Last week put a song in the hearts of the National Folk Festival organising team for 2022, with a $900,000 injection and recognition from the ACT Government that the festival was one of the Territory’s key attractions and contributors to the economy.
Like every other event, the spectre of COVID-19 is near, but the Federal Government funding – $450,000 now and the rest next year – has taken much of the pressure off as the festival moves into its pre-production phase.
Being admitted into the ACT ‘events family’ that includes the likes of Floriade and Summernats will also bring extra funding and support from the ACT Government.
The festival has already secured some exciting acts and will announce more at the end of the month when it issues its callout to performers wanting a gig next Easter and the all-important volunteers that make the event tick.
Some changes can be revealed, mainly as a result of the festival’s COVID-19 planning.
The event will be staying at Exhibition Park for a 30th festival there, but the site will be reconfigured because of the testing station in the Quokka Pavilion.
And forget the traditional coloured paper wristbands. The Folkie is going hi-tech with radio-frequency identification (RFID) wristbands so organisers know how many people are in a given space at a given time.
Managing Director Lynne O’Brien said the Commonwealth cash and ACT Government recognition were big wins for the festival which, apart from some ACT funding, has been self-funded for its 54-year history.
“We’d used up a lot of our reserves having cancelled two festivals,” she said. “We were at the pointy end.”
Last week’s announcements vindicated the Board’s decision to persevere with a 2022 festival and hire ARIA-award winner artist Katie Noonan as Artistic Director.
Ms O’Brien said Ms Noonan had brought a wealth of experience and contacts.
“She’s a whirlwind of ideas. We’re really loving working with Katie,” she said.
Ms O’Brien said Ms Noonan had also brought a curatorial framework for the event that will be really appreciated by festival-goers.
“We can’t announce anything yet but we have some very exciting things coming up in 2022,” Ms O’Brien said.
Organisers are hoping, along with every other event in the country, that the moving feast that is COVID-19 will become more certain as people are vaccinated.
By Easter, the rates could be high enough for the nation to open up.
Till then, the festival will stay as flexible as it needs to be, even planning for a local event if interstate performers and visitors can’t make it.
The National Folk Festival takes place over Easter every year.