Sights and sounds from the Folk Festival

johnboy 14 April 2009 47

[First filed: April 11, 2009 @ 11:33]

A crack team of rioters cycled down to the Folk Festival yesterday [Friday] and even managed to cycle back home after many pints of cider without injury.

If you’ve been previously unaware of the Festival’s charms then here are some thoughts on it.

1) Yes, it isn’t cheap. $85 for a day pass. But on the other hand there’s a lot going on. There are a dizzying number of stages. Performances are starting all the time, and then there’s all the other activities and excitements. To say nothing of small groups simply coming together in open spaces and playing music all through the days and nights.

2) There are a lot of people wearing purple.

3) You may have no interest in morris dancing. But isn’t it nice to see people taking so much joy from such innocent fun?

4) It’s still going on out at EPIC for the rest of the long weekend. If you’ve got the time and the money but have never been I recommend it.

Still photography slideshow below.

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47 Responses to Sights and sounds from the Folk Festival
GB GB 9:33 am 15 Apr 09

I want festival organisers who read this to get some useful feedback from it, not just whinges.

Thumper said :

Wow, precious little thing aren’t we.

Erm … I think that’s what people were saying to you — you seemed unduly sensitive to people having an opinion different to yours. But if that’s not what you meant to say, well I am sorry to have accused you of that.

Back to the point though.

It seems as though you (and perhaps others) see increased prices = commercial enterprise. I don’t see the connection. As I assume you know, it is a non-profit enterprise. But the individual stallholders are commercial. If the food and drink were cheap (but the program the same), would it feel less commercial to you? How would you make that happen? Would you volunteer to run a food stall that was not profitable? Who would? Would it be better for the Festival to try to attract volunteers to run non-profit food stalls?

It feels very Canberra, too. “Not very folkie”? Well, that depends what you expect “folkie” to mean. It definitely has a different feel to the little festivals.

It seems to me (reverse engineering the festivals plan) that the relatively high prices for on the day single-day tickets indicates that they want to have more people book early (so they have cash flow and certainty?) and for the whole festival (because that makes it feel like a festival, not just an overcrowded concert program).

They could introduce price controls on the food & drink stalls, but there seems to already be enough there for competition to work: the weaker ones don’t get enough business. I’m sure one of the free-marketeers on riotact can explain the mechanism better. The food prices seem to be similar to other festivals — probably because they are the same stalls. What is the alternative? Use the ticket prices to subsidise the food? Not charge stallholders (forgo that income), so they might charge less?

Similarly with the drink prices: most of the alcohol sales are by the festival itself, but not all. The ones that are, I assume, make a surplus (but maybe it doesn’t, I don’t know) , that again goes to pay for the festival. So, they could reduce drink prices, and again reduce the number and cost of the acts.

This is a bit rambling, and I don’t have time to edit; but basically, if you think there is something wrong, what would you change? How would you deal with the shortfall if ticket prices were lower? How would you deal with security (other than 17-year old volunteers) if not with security guards (with the risk of them being yobbos)? How would you deal with ticket fraud if not with wristbands — just accept that your ticket price subsidised those who sneak in?

There are no shareholders or owners to take money out of the system, so whatever money comes in through the gate is delivering the festival or going to ensure it will exist in the future. So, if we’re going to complain about ticket prices, what do you want to change? Some reckon less big name acts, some say fewer venues, some want magic to intervene so fewer paid staff are needed. On the other hand, some people say ticket prices should be higher so everyone who performs gets paid.

I’m not saying at all that how the festival is going is the only way it can be; rather, that I want people to join the cause of making it better by thinking things through.

How would you do it? What kind of festival do you want this to be? How would you make that viable?

Bill Quinn Bill Quinn 10:55 pm 14 Apr 09

It really does depend on what you’re there for and for how long. I always go and camp, pay $5 per meal at the volunteers’ kitchen, and the hundreds of dollars I spend are a personal choice to spend money on $5 a beer, $5 a glass for Troubadour wines and a few CDs. (I was restrained this year and bought three, not my usuual 10.)

But I was staying in a camp-site with a bunch of performers, coordinators and other volunteers, and most of them brought their own food and drinks. They’re there for the camaraderie of the camp site as much as the performances. I’d urge locals to get the season ticket and camp — you’ll get another side of the event. My tent was right next to the Spooky Men’s Chorale corral, so I got previews of their gigs. (NB: camping numbers have been steadily rising so it could be quite tight next year.)

