31 December 2022

The Waifs, Billy Bragg to headline 2023 National Folk Festival

| Ian Bushnell
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The Waifs

The Waifs (Donna Simpson, Joshua Cunningham and Donna’s sister Vikki Thorn) are set to perform at Exhibition Park. Photo: The Waifs.

Australian folk rock icons The Waifs and one of the UK’s most prolific musicians, Billy Bragg, will headline the 2023 National Folk Festival at Exhibition Park next Easter.

The National Folk Festival has announced its first line-up of artists to appear at next year’s event from 6-10 April, signing a suite of folk, blues and rock musicians from across the world.

The Waifs are known for their hits ‘London Still’ (2002), ‘Bridal Train’ (2004) and ‘Sun Dirt Water’ (2007), as well as supporting Bob Dylan on his 2003 Australian and North American tours.

Singer and guitarist Vikki Thorn said the band had fond memories of playing at the National Folk Festival in its early days.

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“It was a very exciting time to be received with such enthusiasm by the festival crowds,” she said. “We really felt like we had found our place on the festival circuit. We are so very happy to be returning in 2023.”

English singer-songwriter Bragg, a political activist and well known for his hits in the late 1980s, will bring his musical tales of romance, politics and protest to the festival.

Other acts performing over the Easter long weekend next year include returning favourites Fred Smith from Canberra, Steve Poltz, Jan Preston, The Pigs, Tony McManus, Apodimi Compania and ARIA Award-winning Kavisha Mazzella.

Also on the bill will be Natalie and Brittany Haas from the US, storytelling duo We Mavericks, well-loved local trio Keith Potger (formerly of The Seekers) with Moya Simpson and John Shortis, and UK duo Chris While and Julie Matthews.

The festival will also host many of this year’s Australian Folk Music Award winners including: Austral, winner of Traditional Folk Music Album of the Year; Charm of Finches – Contemporary Folk Music Album of the Year; Fred Smith – Solo Artist of the Year; The Lost Clogs – Community/Cultural Project of the Year; and Hillbilly Goats – recipient of the People’s Choice Award.

Co-artistic directors, Dave O’Neill and Jo Cresswell have assembled the line-up for 2023.

Billy Bragg

English singer-songwriter Billy Bragg is also well known for his political activism. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Kris Krug.

Both have had a long involvement with the National, with Cresswell part of the administrative and artistic team in the early years of the festival in Canberra and O’Neill as artistic director from 2006 until 2012.

When they have not been working for the festival they have been regular featured performers and volunteers.

O’Neill has played with many Australian artists such as Jimmy Barnes, Eric Bogle, The Bushwackers, Fred Smith, and Enda Kenny.

Cressell currently directs the Celtic Arts Agency, leads walking/music/singing trips in France, directs the Charlotte Pass Celtic Music Camp with Dave and hosts residential singing events with guest teachers.

They bring a unique blend of artistic and organisational innovation and brilliance to the National.

National Folk Festival Board President David Gilks said the 2023 line-up would offer something for everyone.

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“The Nash is one of Canberra’s most inclusive, surprising and energising events, and we’re excited to welcome everyone to join in, whether it’s your first festival or your thirtieth!” Mr Gilks said.

“More than 15,000 visitors flock to the event each year for the music, dance and spoken word and also to enjoy the markets, the food and the festival atmosphere on Ngunnawal Country.

“Beyond the world-class performances on stage, the festival invites everyone to get involved with activities for kids, music and dance workshops, and the famous Session Bar.”

“Next year’s festival will once again offer that unique ‘Nash’ experience.”

After a hiatus caused by the pandemic, and a strong return in 2022, organisers are excited to share the stellar first line-up ahead of Christmas, with further announcements expected in the new year.

“We have such a strong community of supportive, friendly and loyal folks that come each year; many people find a real community and look forward to returning to see their friends again each year,” Mr Gilks said.

“We hope to see you there in 2023 and that you get the chance to experience some great music over an inspiring weekend.”

Tickets are now on sale for the five-day event.

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