THE 46-year-old National Folk Festival honoured one of its stalwarts last night when it announced, well before the “National” opens at Exhibition Park in April, that the second lifetime achievement award was going to singer Margret RoadKnight.Born in Melbourne, RoadKnight made her singing debut at a Melbourne theatre in 1963 and has-been singer performing ever since, not least at the Folk Festival and at the School of Arts Café in Queanbeyan.
Festival board chair, Gabrielle Mackey, then it was particularly appropriate that she should have been so honoured, as RoadKnight had been “a wonderful ambassador for the festival and for music in general.” Notably, she had performed at the very first Folk Festival in 1967, held at Port Phillip. Recollecting a workshop that RoadKnight had given in 2011, Mackey reflected on her amazing capacity to get people singing in harmony within a matter of minutes.
The announcement took place at the launch by ACT Deputy Chief Minister Andrew Barr of the 2014 National Folk Festival in the foyer of the National Library last night.
Director-general of the library, Anne-Marie Schwirtlich, praised the festival’s ongoing commitment to research into folk music and culture, much of it in collaboration with the library.
As the crowd of music lovers mulled over the list of over 200 artists announced in the full program line-up for 2014, singing duos Sparrow-folk from Canberra and The Raglins from Melbourne gave a taste of music to come.
A new initiative for 2014 will be “ACTive Folk Arts supported by the ACT Government Arts Fund, which will focus through workshops, performance and interactive experiences on promoting emerging, young and developing ACT artists, not least the aforementioned Sparrow-folk, winners of ABC TV’s Exhumed competition (ACT).
The festival director, Pam Merrigan, placed particular emphasis on the indigenous program, also supported by the ACT Government featuring Aboriginal singer-songwriters including Archie Roach, Leah Flanagan, Frank Yamma, Dubmarine, Johnny Huckle, Wiradjuri Echoes and from WA, the 2014 festival’s featured state, Gina Williams & Guy Ghouse, John Bennett and Kerriane Cox & Albert Wiggin.
The festival will run from April 17. Australian artists will include Joseph Tawadros, Jordie Lane, Heath Cullen, Siobhan Owen, The Crooked Fiddle Band and Castlecomer, while from overseas we’ll have, among many others, blues legend Woody Mann, Damien Dempsey from Ireland, Tift Merritt, from the US and from Alaska, The Alaskan String Band.
The National Folk Festival, at 14 venues in Exhibition Park, April 17-21, bookings to folkfestival.org.au