Folk Festivals in Australia

There are large numbers of festivals in Australia each year with the calendar being full the whole year around. The climate of the country is perfect for people to experience out door celebrations over a 2 or 3-day period. The psyche of the average Australian is that they are active, they love the great out-doors and they love to party. The festivals are wide ranging, covering different cultures such as the indigenous Aborigines, right through to the music preferences of today’s young people. One of the largest folk festivals in the world is the Woodford Folk Festival held in Woodfordia, 72km north of Brisbane, Queensland between December 27th and January 1st each year.

New Year’s Eve celebrations at Woodford

The dates of this festival mean that it is very much a New Year’s Eve festival bringing together music, dance, cabaret, circus, comedy, workshops, street theatre, films, visual arts and an entire children’s festival. The festival has been running since 1987 and has grown so large that there are over 2000 performers featuring local, national and international acts. There are 35 different venues within the 250-hectare festival village, and each year around 125,000 people attend the event. The event is well serviced with restaurants and camp sites and the 2300 volunteers help to power the event. The 3-minute silence that is held on each New Year’s Eve is now a respected tradition of the event. Another big festival is the Byron Bay Bluesfest, held each year over the long Easter weekend in Byron Bay, New South Wales. It has been held since 1990 growing from attracting audiences of 6000, to today’s numbers of around 101,000 over the 5 days. The seven stages support the 200 performers with the national and international acts covering both blues and roots music genres. The festival is a huge family event with over a 100 food and market stalls. The 120-hectare sight gives ample space for those who wish to camp.

Sport and music coming together at Barunga

The Barunga Festival is held each year in the Katherine region of the Northern Territories, and celebrates the best of remote indigenous Australia. This small remote camp attracts 4000 visitors each year over the 3-day festival and has been running since 1985. The event celebrates the music, sports, traditional arts and cultural activities that are found in the area and concentrates of the positive aspects of community life in the region. In 1988 the festival was visited by the then prime minister Bob Hawke. He was presented with the 1988 statement from the indigenous people, written on bark that requested compensation for land loss, respect for Aboriginal identity and demanding an end to all forms of discrimination. For a country to have a strong festival programme it needs a strong cultural history. The Aboriginal people are among the oldest people on earth and gives the Australian nation a strong background in terms of its cultural past.

In this environment it is hardly surprising that festivals flourish. It is important that the younger generation of a nation is given the right balance between being entertained by modern day performers, while always being aware of their cultural past.