Maldon Folk Festival



Rollicking Maldon Folk Festival

by Peter James Dawson

TN160 Dec 23

There is something special about festivals that utilise public facilities like community halls, churches, cafes and pubs for venues, as Maldon has done since 1974 when it was first staged on the footy oval.

From November 3-6, the 48th Maldon Folk Festival (MFF) was held on the land of the Dja Dja Wurrung and lived up to its philosophy of, “Gratitude in the sharing of this land, our sorrow for the personal, spiritual and cultural costs of that sharing and our hope that we may walk forward together in harmony and in the spirit of healing.”

Castlemaine’s Uncle Rick Nelson conducted the Djaara welcome to country at the Progress Hall to launch the festivities.

The weather was a blessing on the four-day event, and festivalgoers were able to enjoy the music and a Burke & Wills wine at the outdoor Troubadour venue, as well as shows in the various historic buildings, Maldon Hotel, Progress Hall, Neighbourhood Centre, Anglican Church and the Vintage Machinery Museum.

The Troubadour is named after the folk club that Andrew Pattison ran in Melbourne from 1978 to 1988, with the open-air wine bar being a feature of several festivals around the country since it was established at the Port Fairy Folk Festival in 1992.

With Andrew as MC and his partner, Heather McCormack, running the bar, it was the most popular venue by far.

Kavisha Mazzella, who calls Mount Alexander Shire her second home, kicked off the festival with a very entertaining solo performance at the Neighbourhood Centre.

Having been given the 2023 Lifetime Contribution Award by Folk Alliance Australia for championing cultural diversity in the folk music scene in October, Kavisha was in fine form singing from her original repertoire and traditional Italian songs.

This award should sit nicely beside the ARIA award for her 1998 album, Fisherman’s Daughter, and the four awards from the Western Australian Music Industry Association.

Kavisha was able to finally launch her 2020 album, Empty Sky, a collection of sacred songs and chants, recorded with multi-instrumentalist, Nicolas Lyon.

She was joined by Nic and guitarist-bouzouki player, Jack Norton, for her final gig on Monday at the Troubadour.

Glenn Skuthorpe, a First Nations artist who had brought a crackerjack band, including Sonia Smith, over from Adelaide, had the audience rocking at the pub.

He also performed solo and conducted a fascinating songwriting workshop.

Monday morning saw Glenn join Jen Lush, Katankin and visiting American, George Mann, on the Troubadour stage for a Round Robin session.

Andrew provided challenges to the musicians to play the first song they had written and similar questions, but Glenn said it was too early to think and decided on a poignant piece about WW2 soldier, “Digger Murphy” and his plight of being an Aboriginal and not being welcome in the R.S.Ls, although his love for Irish lass, Delores, shone through, albeit forlorn.

Women musicians were well featured, including the 20 year-old Kayla Thomas, whose sweet young voice entranced the crowd at her one and only set, as did Maggie Rigby, who hails from the very musical Rigby family.

Other youngsters making an impression were Lucy Parle, Sylvie Rigby and 2022 Roddy Read award winner, Cate Taylor.

Double bassist, Liz Frencham, had been convinced to perform by MFF’s Pam Lyons, as she had decided against applying for festivals this season.

Her devoted fans were very glad she did and Liz told the crowd she had survived the depredations of Covid by a series of streamed shows from home.

Her smiling face and consummate bass playing accentuated Liz’s intimate and personal ditties.

Katankin (Helen Catanchin) played numbers off her debut EP, The Quiet Shimmer of the World; her delicate guitar style and emotive compositions sung in a soaring voice.

A major discovery for me was South Australia’s Jen Lush, whose subtle melodies wound around the poems of several friends, which were taken from her debut solo album, The Night’s Insomnia.

Birds feature often in Jen’s songs, with her most recent offering entitled, ‘Let Loose The Beating Birds’ and ‘The Seagull’, a somewhat traumatic tale of a 15-year-old Jen seeing a stone throwing boy callously killing a seagull.

Musically bouncing off her excellent accompanists, Jen wove a captivating song tapestry, sans P.A. in the Anglican Church, where the acoustics were superb.

Twin sisters, Alanna and Alicia were in their element as the church’s high pitched roof allowed their sweet harmonies to ascend the heavens.

Greg Champion and Gina Jeffreys brought a country feel to the festival, while Lloyd Spiegel played some fiery blues guitar.

Showing off her skill as a drummer, as well as a singer, Jo Jo Smith joined Tracey Roberts for performances of folk tinged with jazz, blues, soul, funk and Latin; the songs introduced with a jest or two.

The Return To The Sixties Folk Club Show saw Rod McCormack, Khristian Mizzi and Greg Champion covering classic favourites of the era.

New Yorker George Mann said “Stories and songs about real events and the struggle for a better life,” are grist for his musical mill.

He also introduced songs about his work with seniors and veterans’ groups with whom he has a great rapport and feels that music is therapy for them.

Other American visitors, Dittyville (Erynn Marshall and Carl Jones) are self-confessed old time musicians who combined song-duets with vigorous fiddle, guitar, mandolin and banjo tunes.

Paul Wookey is an old hand who started off at Frank Traynor’s jazz and folk club in the 1970s and has gone on to be a stalwart at virtually every festival going.

