Our folk community has been united in grief (Feb ’21) with the passing of two of its much-loved: folk organiser and raconteur, “Mr Merry Muse” Bill Arnett aka Billy Folkus; and, musician, singer, songwriter, debater and parodist John Thompson. Each has, in his own inimitable way, touched the lives of many across the folk world leaving an indelible impression.
Bill Arnett aka Billy Folkus (above left) has been a pivotal figure in the folk scene and a long-time supporter of folk. Well known to performers and audiences alike through venues he ran such as the Merry Muse and the Folkus Room, many will remember him as the tutu clad head honcho of the Merry Muse blackboard especially in those years at the National Folk Festival. Bill was a great supporter of young musicians when they took to the stage and of musicians’ rights. His catchphrase was always there are no strangers here, just friends you haven’t yet met. A truly unique character he was wonderfully crazy and a pillar of the folk scene. Vale Bill Arnett
From his early involvement in the Brisbane folk scene in 1983 to his first gig in 1994 at the National Folk Festival where he received the inaugural Lis Johnson Memorial Award for vocal excellence and, on to taking up full-time performing in 2003 John Thompson (above right) has carved a niche as one of Australia’s best known, loved and highly regarded practitioners of folk.
John is best known for his work with Cloudstreet which he formed with partner Nicole Murray (later a trio with Emma Nixon). Eight trips to the UK and performances around the globe including Japan, USA, New Zealand, Denmark, Morocco and Germany as well as at folk festivals and clubs around Australia has seen Cloudstreet become a household name in folk. In 2012, John was invited to join the Australian tour of War Horse playing the role of the Song Man from December 2012 to the conclusion of the tour in August, 2013. Another accolade in a distinguished career. Vale John Thompson
We’ll leave you with The Green Man from Cloudstreet’s CD Swallow the Concertina