5 April 2022

Katie Noonan on navigating the Folk Festival's jam-packed kids' program

| Dione David
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Child twirling ribbon sticks

The National Folk Festival’s jam-packed kids’ program promises fun for children of all ages. Photo: Supplied.

She might be best known as a prolific Australian singer-songwriter, but the roles of mother and National Folk Festival artistic director create one of Katie Noonan’s best harmonies.

The combination helped her curate the National Folk Festival’s jam-packed kids’ program, which offers a smorgasbord of fun for children of all ages (and relief for their parents).

Having raised two sons of her own, Noonan can be trusted when she says the Folkie is as family-friendly as an event can be.

“I’ve been taking my kids to folk festivals since … well, since they were in utero really!” she laughs.

“As artistic director, it’s my responsibility to introduce the National Folk Festival to a younger audience and I am excited about broadening the ‘church of folk’.”

READ ALSO The National Folk Festival is the perfect fun day out this Easter

This is the festival’s 30th year on Ngunnawal country. Ngunnawal means “meeting place”, which Noonan says is apt.

Like much of the artistic community, her capacity to tour was “obliterated” by COVID. She is looking forward to bringing friends and families (biological and otherwise) together for the first National Folk Festival since 2019.

“It’ll be such a joyful reunion of family and friends,” she says.

“Folk festivals are always an inclusive and family-friendly environment but this year’s theme is ‘find your home, find your family, find your folk’. It’s literally all about family and belonging.”

Katie Noonan

National Folk Festival artistic director Katie Noonan says, after a two-year COVID-induced delay, this year’s festival will be a “joyful reunion of family and friends.” Photo: Supplied.

A jam-packed program means there will be something to captivate the kiddies at all times. They might emerge from an interactive arts and crafts workshop to come face to face with roaming circus and street performers or puppeteers.

And then, of course, there’s the music.

“There’s such a broad range of music lined up that there really will be something for everyone. You’ll have a wonderful time with your kids but also be able to enjoy incredible music with your partner,” Noonan promises.

This year’s in-house family band is The Hauptmanns. The Canberra born and bred sibling trio Zoe, Ben and James Hauptmann will play at the opening and closing and throughout the festival with a bunch of different artists.

Aussie singer, songwriter and published children’s book author Josh Pyke will provide performances spoken and sung for both parents and children.

But among the dense lineup of quality children’s entertainment, Noonan says she’s particularly stoked to have booked “child entertainer extraordinaire” Justine Clarke from ABC’s Play School.

“I really wanted to get a household name – a fabulous, well-known artist – and Justine fits the bill perfectly,” she explains.

“My kids absolutely loved her when they were little. We went to see her perform a few times, we had all her albums and we sang and danced to her tunes.

“As a parent, I find a lot of kids’ music to be dumbed down, which is so unnecessary. Kids are smart; they deserve real music. Justine creates fun, exciting and visually-engaging content for children that parents can enjoy as well.”

READ ALSO Archie Roach on song for National Folk Festival

With so much going on at all times, the biggest challenge is where to start and how to navigate the festival to ensure you get the most out of your experience. Luckily, Noonan has some advice from the perspective of both parent and seasoned festival-goer.

“I always study the program ahead of time and decide ‘ok these are the things I definitely want to see’, but then allow time in between to get caught up in the magic of the festival, whether that be to stop and watch street performers or step into a workshop,” she says.

“It’s a delicate balance between making plans and allowing those plans to be beautifully altered by the festival. So be ready to just follow your muse around the event.”

The National Folk Festival runs from 14 to 18 April at Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPiC) and has been designed for accessibility. In other words, no need to wrestle strollers around narrow and difficult paths at every turn.

Folk, festival and fun-lovers are encouraged to make a weekend of it, with accommodation discounts available on the website.

For the program, more information or to purchase tickets visit the National Folk Festival website.

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