His flat-picking acoustic guitar style carrying his original songs from two albums released in recent years, along with interpretations of crowd favourites, Paul was a great favourite with his long time fans.

Claymore is a band of world travellers that fuses traditional Scottish and Irish melodies with contemporary original Celtic rock, thereby enthralling young and old with their diverse styles.

Although festival artists and audience seemed to be aging somewhat these days, 19-Twenty was a trio aimed at a younger audience with its power packed performance.

Maldon Folk Festival 2022 Minstrel award winner, Anita Hensen, performed with her trio JAM Trees.

Duos were popular with Shona Williams & Phil Lester, Valley Road (Rebecca Jane Howell & Marty McKenna) and The Raglins, bringing a modern touch to the traditional.

So much to see, I only caught a glimpse of the rest of the eclectic line up, which included singer-songwriters, Rod McCormack, Hannah Schmidli, Pete Titchener, Christina Green, Fiona Ross, Karlo Arcinue, Riley Catherall, comedians Rob Barratt, Geoffrey W Graham and Eric Purdie, Rhiz & The Sugarplums, Play It Martha (Patrick Evans & Cora Browne), plus Mick Coates was back with his perennial Johnny Cash show.

There were also jam sessions, comedy and music workshops, Andy Rigby’s Harpers Bizarre and Kyneton Street Band, Morris dancers, Campbell the Swaggie and The Connected Circus for kids.

For the 48th family-oriented MFF over the past 50 years it was success all the way!


Folk music returns to Maldon in a big way

by written by Mandy Connell and Andrew Pattison

Published in T&N 151 October 2022


The Maldon Folk Festival is back for its 47th year!

Four days of live music and workshops (Oct 28-31) offer something for everyone.

Quality folk, bluegrass, a little jazz, and a little blues music, and dance and interactive workshops at affordable prices, to suit all age groups.

All venues are walking distance from the centre of town and have access for people with a disability.

The festival has an intimacy engendered by its setting in the National Trust classified town.

The smaller venues allow you to feel connected with the performers and then you can bump into them and have a chat sitting in the cafes in the main street.

Held on Dja Dja Wurrung Country, the festival returns after a hiatus of two years and is looking forward to welcoming diverse audiences from across Mt Alexander Shire and beyond.

Bush tunes, Bluegrass, Scottish Ballads, and much more are on offer, interspersed with workshops and kid’s entertainment.

The festival opens with a Welcome to Country at the brand-new space at the Old Bank Corner in the centre of town.

This year performers include Albi & The Wolves from NZ, The Weeping Willows, Rich Davies and the Low Road, Margaret and Bob Fagan, Khristian Mizzi, South Australia’s Loren Kate and Kaurna Cronin, Mutawintji’s Park Ranger Leroy Johnson, the legendary Maldon local Mick Coates and the Shallow Grave Diggers and of course festival favourites, Claymore.

Once held at Butts Reserve National Park, the events are now all held in town, although camping remains available at no charge at the reserve, courtesy of Parks Victoria.

Powered and unpowered campsites are available at the Football oval in town.

Like any long running event, Maldon Folk Festival has developed its own traditions and communities, and has an organic spirit which can only come from the long involvement of the wider community.

The necessary relocation of the festival from the Reserve back into the town has met with mixed feelings in the folky community, the increased accessibility of the venues and facilities has compensated for the nostalgia of the Butts Reserve stages and increased traffic for local businesses, strengthening local’s relationship with the event and boosting the town’s involvement in music and events throughout the year.

Of course, the Kangaroo Hotel has always been famous for its packed and lively traditional music sessions (all welcome) and the Maldon Hotel is a favourite for its bistro stage, especially on the final Monday night.

Festival Choir, Irish Dancers, Gospel, Poetry, and Instrument Makers displays pack out a full program, and on your way between venues, or lunch in one of the many cafes, you might spot Campbell the Swaggie.

Campbell is probably the most photographed personality in all of Australia’s folk festival history, and, a genuine Swaggie, he is the son of a Maori Princess and a Scottish adventurer.

He was a huge fan of The Bushwackers and when he retired from his day job because of problems with his hands, he took to the road following the band, and he has lived on the road ever since, hitching from festival to festival where he is a renowned reciter.

Since 1974, the festival has hosted some of the best acts in the scene, and prides itself on the welcoming atmosphere it creates.

Today, it is still one of the most affordable events of its kind in Australia, and fosters the careers of local and emerging artists (Sadie Mustoe, Hannah Schmidli) alongside acts like Michael Waugh (Golden Guitar Winner 2022), Greg Champion, and Charm of Finches (2021 Best Folk Act).

With the return of programming, the festival is keen to welcome back its beloved folk community and to welcome a new diverse audience from the growing Mt Alexander and Bendigo regions, and beyond.

Andrew Pattison still hosts the famous Troubadour venue, which first came to Maldon in 1995, and as well as being a very dedicated ‘listening’ venue, it is a boutique wine bar, and Andrew claims that the one good thing he has done in his life is to introduce quality wine to folk festivals!

The Troubadour regulars would add that there is something uniquely special about the atmosphere in The Troubadour, which is up close and intimate, and reverential towards the performers.

Consequently, the venue is a performers’ favourite and if you park yourself in The Troubadour for the entire festival almost all of the top performers will come through at some stage.


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