To many, the idea of a Folk Festival suggests a weekend of banjo-backed bush dances, chai-sipping hippies and a diet of vegan friendly soy products. However you might be surprised by how much folk in Australia had changed, since hitting our shores in 1788.
Kangaroo Valley hosts an annual Folk Festival in the historic township, each October. The festival is a 3-day celebration of music, dance and art that brings together families, folk fanatics and lovers of music, from around New South Wales.
Rob Cleary is a retired High School teacher who is a veteran at Folk Festivals across the state. Illawarra, St. Albans, Corbargo and Canberra’s National Folk Festival, are just some of the events he attends each year. However when I had the chance to speak to Rob about the Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival (KVFF), it was clear that this is the event he is most passionate about.
Rob is member of KVFF’s ‘Organising Committee’, responsible for overseeing the organisation of the festival, as well as selecting the acts and planning the program prior to the event.
“Choosing is a really big process. We’ve got to make sure we choose acts that are suitable and choose things which are varied enough.”
“The Kangaroo Valley Festival has probably the most varied programs of the smaller festivals. We’ve got such a diverse group of people who are coming.”
Rob is just one of many who give up their time to work behind the scenes and make this event possible. Nerolie Barnes is a local member of the community who volunteered in the days leading up to the festival in order to set up and decorate the venues.
Like many Nerolie believes there is a hidden stigma surrounding folk music, which discourages people from attending events such as KVFF.
“Folk music is music for the people, from the people.”
And Rob agrees.
“Once you can get them in the gate, and they see what’s there, they’re surprised by what’s there.”
“I have a friend who has a saying about Folk Music when he’s trying to encourage people to come to a festival. He says – ‘Folk music: it’s not as bad as it sounds’.”
I had the pleasure of speaking to Rob in the lead up to the festival, and meet with Nerolie over the weekend, to discover ‘what is hidden’ at KVFF – the work behind the scenes and the perceptions surrounding folk music.
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