Folk by the Sea festival in Kiama will this year contribute to The Voice referendum debate, as the festival returns to its pre-pandemic scale this September.
Organised by the long-running Illawarra Folk Club, the festival from 22-24 September will include performances from leading Indigenous artists as part of a Voice of First Nations Folk concert.
This will be a lead-in for the Australian Government’s referendum for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament to be held later in the year.
Festival artistic director David De Santi said First Nations performers had made an enormous contribution to Australian cultural life, including folk music, and the festival organising committee wanted to celebrate that.
“The referendum on the Voice to Parliament will be held after our festival, and so this is our contribution to the debate,” David said.
“The Illawarra Folk Club has always sought to showcase Indigenous performers at our events and feel that this year’s Voice feature will add a rich extra dimension to Folk by the Sea.”
The Voice concert will feature Aboriginal education company Gumaraa Aboriginal Experience, First Nations singer-songwriter Pirritu, and Microwave Jenny – an Indigenous pop/folk/jazz duo made up of Tessa Neku and Brendan Boney.
“We are proud to be celebrating Indigenous music and Indigenous culture at Folk by the Sea,” David said.
They will be part of the largest line-up the festival has seen since COVID began, with 35 acts performing in five venues in its traditional home the Kiama Showgrounds, the neighbouring Kiama Anglican Church and Kiama Bowling Club.
Melbourne-based Irish singer-songwriter Enda Kenny will head an eclectic program of folk, celtic, bluegrass, world music, sea shanties, comedy, poetry and folk dancing for the three-day festival.
The line-up also includes the award-winning duo of Lindsay Martin and Victoria Vigenser, performing as We Mavericks.
The Illawarra will be represented by Wollongong’s own Con Artist and Kiama favourites Cha Cha Del Mar, and The Water Runners with their songs of the South Coast.
The Water Runners member John Littrich said people could expect to be taken on a musical journey through stories that range from tales of bushrangers and First Nations heroes, through to songs about love, life and the beautiful South Coast.
Littrich said the band was currently recording new material, including the song Murrumbidgee, which tells the story of Yarri, a Waradjuri man who bravely saved dozens of people from floodwaters in Gundagai in 1852.
“We do love to tell local stories including songs that tell stories about the traditional owners of this area,” he said.
“We don’t have any in these latest recordings but we do have others in the pipeline.
“They will add to other South Coast songs we’ve recorded like Minnamurra, South Coast Dreaming, Ocean, Woodhill Mountain, Jamberoo Mountain Blues and Take Me Home.”
He said the band was looking forward to returning to the hometown festival.
“We love the fact the festival is still relatively small, so you get to mingle with the audiences and other artists, some who have travelled long distances,” he said.
“Finally, you just can’t beat the beautiful location at Kiama Showground, right by the beach.”
This year’s Folk by the Sea will also see a large contingent of female artists, including Corn Nut Creek, Fly Little Sparrow, L J Parks, Sarah Humphreys, the sister trio Fallen Robins and the South Coast’s Felicity Dowd.
Dowd said it was great to see so many female artists on the bill.
“Obviously, a lot of women start a family and that’s traditionally taken them away from music,” she said.
“However, at the moment there’s a massive push, even in the country industry, with amazing organisations that are really working on getting more females to be out performing.
“The fact that Folk by the Sea has a strong female line-up is so exciting to see.
“It means there’s so much hope for female artists and young emerging female artists like myself to know that there’s opportunities on the horizon that we can take.”
Dowd said punters could expect a mix of country, folk and blues, which would include new music being released this month and her popular track Blue Skies, originally written about the 30 years of natural disasters, but released to coincide with the 2021 NSW bushfires as a way to give back to the community.
“If you haven’t been to a folk festival before, definitely try and get out because when I was younger I had never been to a folk festival ’til I went to Cobargo (Folk Festival),” she said.
“I was amazed and fell in love with it instantly.
“Even if you don’t expect to like it, you’ll always find an artist or something new that you’re going to love and be interested in.”
Folk by the Sea takes place at five venues in Kiama on 22-24 September 2023. Tickets are now on sale, with three-day passes and individual day/evening tickets available. Visit the website to find out more and to buy tickets.