Folk Festival set for a ‘major site relocation’

Pam Merrigan at the Library

IN its 52nd year, the National Folk Festival will move closer to Northbourne Avenue and away from the relatively dusty Flemington Road side, creating “a good flow”, according to festival director Pam Merrigan. 

Merrigan announced the “major site relocation” when the festival was officially launched on Wednesday night (February 21) at the National Library of Australia by Arts Minister Gordon Ramsay, festival board president Gabrielle Mackey and director-general of the library Marie-Louise Ayres.

Performing before the large crowd of well-wishers this evening were old-time bluegrass duo from Blackwood in country Victoria, “Cat and Clint” and in a spirit of friendly rivalry, “Slam ‘V’ Bush Poetry” where veteran Canberra Bush poet Laurie McDonald battled it out with local slam poet and coordinator of BAD!SLAM!NO!BISCUIT! Andrew Galan.

Margaret and Bill Winnett

Highlight of the evening was the announcement that a dedicated pair of Irish dancers from Sydney, Margaret and Bill Winnett, had won the National Folk Festival 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award. Together, the couple had shared their love of traditional Irish dancing throughout their lives, travelling Australia and the world doing precisely that.

To be held over the Easter long weekend, the Folk Festival is expected to attract between 45,000 and 50,000 people to see national and international acts performed across 18 stages.

Director Pam Merrigan said that the 900 or so individual events and concerts would celebrate “all things folk”, whether music, dance, circus or spoken word.

Merrigan told “CityNews” that with 28 international acts and all states of Australia covered, there’d be something for everybody. She then gave a special mention to the “most interesting” Belgian group Wör, who gives a new saxophone-led twist to 18th-century tunes from the Flanders region.

Canberra Bush poet Laurie McDonald

“Also, it’s a good year for Canada,” she said, “and has been for some years,” a phenomenon she put down to the Canadian Government’s active support of the arts in all genres. She was especially taken with the amazingly-named trio “Ten Strings and A Goat Skin” from Prince Edward Island, playing bodhrán, acoustic guitar and violin.

In a very different mode, she said, the group Chrysoula K. & Púrpura, led by Greece’s Chrysoula Kechagioglou, would bring together music of East and West.

On the Australian front, she said, the musical group My Friend the Chocolate Cake would return after a long absence.

This year Tasmania and Victoria would be the featured states, with a suite of events billing as “across the Tasman”. Claire Anne Taylor, a young songwriter/artist from Tasmania, has been picked up by the Woodford and Mullum festivals’ “Festival of Small Halls” tour but would wind up at the festival.

Indigenous music would be to the fore, with musician and pioneer of contemporary Aboriginal music, Joe Geia, famous for the land rights song “Yil Lull”, “sing” will be appearing with his band and WA’s “voice of the Kimberley” song man heading up a line of top Indigenous musos.

Over Easter the Festival site at Exhibition Park is set to become a village full of bars, food and market stalls, circus performers and musicians, with dance poetry and art too. There will even be a dedicated KidzFest within a festival.

National Folk Festival 2018, Exhibition Park in Canberra, March 29 to April 2. Bookings to


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