for the Festival, which significantly broadened the idea of what ‘folk’ is, and added considerable star power to the event as she drew on her connections in the music industry, also polarised the community.

Mr Gallacher would not be drawn about Ms Noonan’s management style but told Region Media that there was no doubt the event was a success, and the board was very happy with the gate and the financial result which, along with the grant support, put the Festival on a firm footing for 2023.

He acknowledged that this year’s Festival had engendered passionate discussion, but that particular debate was ongoing and welcome if the Festival was going to continue to stay relevant.

“There’s continual discussion about the direction of the Festival,” Mr Gallacher said. “That’s important for us; if we stand still, the world passes us by.”

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Mr Gallacher said Ms Noonan brought a compelling vision for the Festival, but it wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

“She got to the heart of what she thought the Festival was about and we embraced that,” he said.

Mr Gallacher believed the Festival should not be short on applicants for the Artistic Director role as there was a lot of interest last time.

He expected the new Artistic Director to continue those discussions about the direction of the Festival with the board and the community.

“We’re open to people to come along to say what worked this year, what they didn’t like this year, and what they’d like to see again,” Mr Gallacher said.

He said there were no contractual complications with Ms Noonan’s separation, which was mutually agreeable.

Ms Noonan said she was “fiercely proud of this year’s festival artistically”.

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