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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