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Five Days of Folk and Fun at the National Folk Festival

BY Diana Wolfe | 30-Nov-2017
With more than 200 international and national acts, Canberra’s award-winning National Folk Festival is set to be a five-day celebration of music, song and dance plus circus, spoken word and film. It’s held in an idyllic village setting with roving entertainers, street circus, stages of all sizes, a special “KidzFest” zone, market stalls, food vans, shopping precincts, cafes, themed bars and arts and craft activities for all. #ournff #fivedaysinaperfectworld
With more than 200 international and national acts, Canberra’s award-winning National Folk Festival is set to be a five-day celebration of music, song and dance plus circus, spoken word and film. It’s held in an idyllic village setting with roving entertainers, street circus, stages of all sizes, a special “KidzFest” zone, market stalls, food vans, shopping precincts, cafes, themed bars and arts and craft activities for all.

Offering ‘five days in a perfect world’, the 52nd National Folk Festival runs throughout Easter, 29 March—2 April 2018 at Exhibition Park, Canberra. Tickets on sale now (entry ticket provides access to all stages and areas, season passes and day tickets available).

Audiences will be treated to some of the very best exponents of their craft from Australia and the world when the 52nd edition of this iconic event hits the Nation's capital next Easter.

The acts announced so far feature a mix established and much-loved artists alongside new and emerging performers of uncommon talent and virtuosity who have yet to become household names. The National presents a superb opportunity for audiences to hear these acts on stages from the intimate through to the capacious, all within a lively village environment.

Headlining a stellar list of acts is Scottish super group Breabach, Nashville darling Lindsay Lou, the ‘unhinged genius’ of Steve Poltz, Celtic songstresses Cara, wildly entertaining and brilliantly named Ten Strings and A Goat Skin, and Indigenous performer Gina Williams, who returns to the Festival with her full band.

Performing in Australia for the first time and exclusive to the National is US acoustic duo, Ryanhood. Starting their music career as street-performers at Boston's Quincy Market, they have won more than a dozen music awards in their home state of Arizona including Best Folk Band and Best Rock Band. Cameron Hood’s rich and folky lead vocals, Ryan Green’s explosive guitar and mandolin riffs, their airtight vocal harmonies and easy rapport with audiences have become a hallmark of their shows.

With a name that combines the Latin word for purple, a colour symbolising spirituality and mystery, with the name of group leader Chrysoula Kechagioglou, Chrysoula K. & Púrpura (Greece) bring together East and West. Creating a sound mosaic that is nostalgic, vivid, playful and airy, their music is a mesmerising exploration of ‘the endless dialogue between the four cardinal points of the horizon’.

From Serbia and the UK, Faith i Branko merges the genius of Branko Ristic—one of the leading Roma violinists of this century—with Faith Ristic, a charismatic and virtuosic UK accordionist. The two came together when Faith travelled to the Balkans in search of a Gypsy violinist to join her circus band. Their music is sheer delight with their fusion style switching with ease from exuberant Balkan Romani music to ragtime, classical influences and reggae.

Also joining the register of international artists for the 2018 National Festival are young, high-energy contemporary bluegrass quintet Flats and Sharps (UK) along with Ireland’s John McSherry and Donal O’Connor, regarded as the finest traditional Irish Uilleann Pipe and fiddle duet of their generation; their sound is acoustic perfection itself.

From England, Faustus and Belshazzar’s Feast will head to our shores to perform exclusively for Festival goers. Faustus (UK), is a 'bloke folk' triumvirate of prodigiously talented multi-instrumentalists; Paul Sartin, Benji Kirkpatrick and Saul Rose. This trio evolved from award-winning band Dr Faustus, and all three members have performed in other leading acts including the Seth Lakeman Band, Bellowhead, Waterson:Carthy and Whapweazel. Their three albums and dynamic shows have earned them widespread acclaim as the leading lights of their generation, with The Guardian describing them as “one of Britain’s outstanding folk bands” and The Independent on Sunday declaring their mission to be “to rescue contemporary folk from the curse of feyness…”. 

Belshazzar’s Feast (Paul Hutchinson and Paul Sartin, UK) play breathtakingly beautiful and wickedly inventive tunes on oboe, accordion and violin, many of which incorporate slapstick comedy with outstanding musicianship.

Guitarist-singer-songwriter Katey Brooks (UK) has a haunting intensity and a "voice to melt glaciers" (Venue Mag). After blowing away three full houses at the 2017 Festival, Katey is packing her guitar and returning to Australia with her new album, We The People.

