In the build up to Christmas every year I’m reminded about how lucky so many…
The 52nd National Folk Festival kicks off this Thursday with more than 900 hours of entertainment planned for your Five Days in a Perfect World.
The award-winning Festival is a five-day celebration held over the Easter long weekend offering music, dance, circus, a dedicated First People program, spoken word, street theatre, talks, master classes, community arts and a range of family and child-oriented activities.
The Festival site at Exhibition Park in Canberra is transformed into a purpose-built village with themed bars, food and market stalls, roving circus performers and street musicians. Lantern parades will wander the Festival streets on Friday and Saturday nights, while Sunday night heralds the Grand Festival Parade that showcases all the marvellous sculptures, lanterns and wild face painting developed in Community Arts and KidzFest.
With upwards of 45,000 festivalgoers through their gates, patrons can expect a vibrant market place of more than 110 stalls, 28 international and 180 Australian A-list acts, 18 venues showcasing sounds from around the planet, plus over 250 inclusive and accessible workshops.
Local Music Highlights
In addition to the multitude of national and international talent in store, our local creatives continue to place Canberra on the artistic map with a strong cohort of our own gracing the National Folk Festival stages and streets.
Electric Tommy Johnston
Canberra-based blues duo Electric Tommy Johnston brings old school blues back into the spotlight. Tackling Delta to gospel, Mississippi to jazz, slide, finger-picked and smooth electric they create a high-energy modern trip through the roots of one of the world’s greatest folk traditions.
Songwriter, comedian, raconteur and author Fred Smith joins forces with an all-star band including Liz Frencham and Carl Pannuzzo to present songs from his rich back catalogue and his new album ‘Great’. The new album offers a wry interrogation of American history, politics and pathologies, while expressing Fred’s deep love of American musical forms.
Johnny Passant and The Awesome
Canberra poet John Passant joins forces with The Awesome (singer/songwriter Mili Cifali and bass player Jim Horvath) and Indigenous artist poet Peter Swain on didgeridoo to create an unforgettable culturally diverse tapestry of song, spoken word and significant Indigenous poetry.
A quiet master of the bittersweet, literate story-song, Nick will match his high heart-tugging voice with a Rogue’s Gallery of top-notch Canberra country-folk players. Every colour of longing and loss, now in warm singalong form!
Australia’s own ‘sirens of satire’ and the only confirmed glam-folk band. Combining heavenly harmonies and cheeky lyrics, Sparrow-Folk are the adorable queens of the overshare – prepare to be delightfully shocked.
Sweeten your Festival experience with elegant ballads and vibrant dance tunes from Jackie Luke (hammered dulcimer and voice), Greg Wilson (harp and accordion) and Rita Woolhouse (cello).
Want even more?
Canberra’s dance, circus, spoken word, choir and theatre groups and community players are also showcased with Andrew Galan, BAD!SLAM!NO!BISCUIT!, Circus Hokum, Dividing Range Dancers, Dru Yoga, Flamenco Centre Canberra, Gentlemen Squeak and Friends, Ghawazi Caravan Tribal Bellydance Showcase, InterVarsity Choir, Jacqui Malins , John Gardiner-Garden and the Earthly Delights Historic Dance Academy, Jumptown Swing, Laurie McDonald, Obsidian Belly Dance, Roving Unicycles, Sandra Renew, sCanDans, Scroggin, Set in Their Ways, Super Circus Squad, Surly Griffin, Tango Social Club of Canberra, Ukulele Republic of Canberra (URoC) and Zackerbilks. Phew.
Food and Drink Highlights
Whilst traditional and contemporary folk, acoustic, roots, world, blues, bluegrass, Celtic, indie and country musicians flock to the National each year, foodies need not be left behind with endless food and drink options. The Festival’s vibrant streets come alive with food and market stalls, blackboard cafes and late-night cider gardens.
18 food stalls, seven drinks stalls offering coffee, chai, fresh juices, mulled mead, homemade sodas like root beer and fresh lemonade, eight snack stalls with tasty treats such as ice-cream, waffles, handmade fudge, nuts cooked hot onsite, honey popcorn, and for something more grown up, French saucisson and cheeses line the Festival streets.
Coffee and breakfast stalls open around 7 am each day. Most close around 10:30 pm, but night owls can still find a kebab or pizza until at least 2 am and an open fire to sit around.
Bohemia Bar, Flute & Fiddle Bar, Scrumpy & Cider Garden and the late-night Session Bar are the places to be if you’re after cold and warm alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages alike, whilst listening to a tune or two.
The Festival has encouraged stalls to offer more child-friendly meals, and this year adds child-size plates of pasta, kids dumplings and organic pizza by the slice so mum and dad don’t need to split yet another Hawaiian pizza, and instead can treat themselves to a pulled pork taco, a haloumi burger or a Cuban chorizo platter.
The Festival menu caters for all dietary needs, featuring gluten-free options for classics such as German sausages or a Reuben sandwich, dairy-free ice-creams, amazing vegetarian and vegan options, and stalls that use certified organic ingredients and source local produce.
Children can sit spellbound while watching the circus acts as they cradle a plate of warm Dutch poffertjes covered in homemade chocolate sauce and ice-cream. Parents can wander between venues with a Guatemalan coffee or rich hot chocolate spiced with chilli or cardamom pods, while kids can have a healthy treat with a frozen fruit slushy.
The Stock Camp is an iconic installation that brings a little window of bush life to the Festival. Complete with a roaring fire and outback memorabilia, you can experience the ‘food that fed the bush’ with their daily fare of billy-tea, damper and tasty lamb stew. It’s a great atmosphere, too, with a daily blackboard of impromptu music, poetry and other surprises.
In every corner of the Festival site you’ll find opportunities to immerse yourself in the colour, sounds and sights of National Folk Festival this Easter long weekend.
View the National Folk Festival’s full program guide here.
Come for the whole Festival, or just for a great day out—there’s a choice of season passes or one-day tickets. Best of all, children under seven accompanied by an adult are free, and Easter Monday is Family Day, when accompanied children under 15 years are free.
HerCanberra is a proud media partner of the National Folk Festival 2018