The Nash: Our Big Annual Folk Get-together

by | Apr 5, 2024 | Industry News, Reviews

2024 National Folk Festival – A Snapshot. 

With many music festivals, folk and otherwise on a precipice and indeed, with some having already slipped into the abyss, it was a sheer delight to be in Canberra for the 2024 National Folk Festival. Autumn in Canberra can be fickle but this year’s festival was blessed with exceptional weather casting a golden glow over all. The National is our big, annual folk get-together and this year did not disappoint.

If Thursday night seemed a little quiet, the early Easter sunshine over the four day weekend brought out the crowds and, as they grew so did the vibe around the entertainment zone creating a great feeling of community as people soaked up the atmosphere, connected with old friends and settled in to enjoy the great diversity of music and activities on offer.

Here’s a familiar face!

One of the National’s great points of difference is its ability to operate seamlessly on a number of levels, particularly the opportunities it provides for attendees to get hands-on with folk and connect with other musicians and artists. From Aisling Lyons (below LH side) teaching the Festival Squeezeboxes, to Workshops, the Festival Choir, Dancing and more there was certainly no shortage of ways to participate. It was also pleasing to see the number of younger performers on the program, exciting, emerging young artists like the award winning Felicity Dowd (below RH side), the dynamic Homebru from Tassie with their fresh take on Celtic folk who set the Marquee off with their driving rhythms in a surprise Sunday concert, and the young kids from Victoria, Ceoltóirí Naarm who seemed to be everywhere from their various programmed stages to the festival streets. They are all part of a contingent of young folk, a new generation of feisty troubadours making their mark on the scene and broadening the “folk” experience.


Aisling Lyons  (IRE) and Festival Squeezeboxes; Felicity Dowd.

One of the exciting things about folk festivals is that you go with a spirit of adventure to discover new acts that you’ve not heard before. Windborne (below LH side) with their exquisite harmonies and blending of voices was one such act. Ellery String Quartet was also an act I hadn’t heard previously and this year’s Nash was also my first opportunity to hear the wonderful Melbourne based Ernest Aines. We’d been keen to book him for last year’s Sydney Folk Festival but just couldn’t make it work. There were also plenty of festival favourites; Fred Smith, Gina Williams and Guy Gouse, Crooked Fiddle Band and Tolka being just some of mine. I’m sure you have yours too. I also loved the Round Robin style concerts. Not a new idea by any means but there was an innovative approach to these that I really enjoyed and Sunday morning’s Queer Folk Round Robin received a standing ovation. Then, there’s always a standout performer and for me it was Grace Petrie. What a powerhouse. A protest singer-songwriter, witty, insightful and highly entertaining, Grace Petrie exemplifies what has always been a core platform of the folk movement. Wow!


Windborne (USA); Grace Petrie (ENG) New Album – Build Something Better

With such an extensive program and diverse line-up it’s difficult to single out artists and program elements and there are many more that deserve a mention. Scott Cook, Hairy Man, The Maes, David Bridie, Kim YangRadical Son, The Lost Quays… Phew! And the list goes on and I’ve barely scratched the surface. Program aside though, it’s just nice to be around the festival site and watch it come to life in a riot of colour and sound. I also spent a lot of time, mostly in the Bohemia courtyard, just catching up with friends I probably won’t see again for another year.

After the COVID interruption, a difficult 2022 event and a 2023 festival that was very much about rebuilding and re-engaging with the community, the 2024 National really did feel like a new beginning; new management under Heidi Pritchard and a new artistic team who were not only able to articulate their vision of Excellence, Inclusion, Integration and Sustainability (p7 of your festival program) but lived up to it in their programming, providing many opportunities for voices to be heard in different contexts.

The 2024 National Folk Festival certainly was our common ground for coming together to connect, create and celebrate all things folk and, has laid down solid foundations on which to build and grow over the coming years. A huge thank you to Heidi Pritchard and her team (staff and volunteers) for making it all possible and here’s looking forward to 2025.

Note: This is just a snapshot of my 2024 NFF and I’m sure my festival will most certainly have been a different one to yours. If you’d like to share your National Folk Festival experiences please use the comments section below.

1 Comment

  1. Dallas Baxter

    We went to the Nash with low expectations, given our favoured Celtic artists were performing elsewhere, however we had another marvellous 5 days ! The Spooky Men ( when you could get in the door) were as good as ever, Ellery String Quartet played wonderfully, and Windborne were simply beautiful every set. The Lost Quays shantymen were great fun and did an unscheduled outdoor show on Monday ! The 80s Folk was terrific fun with the packed tent singing the choruses ( those were the Days My Friend indeed ) and a particularly moving experience was the Sydney Women’s Vocal Orchestra paying tribute to the WW2 nurses who created the original score while imprisoned. Great stuff !


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