17 November 2023

National Folk Festival adds major US singer-songwriter to 2024 line-up

| Ian Bushnell
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American singer-songwriter John Craigie mixes serious folk with humour. Photo: Facebook/John Craigie.

The National Folk Festival has clinched two major signings for next year’s event as it finalises its artist line-up, venue settings and site layout.

Festival Director Heidi Pritchard said the Festival was thrilled to secure US singer-songwriter and storyteller John Craigie.

Hailing from Portland, Oregon, the 43-year-old artist is best known for his live performances, which blend folk and American songwriting with comedic storytelling.

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Compared with folk greats Woodie Guthrie, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Pete Seeger, Craigie has released eight studio albums, two live albums and two cover albums.

Ms Pritchard said Australian folk audiences should be excited at the prospect of Craigie performing at the Festival.

“John is really well known in America, not so much here, yet!” she said.

“Our audiences are going to love him and as he only gets bigger, they’ll remember seeing him at the Nash.”

The Festival had also signed Victorian singer-songwriter Lucy Wise, a finalist in the 2023 Australian Folk Music Awards for Best Contemporary Folk Album and the People’s Choice Award.

Wise’s beautiful, clear vocal style and instrument playing draw on acoustic, traditional folk, roots and pop musical influences. She sings about growing up, love of all kinds, city life, country towns, beaches and bushlands, her intricate guitar work providing a vibrant backdrop.

Victorian singer-songwriter Lucy Wise: a clear voice and intricate instrument playing. Photo: lucywise.com.au.

The pair add to a line-up that already includes Adelaide Americana and alt-country band The Audreys, rising South Coast singer-songwriter Felicity Dowd, Canberra duo The Cashews, roots music pair Felicity Urquhart and Josh Cunningham, Irish-inspired band Tolka, and Norwegian folk sensation Gangar.

Ms Pritchard said more major signings would be announced soon.

She said ticket prices had risen in the face of increasing costs but these had been limited to 4 per cent, below inflation.

“I’ve really tried to keep tickets as affordable as possible,” Ms Pritchard said.

She urged people to take advantage of the massive savings available in the Festival’s early bird offering, which lasts until 8 December.

Festival goers will welcome news that the Exhibition Park site layout has been tweaked to activate more areas and provide a wider range of venues next year.

Last Easter, the Festival enjoyed full houses, but there were complaints about people missing out on performances.

Ms Pritchard said the Fitzroy at the northern end of the site would be back in action in 2024, this time as an intimate in-the-round experience.

She said audiences would surround performers in close-tiered seating for about 800, and the use of heavy black curtains would create a warm acoustic.

“It will be something for the purists,” Ms Pritchard said.

“We wanted that kind of intimate space where really top performers could hear themselves and hear the audience breathe.”

The Marquee near Flemington Road will also be extended to cater for bigger audiences, while the Scrumpy will be turned around and better lit to have more of a presence.

Ms Pritchard said feedback showed many Festival goers were unaware of the venue.

“It will have a real sense of place again,” she said.

The area between the Coorong and the Fitzroy, which Ms Pritchard said had been a bit quiet, would be brought back to life with more food vendors, the Bentspoke beer garden, a relocated Flute and Fiddle, dancing and an expanded Kidsfest.

Ms Pritchard said children under 12 enjoyed free admission and the Festival wanted to capture this next generation of folk fans.

Kidsfest would have a bigger footprint, more stages and lots of workshops, music lessons and other interactive experiences, as well as a nightly kids lantern parade.

“We want participatory, transformative performances for these kids,” Ms Pritchard said.

“We’re trying to engage families into really solid folk festival traditions.”

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The Festival is a big money spinner for the local economy, drawing thousands of visitors to the national capital for the Easter break.

So far, a little more than half (52%) of ticket sales are from interstate.

The National Folk Festival will be staged at Exhibition Park from 28 March to 1 April 2024.

To learn more about the Folk Festival, and ticket sales, visit the Festival website.

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