The National Folk Festival is an Australian family-oriented celebration attended by over 50,000 people.
Winner of the National Qantas Australian Tourism Award for Best Festival in 2009, it features over 20 stages with vibrant world-class artists, 'blackboard' opportunities, workshops, craft, themed bars and cafes and delectable food. The festival is staged at Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC) every Easter from Easter Thursday - Easter Monday.
The festival was first held in Melbourne in 1967. - initiated by The Victorian Folk Music Club, The Monash Traditional Music Society, the Burwood Teachers Folk Club and performers Martin Wyndham Reed and Glen Tomasetti, it was inspired by the Newport Folk Festival in the United States. From 1969 until 1991 the festival traveled interstate each year. It was hosted at least once in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Canberra, Brisbane, Fremantle, Alice Springs, Perth, Kuranda and Maleny. The increasing size of the festival made it harder for the hosting states to organise the festival every year, so since 1992 the festival has been held each year in Canberra, with a 'feature state' on the program - providing increased performance opportunities for artists from that state.
The Festival takes place at Exhibition Park in Canberra, which for the duration resembles a small, vibrant and colourful village full of music and dance venues, cafes, themed bars and stalls, as well as a unique 'Community Arts' area for demonstrating and workshopping a range of arts disciplines, as well as the 'Tradition Bearers' demonstration area where visitors can view the making of a range of Australian craft and purchase unique gifts. There is a traditional Stockman's Camp that resembles an archetypal bush scenario with authentic performances and delectable bush-style damper and stew and Billy Tea. Camping is provided adjacent to the Festival grounds for up to 5,000 people. In 2011 the event was attended by approx 50,000 people. Upwards of twelve hundred volunteers make the festival possible.
The festival has over 100 concerts, a film festival, numerous impromptu street performances, workshops on making, playing and repairing musical instruments, visual art, storytelling and poetry, and many dance workshops. There are at least 60 craft stalls, 30+ food vendors and 4 delightfully themed bars with dedicated restaurant areas. For the 5 days of the festival, there is also an almost continuous Session in the world-famous "Session Bar", known as the 'London Underground' of folk music, that only stops briefly due to alcohol licence restrictions in the early morning and kicks off again in mid morning for another round the clock session of music and culture.
International and Australian performers are featured, with the organisers firmly committed to representing the full spectrum of folk/ethnic/Indigenous music.
The festival has an exciting Opening and Closing Concert in the 3,000 seat Budawang Pavilion - and every night the festival has a grand dance, starting with a Scottish Ball on the Friday night, an Irish Ceili on the Saturday, and an Australian Colonial Ball on the Sunday night - as well as a colourful range of diverse dance styles including Latin, tango, flamenco and contra dance.
The National Folk Festival features several large permanent indoor venues where concert-goers can enjoy music and performances in all weather conditions.
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