Home' Rhythms Magazine : 2016 Jan-Feb Contents pin drop.
Of all the concerts that have adorned past
festivals which ones stand out?
BH: My favourite festival moment was actually at
Bluesfest seeing Paul Simon in a wonderful concert.
When the audience joined in with ‘lie lie lie’ it was
such an incredibly moving experience.
JM: A few years ago, Archie Roach walked onto Stage
1 at PFFF, having just driven all the way from South
Australia exhausted from farewell ceremonies for his
beloved partner, Ruby Hunter. He gently shared his
thoughts of her, the way of traditional ceremonials,
the inspiration she was behind almost every next
song. As he sang, his exhaustion rose from a whisper
to a whole-hearted beautiful singing. The most quiet and
open-hearted audience were so with him, every moment.
There can never be a finer hour of singing, hearing and
healing and never a finer artist so true to his muse, culture
and life partner as was Archie that afternoon. Also Port Fairy
Gardens in 1977 and a band called Poteen ripping out tunes
on the tray of a truck. 1982, from Scotland, the amazing Boys
Of The Lough stroll on stage to a full house and rip out the
most high-spirited sets of reels I’ve never heard matched.
IS: Lo’Jo performing amidst the trees of Botanic Park
amidst a Carabosse fire sculpture in 2005, following Kronos
Quartet’s stunning encore performance – in the style of Jimi
Hendrix – of the ‘Star Spangled Banner ’.
PM: Up until this year my favourite National Folk Festivals
were 1979 (Melbourne) and 2010. I played in ‘79 with my
band The Rum Culls and it was one of my best experiences
there as a performer, and 2010 was simply a great program.
But, I really did especially like the 2015 National.
Is there any validity in the criticism that festival directors
and their program coordinators tend to be overly
conservative in their approach, booking the “same old
names” and taking insufficient chances with emerging
BH: There’s no validity whatsoever. There’s plenty of
emerging acts on most festival programs. Festival Directors
and Programmers primarily have the interests in the success
of their event. To do otherwise and take undue risk would be
a dereliction of duty. It’s hard to survive and many festivals
don’t. Festival programming is not for the meek and criticism
of this type doesn’t help.
JM: Who said that? Well... if such people are around, I’m
happy to receive an invitation to attend their festival so I
might get an idea of how to get it right. But after only 40
years at it I know there’s a way to go and much to learn.
IS: We don’t see that as justified. Ultimately any festival
needs to find a workable balance between known and
less known artists, unless it is a festival purely about the
emerging artist. We avoid repeating artists over consecutive
years and generally take a break of several years before
bringing artists back and we work to have a balance of light
and shade in our programming, with a focus on ‘discovering
the unknown’. Indeed the history of WOMAD festivals has
always been about introducing audiences to unknown
PM: I’m very keen on a broad and diverse definition of ‘folk’.
I like that it offers an alternative to the mainstream and I
try to balance my programs with a good dose of new and
emerging acts. The National has a reputation for having
started the careers of many performers over the years. It’s
great that it can offer stages for these acts to showcase what
they do and, to act as a springboard for future music careers.
I get a lot of comments from people who are pleasantly
surprised by the quality of the lesser-known acts. I’d like
to think that people will come to the festival knowing that
we’ll serve up a great program, come with an open mind to
discover something new and exciting. Of course, people
like their favourites and these days it’s also important to
have your headliners so it’s a matter of balance. I’m also very
aware of the responsibility to a wider community of people
and the expectation they place on this festival while still
ensuring a viable and sustainable event that will last for the
next 50 years.
Finally, what plans/visions do you have for future
BH: Just staying in the game and responding to all the
pressures out there means we have to keep changing.
Generational changes happen quicker with new
technologies and keeping relevant is an annual adjustment.
I’d love to see Woodfordia mature as a really beautiful
venue that could play host to a good number of events that
individually create and nurture culture, artistry and learning.
JM: This will be my last festival as I draw a breath to jump
off this marvelous merry-go-round and see a new Program
Director take up the role for the post-40th era.
IS: WOMADelaide has become a joyous occasion where
artists and audiences can experience the sense that they are
part of a wider, kinder, more thoughtful world than our day-
to-day lives might allow us to believe – which is a great and
humbling thing to be a part of. What’s not to like?
PM: Let’s get through the 50th and I will let you
AUTHOR TONY HILLIER
WOMAD AERIAL VIEW
VERSION IS IN THE
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