There is something very special about Port Fairy Folk Festival

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There is something very special about Port Fairy Folk Festival

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Words by Staff Writer

Much has changed since 1977 when the first festival ran off the back of a truck by the river Moyne.

With the 50th anniversary fast approaching those early Geelong Folk Club members wouldn’t recognise today’s event. The quiet seaside town near Killarney in the Shire of Belfast where now short-stay accommodation, gourmet coffee roasters and day spas dominate the streetscape.

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Yet the mystical, alchemic mix of the artists, their stories, the punters (from five to eighty-five),  the chronically cheerful volunteers (many of whom are community people) and the professional organisation always combine for something special.

Port Fairy Folk Festival always boasts superb headline acts. A trio of Gen Z’ers were rudely interrupted from their screens at Graham Nash and were a bit confused that everyone at the venue was singing along with all the words so they Googled the artist. The dual Rock and Roll Hall of Famer brought updated lyrics to his and his collaborator’s classic songs of love, protest, loss and the environment. As his show progressed his voice warmed and you could tell the stage was the only place he belonged – a festival highlight.  Another true highlight was hearing the sublime voice of Judy Collins interpreting some of the greatest songs of the last 60 years while reminiscing about her first visit to Australia 58 years ago and this was her first in ten years.

We all felt for the performers under the lights in the heatwave conditions. Ralph McTell was literally melting on the Island Stage with songs from the canals of England and the cold streets of London. Luka Bloom, who renamed the COVID lockdown ‘The Long Pause’, rediscovered his love of his home in rural Ireland and his passion for the guitar. His excitement about being here was infectious.

Other highlights included Julz Parker’s virtuoso playing at the testosterone-rich  ‘Guitarists’ concert, and the estrogen-rich Women Out Loud Concert. Uncle Roger Knox’s songs from his country and his people, the energy of Norwegians Gangar, Ontarian Cat Clyde’s haunting voice and tenor guitar and all the stories local and elsewhere flowed through the whole weekend.

The Poets Breakfast, the impromptu music sessions in the pubs and the Wine Tent are all long gone but there is still something so special about this festival. It can’t be too bad when at the end of the weekend you feel you missed out on quite a bit, despite experiencing so much.

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