05 April 2018
PORT FAIRY FOLK FESTIVALby MATT CHARLESWORTH
Close friends of ours live close to Port Fairy and for years we’ve heard stories and seen photos from the “Folkie”. Going in with high expectations was risky but even still we were blown away - this festival is everything it’s ramped up to be plus more. Firstly, the sheer size was a shock; 13 stages, 80+ artists and 30,000 attendees. Secondly, only a few names rung a bell from the program but we found plenty of talented musicians who have now found a place in our road trip playlist. And lastly, the program runs over 4 days and total running time provides over 45 hours of entertainment; that’s one jam-packed long weekend.
The festival recognised that “folk” means many different things depending on your culture and country of origin. Fittingly, the program featured many international artists, predominantly from the United Kingdom and Ireland as they dominate the traditional heritage of folk music. However, artists from West Africa, New Zealand, Sweden, Chile, Argentina and France joined the ranks too. An Australian artist by the name of Uptown Brown caught our attention. A one-man band playing 1920’s – 1950’s inspired tunes with his “Goodtimes Gyratorscope”, a highly technical musical instrument that is played by all 4 limbs at once. A hi-hat, bass drum, snare drum, whistle, horn, ukulele and he was even singing at the same time! Another highlight was King Marong & Afro Mandinko’s set in the Shebeen arena. With Guinness on tap and energetic music performances, this was the place to be when the sun went down. The rhythm of the African drum was simply irresistible, we joined everyone on our feet to dance the night away.
In addition to the performances, workshops ran all weekend. We tried our hand at body percussion, yoga and Irish dancing. We stumbled across the Irish dance workshop and joined in halfway through, big mistake… we kerfuffled the whole thing and stood out like sore thumbs. We hassled instructor Marie for some tips on how to swing and eventually made up for it in the following dance.
The celebrations were not just confined to the festival grounds, the party spilled out into the streets. The main roads were closed and the shops stayed open till late. We meandered through the market stalls and pricked up our ears searching for the best street performers. Set for a top of 33 degrees on Saturday we took refuge from the peak of the day and cooled off at East beach. A gorgeous sandy beach that’s well protected tucked in behind Griffiths Island. Despite being a few weeks into Autumn, we caught a final glimpse of a true blue Aussie Summer. Kids covered in sand playing in the shallows, patrolling lifesavers painted in zinc and families spending quality time together enjoying nature.
The hospitality we received at the Big 4 Port Fairy Holiday Park over the weekend was absolutely fantastic. Complimentary pancakes on Saturday morning, a fully equipped camp kitchen and a clean, grassy site. We even managed a few drinks over the weekend, leaving our car at the campsite and taking the 20-minute walk to the festival each day. There was no chance we were leaving without bouncing on the famous jumping pillow either. How does that saying go… Grow old but never grow up, right?