Kangaroo Valley had it all
by Cec Bucello
Published in T&N 152 November 2022
What makes a perfect festival?
Have you ever wondered why you enjoy some festivals more than others?
There are so many things that organisers do to try and make a festival perfect that you need a checklist to see how each one fares, particularly as outdoor events are so vulnerable to the weather.
Having just returned from the Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival (KVFF) in South East NSW and thinking about how enjoyable that was, I am asking myself why.
To me, the music is the main thing.
Did I enjoy a performance and would I want to see that same act again, ideally playing different material, at the same festival.
The more such acts there are at a festival, the better it is of course.
Kangaroo Valley had many such acts.
One I saw three times!!!
While I certainly didn’t get to see every act, for me, the stand out acts at the KVFF were, in no particular order, Fred Smith, Bromham, We Mavericks, Alanna and Alicia, Sarah and Silas, The Beez duo, Montgomery Church, The Decideds, Kerryn Fields, Mic Conway & Robbie Long, Equus, Nerds & Music and last but not least, White Top Mountaineers.
The next factor is the venues and the quality of sound at those venues.
Again, at KVFF, at every venue bar one, I was always able to get in and get a seat, albeit sometimes at the very back or side and none were too big to dwarf the act.
The only venue that was far too small for some acts was, as the name suggests, Le Petite Grande.
The sound was perfect at all venues.
One act, Bromham from South Australia, had 12 members with 13 different instruments and five vocals all lined in simultaneously, and often all playing and singing simultaneously and although it was close to sensory overload, I could hear and identify each instrument and voice.
After that, it’s the weather, over which the organisers have no control.
At KVFF, even though there was flooding happening not too far away, the weather was perfect.
The ground was a bit soft and organisers had to place gravel in the high traffic areas in venues, but other than that, a bit wet, but no problems.
One of the areas that was normally used for parking for day trippers was closed because of the soft surface and many that came in needed to park on the main road and walk some distance, but that was not too much of a problem.
After that could come a number of boxes to tick such as the bar, the atmosphere, the dance and poetry programs, decorations, volunteers, workshops, children’s entertainment, indigenous involvement, good company, toilets.
KVFF had them all well and truly covered.
There were lots of singing and playing sessions in the enclosed bar area.
Morris dancers added greatly to the atmosphere of music coming from all venues, not too loud mostly, but enough to be heard as a background.
The dance program ran throughout the festival and covered the full gamut of dance styles, all with live music.
The hall has a good dance floor, an asset so often not available at other festivals.
The poetry is always far too early in the day for me, but as far as I could tell, that aspect was well covered with readings, slams etc.
There were decorations aplenty making what would normally be a very dull looking showground very attractive and inviting from the outside and each venue had interesting backdrops to the stage area and stages were high enough for seated patrons to be able to see performers.
Workshops ran throughout the weekend and there were some unusual topics covered by some different presenters, making the selection quite interesting and well attended.
All of the volunteers that I communicated with, without exception, were very helpful and welcoming.
I didn’t have any children there so I can’t comment on their entertainment program but the Koori Camp had lots going on all weekend.
There were plenty of portable toilets in place and I had lots of friends there, most of whom volunteered, to ensure that the extra touch of good company was there for the entire three days.
Then, as a bonus particular to KVFF, is the location, being in a spectacular valley with beautiful views whichever way you look.
What more could I want?
Well, seeing that you ask, the only thing missing was that my band wasn’t booked to perform this year, and again, I took instruments with me that didn’t come out of their case, as there was so much else to do.
The festival organisers at KVFF have been doing this for 15 years, with many of the key organisers still there for much of that time, so they are well experienced in what they are doing.
Nevertheless to get it all so right is still quite an achievement and deserves rewarding.
Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival is back with more
by Julie Ward
Published in T&N151 October 2022
On many levels, 2020 and 2021 will be known as a double leap year, when life was put on pause and we now pick up where we left off.
Such is the case for the Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival, which returns with a traditional three day format from October 14-16.
It’s a comeback event that promises to be bigger and better than ever, with the line-up featuring old favourites and new, performers who have been on standby waiting for the return of live music.
Haven’t we all?
“I’ve been excited about this line-up for the past two years and now and finally, we get to stage the event, our 15th festival”, said Festival Director, Stuart Leslie.
“Kangaroo Valley is such a popular destination and the artists love being part of the festival, but I think the enforced hiatus will take it to a whole other level.
“Audiences can expect an absolutely bumper weekend of entertainment from performers like 19Twenty, The Bushwackers, Mic Conway and Robbie Long, Fiona Ross & Shane O’Mara, Fred Smith, Benji and the Saltwater Sound System, Kerryn Fields, We Mavericks, Jane And The Rain, Bromham and a whole lot more.”
With borders now open, the White Top Mountaineers will make their KV debut along with another returning offshore favourite, George Mann.
Alongside an eclectic range of music performances, poetry and dance also take the stage and audiences of all ages are encouraged to join in.
The daily Poet’s Breakfast is hosted by multi award winning performance poets Robyn Sykes and Peter Mace, and walk-ups by amateur poets are welcomed.
When it comes to dance, the line-up this year is a veritable step-ball-change around the world and another great chance to get up off your seat.
Margaret & Bill Winnett head up the Sydney Irish Ceili Dancers and have taught dance workshops up and down the eastern seaboard at numerous festivals for many years.
If hip swinging is more your thing than a highland fling, Sapphire Tribal Bellydance from the Far South Coast of NSW have channelled the original gypsies of Egypt and are bringing it to our Valley.
Founder and Artistic Director, Nicole Stenlakje, promises colourful and elaborate costumes with lots of variety, with props including skirts, shawl, fan, finger cymbals and swords.
Macedonian Dance, Scottish Country, Nordic Folk and good old fashion Aussie bush dancing will complete the offering and give a good reason to head to the bar for a refreshing drink.
Koori Camp will return in 2022 with talented Didge/Yidaki player Riley Nolan taking a key role.
Riley will be pulling together and sharing culture and ceremony with workshops in Bush Tucker, Didge playing, indigenous weaving and more.
The website has the full line-up of performers and links to their music, along with a curated Spotify playlist with a sample of them all.
The Folk Festival is a safe and friendly environment for the whole family and accompanied children under 12 are free.
With entertainment across some ten venues/stages in the Showground, and a vast array of food, drinks, arts and crafts, there really is something for everyone.
Tickets are available online only via the website www.kangaroovalleyfolkfestival.com.au
s, to get it all so right is still quite an achievement and deserves rewarding.