At the other end of the scale, I met one volunteer who was totally self-catering and as of Sunday, he’d spent the princely sum of $5.

Want to save money on any sort of ticket? Book and buy early.

Thumper Thumper 10:38 pm 14 Apr 09

Wow, precious little thing aren’t we.

I attend the folk festival ever year and have so for about ten years except for one year when I was OS. I look forward to it every year.

I simply put forward a view that it’s becoming more and more commercialised as the years go by. This is my opinion based upon years (see above) of attendance. The security guard was a f*ckwit, and bar coding seems over the top. $60 bucks for a night ticket is a joke given that most of the stalls are closed.

$85 a ticket. $5 for a small mug of mulled wine. $5 for a beer, or was it more? Over priced food everywhere. To take a family would cost a fortune. Not very folkie my friend. Indeed one could say that once inside you are at the mercy of vendors, like, for instance, the Sydney easter show (not that i’d attend the easter show)

However, I don’t mind paying the prices as i enjoy it. Although I will add that alot of people seem to have commented upon the entry price. Even JB for that matter.

You see, it’s simple. I’d hate to see the folk festival turn into another commercial enterprise like the summernats where the over riding issue is profit. Having said that, the stores need to make heaps of money so that they can pay for the rent.

Maybe the organisers need to do a chic Henry and ask for government funding, or otherwise they will move?

bigred bigred 9:55 pm 14 Apr 09

Bought my day ticket back in january. no idea what it cost and don’t care. Its a top event and am happy to support it on the basis that it’ll go someplace else if I don’t. Now when is that strategy going to work for summernats?

Bill Quinn Bill Quinn 8:44 pm 14 Apr 09

Thumper said :

Note to self. Don’t put forward any opinion about the folk festival that may be seen as a criticism in any way.

They’re opinions, Thumper; we’re all entitled to them. We just gots to back ’em up.

I’m no expert on prices because as a serial volunteer, I’ve only ever paid for one festival ticket.

Danman Danman 8:20 pm 14 Apr 09

An extra $37 for a fully functioning bogan filter. Worth it I say.

Seems there were drink riders at both events, only difference is that no one batted an eyelid at NFF attendees because they are not bemulleted.

GB GB 7:54 pm 14 Apr 09

Note to thumper: if you don’t want discussion, don’t post your views.

You put forward a view, others put forward theirs. If you accuse something of ‘commercialism’, you can expect people who think otherwise to argue their case. And people who feel differently to emote.

So, argue your case – not just a throwaway line.

It feels commercial to you? Why? Ticket prices? Because its now not losing money? Because it has commercial food stalls? Because it employs security guards?

Personally, I wouldn’t pay that much for a night ticket, because its not worth that much to me. But music festivals are always better — and cheaper — if you go to the whole event, not just a bit. And because you’re more relaxed, you actually get better value.

And yep, I would prefer it if the gatecrashers and yobs didn’t make security guards necessary — it felt nicer when they were only plain clothes. And if someone sets up a security firm with a ‘no yob employees’ policy, the queue will be fairly long.

I know the riotact tradition is to stand on the side and scorn, but if you can actually come up with some useful ideas, maybe we can make the festival better.

Thumper Thumper 7:20 pm 14 Apr 09

Note to self. Don’t put forward any opinion about the folk festival that may be seen as a criticism in any way.

Ian Ian 7:01 pm 14 Apr 09

$85 – Holy sheet – people were complaining about Chic Henry and his rip off snake oil peddling corporate marketing machine.

If I remember correctly day passes to that was $48

An extra $37 for a fully functioning bogan filter. Worth it I say.

GB GB 6:51 pm 14 Apr 09

Danman said :

$… but $85. That’s food for a week for 2 adults in the Danman household.

I am assuming that beverages can not be brought, and they have to be purchased on site at additional charges yeah?

You can bring in whatever you reckon, but hardly anyone bothers – plenty of bars, and not expensive. And fine wine from the Troubadour.

Expensive? Buying a day ticket at the last minute is expensive. Get them in advance – $61 this year. Or, go to the whole festival (much more fun anyway) for $166 for 5 days.

And, if that’s not good value for you, go to a different festival. Try one of the smaller ones. Much less “entertainment”, but much cheaper, and a greater musician/audience ratio. Close to Canberra, eg Music at the Creek — its 3 days, not 5, but was only $55 for the weekend this year.

