February 3, 2019 / By Shelley Ann Morgan
Historic St Albans village is the perfect setting for the St Albans Folk Festival. The Settlers Arms Inn, one of Australia’s oldest pubs’ is at the heart of the festival. Held over a weekend close to Anzac day, the festival showcases local and international performers, songwriters and musicians. With its historical, cultural and storytelling significance - cheerfully promoted through modern and traditional folk performance, you’ll be diligently following the FOLKnow Festival Calendar, once you’ve experienced a weekend like this one!
Traditional folk music (commonly associated with folklore) has been around for centuries, however, the term ‘folk music’ became popular during the 1800s. In its traditional sense it is music that connects families and communities through storytelling that is rich in history and culture, and is passed on from one generation to next (music that is transmitted orally). Australia’s folk music development began during the early colonial days, with distinctive themes of life in the Australian Bush - which became known as bush music or bush ballads, and perhaps most widely known is Banjo Paterson’s Waltzing Matilda.
Today St Albans village comes alive with a diverse range of traditional and modern sound, as musicians take part in impromptu street performances in a convivial and relaxed style. Enjoy the sounds of banjos, acoustic guitars, fiddles, accordions and singing voices that echo through the valley. While festival-folk saunter through the village, the landscape becomes a kaleidoscope of colour. The main stage areas are a buzz of delightful sounds as exceptional international and local performers shine.
With an outdoor stage, the Settlers Arms Inn is an allure for families, as in this beer garden musicians perform and toddlers chase after the chickens and pet peacock that roam free on the pub’s grounds. It’s here where the energy of the festival is felt. While this historic watering hole serves its thirsty patrons, families and friends rendezvous out front of the inn and join in with a sing-a-long of the impromptu performances.
We were so captivated by the joyful and melodious jamming sessions, as some folk either danced, clapped, drank, sang or just watched, that we thought this was the festival, and stayed here quite a while watching too! It’s only part of it.
Adding to the festival vibe and surrounding the area - is an abundance of tents and RVs that line the banks of the Macdonald River. Over the weekend the village becomes home to many artists, performers and happy campers - in its literal sense. Folks wander from tent areas, onto surrounding quiet streets to the main stage areas including the quaint historic stone church, and to the workshops conducted in dance, singing, learning or tuning instruments, storytelling and poetry.
The festival runs’ fun children’s activities, food stalls, craft and clothes stalls too. However, before the stages become busy performing areas, the event begins with an important ceremony - ‘Welcome to Country’ is a mark of respect and an opportunity to acknowledge the past and continuing connection local Aboriginal people have with the land.
With respect for the people and land of the Darkinjung tribe acknowledged there is a sense of camaraderie between musicians and the audience, creating an all round feel-good festival experience. While the festival highlights today’s remarkable international and local folk performers, St Albans Folk Festival also captures a historic, traditional and modern storytelling scene, in a cheerful yet, peaceful and heartfelt way.
With an intimate atmosphere, this is one easy and enjoyable family-friendly festival, where you can join in, or sit back and relax, and embrace folklore festivities at its best.
Photo credit: Derek Tickner, Louise Rytmeister, Shelley Ann Morgan
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