23 February 2018

More room to groove at this year's National Folk Festival

| Ian Bushnell
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The National Folk Festival at Exhibition Park is only weeks away. Photos: Supplied.

The National Folk Festival at Exhibition Park is only weeks away. Photos: Supplied.

Organisers of the 2018 National Folk Festival (29 March – 2 April) are promising a dazzlingly diverse array of international, Australian and local artists and a more comfortable experience for festival goers with the site reconfigured to ease congestion.

Festival and Artistic Director Pam Merrigan said the festival had taken on board feedback from last year’s event which said the site was too crowded at times during the annual five-day Easter celebration of music and culture at Exhibition Park.

She also said the sizable Fitzroy Pavilion would be a major venue this year, providing a larger performance space.

The National was launched by Minister for the Arts and Community Events Gordon Ramsay on Wednesday night (21 February) at the National Library of Australia, with a poetry face-off and performance from Victorian bluegrass duo Cat and Clint providing a taste of what will be on offer at Easter.

The launch also heard that this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award would be presented to Sydney Irish dancing couple Bill and Margaret Winnett for their significant contribution to enriching folk music and culture in this country.

Luke Plumb and Andy Irvine.

Luke Plumb and Andy Irvine.

This year’s event will feature 1,200 individual performers, 750 individual events and concerts and more than 900 hours of entertainment, including acoustic, roots, bluegrass, blues, world music, Celtic, indie, country music and more.

The lineup includes 28 international and 180 Australian artists performing across 20 stages at a site transformed into a purpose-built village with themed bars, food and market stalls, and roving circus performers and street musicians.

The overseas contingent includes emerging and established artists from the UK, US, Ireland, Canada, Greece, Belgium and Ghana. From folk legends such as Scot Andy Irvine to young Irish singer Susan O’Neill, Scottish band Elephant Sessions, Americana artist Lindsay Lou from the US, the Flemish tunes of Belgium’s WOR, and the vibrant rhythms of Ghanian Afro Moses, there will be something for everyone.

New Australian artists to watch out for include Indigenous artists Alice Skye and Dhapanbal Yunupingu, one of six daughters of the lead singer of Yothu Yindi, Dr Yunupingu, and cello playing songstress Monique Clare and the Beamish Boys.

American artist Lindsay Lou.

American artist Lindsay Lou.

Festival favourites include duo Chris While and Julie Matthews from the UK, the Good Lovelies from Canada, Katey Brooks (UK) and Australians 19-Twenty, All Our Exes Live in Texas, Hat Fitz and Clara and the Miriam Lieberman Trio.

The National hopes to offer a complete cultural experience with a dedicated First People program, spoken word events, street theatre, talks, master classes, community arts and a range of family and child-oriented activities such as the Kidsfest program. There will also be a wide variety of hands-on immersive art, poetry, dancing and music experiences.

In the third year of its successful partnership with Greening Australia, the Festival will donate $1 from the sale of every program to restoration projects near Gundaroo, just north of the Festival site, to increase biodiversity and provide a habitat for threatened species like the Superb Parrot. Greening Australia will also present workshops at the Festival on bush tucker plants and how to grow native plants.

Scottish band <em>Elephant Sessions</em>.

Scottish band Elephant Sessions.

The Stock Camp has settled back into its old location by the Mallee. This iconic installation brings a little window of bush life to the National, complete with roaring fire and outback memorabilia.

Festival goers can experience the “food that fed the bush”, the daily blackboard of impromptu music, poetry, the Yarn Spinners’ Competition and other surprises.

The National will also celebrate the life of Festival stalwart Col McJannet, his music, and his legacy, with a special tribute concert. Col passed away in May 2017.

For those who love real games as opposed to virtual ones, there is The Challenge, an interactive game providing fun ways to engage with the Festival and its community by participating in a range of different tasks. Participants can take the Challenge for just a day or get involved over the whole weekend.

Belgian band WOR.

Belgian band WOR.

Tickets range from one-day to season passes, including on-site camping packages. There is a 10 per cent discount for online ticket sales. Children under 7 are free (when accompanied by parent/s).

For more information and to view the full list of artists and performances and the event program, go here.

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