I don’t think anyone’s making money from folk festivals – they’re pretty much all non-profit. Some people get a job, and lots of musicians get a gig, hundreds of volunteers make them viable. Just choose the festival that’s right for you.

BerraBoy68 BerraBoy68 6:30 pm 14 Apr 09

Special G said :

..$85 to get in…

Bugger! Ms Berra and I were just saying how we’d love to attend next years festival (we had to go away this year). But at those prices we’ll have to wait till the kids get jobs.

Cheatley Cheatley 6:13 pm 14 Apr 09

Thumper, it’s a lot better than having 17 year olds on the gates by themselves into the evening, as I once did.

Bill Quinn Bill Quinn 4:47 pm 14 Apr 09

GB said :

Looking at cause & effect for a moment; people say things like:

Special G said :

… $85 to get in is a bit rich.


Thumper said :

$60 for a night ticket is also steep.

Sadly it appears that the great god of commercialism has taken over the folk festival.

So, what changes would you make to the festival so it would cost less to run and still be good? Or are you suggesting they just charge less, run it into the ground, then declare bankruptcy. But then we’d have no festival, which would be crap.

Agreed. If you’re going to run > 18 venues and fill it with diverse, international, national and local talent, that does not come cheap. If you can’t afford the gate price, volunteer your services and get free entry and camping, plus a closer insight to the festival’s people, talent and machinations.

Bill Quinn Bill Quinn 4:43 pm 14 Apr 09

Thumper said :

$60 for a night ticket is also steep. And surly security guards on the gate make it less than folkie, as does bar coding of wrist bands.

Sadly it appears that the great god of commercialism has taken over the folk festival.

The National has suffered badly in the past with counterfeit tickets, so electronic bar-coded wrist bands mitigates that risk. (Wrist bands per se have been part of festivals since Jesus was playing electric spoons for The Lovin’ Nazareens.)

Bill Quinn Bill Quinn 4:40 pm 14 Apr 09

Deadmandrinking said :

Speaking of strange old bards, does anyone know the story behind the aboriginal story-teller that rocks up with a duffel bag and a bushman’s hat and starts reciting old stories on the corner of the road just inside the park? I was convinced his stories were ‘awesome’, but I suspect my brain wasn’t on planet earth when it made that decision. Soberly, I’m just intrigued about where he’s from and what his story is. I’ve seen him in civic as well doing the same thing at times around the folkies.

Campbell the Swaggie. He’s actually a Kiwi, which came as a surprise as I too assumed he was aboriginal. He ives on the road and goes from festival to festival (he has an agent!) and the standing joke is that he heads off along the road but somehow makes it to the next one ahead of everyone else. The story goes that he actually faxes himself to the next festival.

He’s a very nice bloke and a superb reciter. His memory for poem lines is commensurate with his memory for names and faces. And he might be seen having a kip here and there, but he’s also dancing away in late night concerts and one of the last out of the session bar.

GB GB 12:18 pm 14 Apr 09

Looking at cause & effect for a moment; people say things like:

Special G said :

… $85 to get in is a bit rich.


Thumper said :

$60 for a night ticket is also steep.

Sadly it appears that the great god of commercialism has taken over the folk festival.

So, what changes would you make to the festival so it would cost less to run and still be good? Or are you suggesting they just charge less, run it into the ground, then declare bankruptcy. But then we’d have no festival, which would be crap.

{Disclaimer: I have a beard, and a ponytail}

DJ DJ 10:49 am 14 Apr 09

Deadmandrinking said :

Ah pfft the fun police.

Yeah, commenting about somebody breaking the law and endangering themselves not to mention the public is the fun police…

Oh, DMD you were only joking?

bloodnut bloodnut 9:33 pm 13 Apr 09

Thumper said :

I’ve never thought it badly organised previously, so yes, commercialism.



You underestimate the ever diminishing financial margin that exists between continued cultural growth and the extinction of valuable tradition. Even at a festival that appears to be ‘large’ or ‘profitable’.

My experience was shared in that one particular security guard (not all) was a gigantic pcrik.

Deadmandrinking Deadmandrinking 5:28 pm 13 Apr 09

Ah pfft the fun police.

rosebud rosebud 2:35 pm 13 Apr 09

The life of a blogmeister – one festival after the next. (Just jealousy rearing it’s ugly head there) 🙂

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