By Trevor Connell
It is one of the largest and longest lived festivals in Australia. The National Folk Festival this year attracted over 50,000 visitors. The NFF was established in 1967 as the Port Phillip District Folk Music Festival and for the next two and a half decades moved around the country each year until settling into a permanent home in Canberra in 1992.
This was my first visit to the NFF and I was immensely impressed. Over five days the festival featured hundreds of performers on around 20 stages ranging from the 2000 seat Budawang concert venue to the Stockman’s camp that accommodated around 20 people.
To get an inside perspective of how a festival like this is run I did an extensive interview with Production Manager, Rachel Gould that you can listen to here while you have a look at the photo gallery below.
A few other observations
The Festival Opening
The opening concert was held in the Budawang Pavilion which also serves as the National Tally Room at Federal elections and the festival was opened by the Federal Arts Minister, Peter Garrett.
The minister also presented the Australia Council’s prestigious Don Banks Music Award to folk music icon and original founder of Larrikin Records, Warren Fahey. Following the presentation Warren Fahey took the opportunity to lampoon the current owners of Larrikin records over their treatment of Men At Work’s pinching of the riff from Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree, then he presented the minister with a black T shirt with an “old man kookaburra” on the front and “SORRY” on the back. The audience loved it and so did the minister.
The feature act of the opening concert was Taikoz showing just how diverse the NFF can be. Also showing off that diversity was the newly instituted fringe venue “The Majestic” a circus tent featuring acts designed to appeal to the youth audience.
I’ll let the photos tell the rest of the story
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In the interview I refer to the socialist beginnings of the National Folk Festival. I refer the reader to the following information about the founder of the NFF, Shirley Andrews.
The Three Lives of Shirley Andrews – ABC Hindsight program broadcast 21st February 2010 – listen online
Shirley Andrews – Adding a Personal Note to History – By Jennifer Clark
This is an extract from the article the full article is available at National Library of Australia News August 2004
In the 1940s Andrews worked with one of Boravansky’s leading dancers, Margaret Walker, in the Unity Dance Group-a group which not only began to explore Australian dance traditions but did so within the context of left wing politics.
Margaret Walker was interested in the concept of using dance to explore social and political issues,to promote peace and to encourage international understanding.
Her choreography, like that of Borovansky, combined the features of classical ballet and folk dance. This appealed to Shirley Andrews who appreciated the heritage of folk and who was too tall to become a leading classical ballerina.
Shirley Andrews was a communist but she speaks of herself as being politically conservative, thinking of communism not so much as a means to revolution but rather as a vehicle for social justice and reform.
Andrews was chair of the first National Folk Festival in Melbourne in 1967. This was patterned on the Newport Folk Festival in the United States of America and was a great success. Two weeks before the festival the organising committee realised a new venue had to be found in order to accommodate the large numbers of expected interstate visitors.
In an oral history interview, Shirley Andrews tells how, in hat and gloves (to make a good impression), she went to see the principal of the Melbourne Teachers College to hire rooms. He agreed but, fearing folk dancers would be riotous, stipulated that police must be in attendance. Without a riot to quell, the police simply enjoyed the music. The crowd was so big and the event so popular that the performance rooms still weren’t big enough, forcing the dancers to appear upstairs and then immediately perform again downstairs for the flow-over crowd.
In 1994 Shirley Andrews received an OAM in recognition of her contribution to Australian dance. At the time of her death, aged almost 86, she was involved with Lucy Stockdale in reviving yet another selection of old quadrilles and cotillions.
This list of Andrews’ activities suggests a continuing and busy involvement with Australian dance but, more importantly, it confirms that she was at the forefront of the folk revival in Australia. In the 1950s and 1960s this was very important in stimulating interest in Australian culture and heritage, which, in its turn, contributed to the development of Australian nationalism. The folk movement grew to include music and dance collection, recording, publication and performance. Shirley Andrews researched the old dances, formulated steps, published dance forms, taught dancers, demonstrated revived dances and helped to promote the tradition to others.