2017 was another hugely successful year for the annual Port Fairy Folk Festival. The March long weekend event commenced early Friday evening with a powerful and moving Opening Ceremony, paying respect to the traditional owners of the land, the Peek Whirring people. From there, stages across the sold out festival arena and venues throughout the Port Fairy township came alive with performances by over 100 acts from across the world. Crowds of over 15,000 reveled in the atmosphere, the sun shone, the rain fell, people danced to everything from Tash Sultana to Paul Kelly, from Eddi Reader to The Young Folk.
Wrapping up her Port Fairy programming debut, Program Director Caroline Moore says “What a wonderful weekend! I feel so privileged to have the honour of working on this festival. All of the artists embraced the event, and the very special Port Fairy audience delighted in their talents. Thank you to everyone who make this festival so special.”
The festival’s founding Director Jamie McKew’s legacy continues this year with a partnership program with Calgary Folk Festival, in which mid career artists from both Australia and Canada will be invited to partake in an exchange performance – a nod to the strong bond forged over the years between the two festivals. There were tributes in more ways than one too, with the sudden passing of this year’s scheduled singer-songwriter Danny Spooner, whose slots were turned into beautiful in-memoriam performances.
Themed concerts proved extremely popular, with huge gatherings for Van Morrison’s Masterpieces presented by Vince Jones and the Astral Orchestra, It’s Got To Come From The Heart: Songs That Strike A Chord with Don Walker, Melody Pool, Charles Jenkins, Gretta Ray and Boo Hewerdine, Women in Song (Aoife Scott, Christine Collister, Deborah Conway, Jessie Lloyd, Martha Tilston and Mel Parsons), and the annual The Guitarists round robin hosted by Nick Charles.
Brian Nankervis and his RocKwiz Orchestra took to the podium of a packed Stage 3 to introduce the music extravaganza, The Last Waltz Revisited. A who’s who of guest performers including Tim Rogers, Tex Perkins, Marlon Williams, Eddi Reader, Vince Jones and soul sisters Vika and Linda Bull took turns to sing the songs of legendary supergroup, The Band. With a repertoire of hits from the likes of Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Ronnie Hawkins, Joni Mitchell, Neil Diamond, Emmylou Harris, Muddy Waters and Eric Clapton, the crowd went wild.
The Big Sunday Sing Out with Jimi Hocking in the beer-soaked Shebeen tent was a full house again, with keen crowds belting out covers of ‘The Time Warp’ and ‘Better Be Home Soon’ among many other classics.
Hats off to the Port Fairy Folk Festival Committee who this year were honoured with the Premier’s Volunteer Champion Award for Teamwork for Regional and Rural Victoria, and to the whole community of Port Fairy who pull together in great numbers to make this one of the best festival experiences in Australia.
It was a line-up to suit people of all ages and interests, with crafts and circus performers for the kids, and instrument workshops and in conversations for the adults. Once again, bravo Port Fairy for another stellar weekend!
Port Fairy Folk Festival will be back in 2018 on Labour Day Long Weekend, Friday 9 – Monday 12 March.
Further info at www.portfairyfolkfestival.com
Tash Sultana by David Harris Photography