Another returning Festival favourite is the ‘raucous and manic’ trio from the NSW east coast, 19-Twenty. Featuring Kane Dennelly (vocals and guitars), Syd Green (percussion, drums, dobro) and John Gwilliam on double bass and vocals, 19-Twenty believe in “asking for forgiveness not for permission” and, accordingly, their music is the closest to punk the blues will ever get.

Each year the Festival draws on the best folk acts from two feature states, in a nod to its history as a travelling festival. For 24 years the Festival was held in different Australian cities and towns before putting down roots at its permanent home at Exhibition Park, Canberra. Tasmania and Victoria are the featured states for the 52nd National Folk Festival.The first acts announced for the featured states are Frumious, a high-energy quintet from Hobart. Borrowing from many styles and cultures, their music is an infectiously upbeat fusion of folk and gypsy jazz with a fresh, contemporary and original sound.

Mick Thomas & The Roving Commission (VIC) features raconteur, troubadour, balladeer and poet, Mick Thomas, along with Squeezebox Wally on piano accordion and a rotating lineup of talented performers to keep the party alive with Mick's unique mix of folk, roots and country.

Damian Howard’s (VIC) new album, Ned, includes new interpretations and original-penned songs that celebrate the life and times of one of Australia's most notable historical figures, Ned Kelly.

With music and entertainment to capture every age and taste, from young indie duo Amistat (twin brothers Jan and Josef Prasil) to the ‘rebellious beauty’ of Bush Gothic or The Western Flyers’ with their electrifying Texas swing, there will be plenty on the table to whet the appetite for good music.

The National is renowned for presenting the very best of folk. Old-timey and trad acts rub shoulders with the contemporary and new. Audiences will relish the gritty hill-style gospel blues duo Hat Fitz and Cara, virtuoso folk-blues guitarist Daniel Champagne, sublime UK duo Chris While and Julie Matthews, Canadian trio The Good Lovelies and glam-folk sirens-of-satire Sparrow-Folk. Add the lyrical bluegrass songs of the John Flanagan Trio, glorious tunes and vocals from Marcia Howard, diplomat-turned-musician Fred Smith and the sensual, theatrical performances of Chaika, and you’ll be spoilt for choice.

The list goes on: old time fiddle and banjo duo Cat and Clint; Charm of Finches (teen sisters Mabel and Ivy Windred-Wornes); The Chordwainers playing instruments crafted by world-renowned leather sculptor, Garry Greenwood, and the ‘infectiously fun’ Coconut Kids with French-influenced world folk using ukulele, brass, bass, keys, violin, mandolin and percussion.

In a treat for dancers, Australia’s leading Scottish Country Dance musicians, Chris Duncan with Catherine and Jennifer Strutt, will blow the party shoes off everyone on the dance floor! Ace fiddle player Gordie ‘Crazy Legs’ MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys will thrill with their exuberance and unstoppable roots music force, while Gippsland-born troubadour Harry Hookey, performing with Lucky Oceans and David Hyams, will wow audiences with their rousing sing-along stomp.

Families and children will delight in Australia's favourite family puppet show, the Amazing Drumming Monkeys, blending puppetry, live music and comedy while lovers of circus will be enchanted by the glitter and laughter of Madhouse Circus and the nautical nonsense and sea shanty shenanigans of Pirateman Michael.

The impressive list continues with Miriam Lieberman (NSW) performing on kora (African harp) and guitar. Her songs are reminiscent of Joni Mitchell infused with the rhythms of West Africa, enhanced by the soaring string and vocal accompaniment of Lara Goodridge on violin and Liz Frencham on double bass.

The Black Swans of Trespass (TAS) will have audiences up on their feet with their funky, soulful, sound, while high-energy travelling folk band, The Button Collective (NSW), combines new Australian stories with elements of traditional Irish music, spiced up with the spirit of fast-paced American old-timey grooves.

Horns of Leroy (VIC) take street music to a new level with their New Orleans to Fitzroy inspired flavours, The Royal High Jinx (VIC) write, play and sing music inspired by European traditions while sporting a spectacular burlesque wardrobe and Squeebz (VIC) takes Irish, Cape Breton, Québécois and Breton music to a new level with their high-energy tunes and songs.

For the kids, it will be a chance to buckle up and take a trip in a giant time machine to get up close and personal with a life sized T-Rex! Dinosaur Time Machine incorporates the latest discoveries about dinosaurs with circus and puppetry, in this unique educational theatre production.