MEJ Masthead

10 reasons to get folked this Easter

Emily Allen

Canberra’s great, award winning Easter tradition – the National Folk Festival – brings musicians and their fans together for four days of festivities this long weekend attracting more than 50,000 attendees to their magical event.

Join a cultural celebration of traditional and contemporary music, dance, poetry and storytelling on multiple stages at the one venue.

There’s a KidzFest, street and circus acts, master classes and plenty of food stalls to keep you occupied from morning to late.

Here are our 10 reasons to get ‘Folked’…

1. Ticket options. This has to be one of the Festivals’ draw cards, especially for families. Don’t want to fork out for a season ticket when you can only commit to certain times? There are concession, over 80, youth, child, adult, camping, day and evening options to name a few. You’ll be hard pressed finding another festival that offers such a choice (you’ve also got 900 hours of entertainment to pick from!).

2. There’s 23 international acts and many that you won’t see at any other festival including Bob Fox and Outside Track who are exclusive to the National Folk Festival.

Bob Fox is recognised as one of the leading artists of the Folk Revival period – he’s been nominated as Best Folk Singer in the BBC Folk Awards twice, he’s toured extensively for over 40 years throughout the UK, Europe, USA, New Zealand and Australia, and played with the likes of Ralph McTell, Richard Thompson, Billy Mitchell and Fairport Convention. Most recently Bob has played the role of Songman in the multi-award winning stage production of WarHorse throughout the UK/Ireland and South Africa for 3 years.

Winner of Best Group in the Live Ireland Awards and the TIR Awards, The Outside Track are one of the top Celtic acts in the world. A stunning synthesis of virtuosity and energy, their marriage of Celtic music, song and dance has been rapturously received around the world. Hailing from Scotland, Ireland, and Cape Breton, its five members effortlessly fuse traditional and contemporary with winning joie de vivre, blending fiddle, accordion, harp, guitar, whistle, step-dance and vocals with breathtaking vitality.

(You can check out the full program here.)

3. Budawang and Coorong, Bohemian and the Scrumpy – from large areas to smaller gems, these are a few of your performance venues. There are seating arrangements at each to accommodate all, and all performance venues and workshop spaces are accessible. You’ll also stumble across jam sessions under trees and in the Sessions Bar.

4. With over 200 national and international acts, the program this year sees 38 Canberra acts including:

The Burley Griffin are wild and warming like your grandma’s combustion stove. With voices entwined, wood and steel in chorus, The Burley Griffin resonate the souls of the saints in 5.1 surround sound. Unabashed and unrelenting, The Burley Griffin will embrace you with their heartfelt lyrics and raucous tunes.

Canberran 20-year old Darcy Welsh, will capture you with the first note he sings. Influenced by a wide variety of artists, wanting neither to prejudge others nor be pigeonholed himself, his pure voice and unassuming manner have been at the heart of his past National performances. Now you can share in the evolution of this young talent as he continues to develop as a perceptive, thoughtful and entertaining songwriter and artist. A performance that will not disappoint you.

Award winning duo Sparrow Folk are the only confirmed “glam folk” band. The “adorkable” Fox and Lark present their most delicious confessions on ukulele. Described as Australia’s answer to Flight of The Conchords, the pair are hilarious, original and just a little naughty. “The ukulele-donning duo captivate with their sharp wit and heavenly harmonies” (The Advertiser).

Fred Smith’s remarkable career as songwriter and diplomat was the subject of a recent Australian Story documentary. He returns to the National with Liz Frencham and band to play songs from his back catalogue and his new album Home—a collection of songs about coming home and calming down. Home follows up on Fred’s 2011 release, Dust of Uruzgan, which earned him a national profile and comparisons to the great Australian songwriters Eric Bogle, John Schumann and Don Walker.

Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen bring their visceral and intoxicating Kabaret Noir to the National Folk Festival. The group has played to packed houses and received awards and accolades from the Sydney Opera House to Budapest and back. In concert Mikelangelo commands the stage with his thunderous baritone. He is part-ringmaster, part-crooner, part-beast-possessed. The Black Sea Gentlemen are his formidable musical ensemble. Together they waltz, tango and polka their way through a show bristling with humour, pathos and beauty.

5. Free workshops – Learn a musical instrument, a song, a dance, spoken word – whatever your natural talent, you can develop it here with some of Australia’s and the world’s leading folk arts practitioners. Pick from poetry, creative guitar, song writing, public liability, storytelling and vocal techniques. You can see the full list on offer here.


6. You can also catch specialist Theme Presenters including:

ANZACS, The – Ted Egan An audio-visual presentation endorsed by the Centenary of Anzac Committee to honour the involvement of New Zealand and Australia in World War I. This presentation has an emphasis on audience participation.

Broadcaster’s Forum – Bruce Cameron This is an opportunity for radio presenters, listeners, artists and anyone else interested to discuss folk on radio.

Older Women’s Network Theatre Group – Ma It’s Time To Move Wit, wisdom and wackiness are tightly combined in this musical comedy performance tackling head on the huge challenges older women face when they have to finally leave home to seek affordable accommodation for their next stage in life. Each possible choice and option is exposed with wicked humour.

Full list here.

7. Committed to delivering an artistic program that showcases dance as a vibrant and inclusive element of a diverse “folk” culture, you can catch over forty dance groups at this years’ Festival including dance bands, display groups, workshop presenters and teachers, callers and street dance groups. Particular attention is given to ensuring accessibility for everyone from beginners to more advanced dancers. Dance at the Festival is programmed across two venues, the Piazza and the Coorong.

You can see the full showcase of Dance Performers for the 2015 Festival here.

8. There’s also plenty for the mini festival-goers to do! KidzFest is open from 10am to 5pm each day, with concerts on the Carnival Stage, and workshops and activities in the Bite-Sized Circus tent next door. Highlights include Alex and Annette Hood’s Australian Folk Theatre, Mr Tim and The Fuzzy Elbows, Folktales and Furrytales, Spooky Kids’ Concert, and Zucchini Clan.


9. Contributing to the magical little community formed over the weekend are the circus and street performers. You’ll see themed contests, cabaret, sword swallowers, stick wielding hankie waivers, street orchestras, maypole dancing, pop up choirs and the list goes on.



10. Last but not least, coming in arguably near the top for many patrons, are the plethora of food stalls from all over the world – their aromas alone will be all the convincing you need. They’re open from 10am to 10pm as a minimum daily. You’ll also be treated to something a little more intimate with four sit-down restaurant/wine bars. Still considering a little retail? There are over 60 craft stalls selling wares, you’re bound to find something for everyone here.

So come on! Grab your tickets and get folked this Easter long weekend!

The essentials

What: National Folk Festival
When: Easter Long Weekend, Thursday 2 to Monday 6 April
Where: Exhibition Park In Canberra (EPIC), Flemington Road
How much: Prices dependent on ticket pass – see options here.



Emily Allen

Emily is an arts administrator with a background in writing and music. By day, she works at the ANU School of Music, and by night she moonlights as a contributing writer, the Communications Coordinator and Secretary for MusicACT, and dabbles in freelance marketing, social media and communications for the arts. More about the Author