7 October 2023

Stellar line-up for long-running Illawarra Folk Festival expected to attract a new generation of folk fans

| Kellie O'Brien
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Illawarra Folk Festival Wallis Bird

Acclaimed Irish singer-songwriter Wallis Bird will perform at the Illawarra Folk Festival in January. Photo: Supplied.

A new generation of folk acts hopes to bring in younger punters to January’s long-running Illawarra Folk Festival, which boasts a stellar line-up of 87 international, national and local acts this January.

New festival director Cody Munro Moore, who is sharing the festival programming with long-time festival artistic director David De Santi, said the Illawarra Folk Club had a large artist selection team ranging in age from 80 to 30 years, which helped ensure a diverse line-up of demographics and genres on the bill for the 19-21 January festival at Bulli Showgrounds.

From a massive 500 applications, it has secured international acts like acclaimed Irish singer-songwriters Wallis Bird and Andy Irvine, young Scottish fiddle maestro Ryan Young and his countrymen, celebrated Celtic band Tannahill Weavers and the Scottish/Irish quartet Dallahan.

Nationally, the bill includes singer-songwriter Alana Wilkinson, and Indigenous performers the Stiff Gins, Jessie Lloyd and Pirritu.

“I am just really excited to see a lot of young performers come to the festival this year and a lot of young people to come and watch them as well,” Cody said.

“That’s not to say that young people haven’t enjoyed the festival in the past, but the festival is in its 37th year … and for it to really continue, we need young people not only enjoying the festival but also getting involved in what happens with the festival on the way up and the organisation of it.

“I think offering a space that caters for all ages, with a focus on growing the youth side of things, is a must for the whole organisation.”

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That is showcased through the bill, from Jordan Ireland, who wrote many of The Middle East’s songs, including the band’s signature track Blood, through to 91-year-old national treasure Ted Egan, who is one of Australia’s most highly regarded folk singers.

“Ted is someone I’m really excited to see,” Cody said.

“I think it’s really good for young people to see and perform within line-ups of older people as well, because it informs us of what’s come before us.

“I really am happy to have him on the line-up because he just has a lot of history of Australia and a lot of stories that he’s been able to retell to his beautiful songwriting.”

Cody’s own band, The Morning Star, which is an indie folk outfit influenced by the late 1960s folk rock and has gained airplay on Triple J and Double J, will be performing songs from its debut album “Songs of the Morning Star” released in March.

“We’re focusing on the folk side of things because our singer Ali Mollica, she’s 21, and I reckon one of the best songwriters coming through in the Illawarra region.”

Illawarra Folk Alana Wilkinson

Singer-songwriter Alana Wilkinson will be among the Australian acts to perform at the festival in Bulli. Photo: Supplied.

This will be Cody’s second year at the festival, having been in the audience in January this year for the first time.

“I grew up going to the Cobargo Folk Festival and went to the festival nearly every year until the age of 18 or 19,” he said.

“Since moving back to the Illawarra from Sydney, I’ve been putting on a lot of shows and I came across some people who said ‘Why don’t you come to the (Illawarra) Folk Festival meeting’ and then the first meeting I went to they said ‘All right, you’re the director’.

“I think if someone’s out there and they go, ‘You know what, the folk festival director is in his first year and he’s having such a good time, why not go along’, then I think it might get some people up off the couch that have never been before and to experience it themselves.”

Cody said it was a unique three-day experience of dance, song, poetry reading, food and art.

“If you go there and you camp for three days in Bulli, you might be from Bulli yourself, but when you walk out those gates after three days, you feel like you could have been somewhere completely different.

“Last festival when I went back home to Austinmer, I drove the 2 kilometres over the hill and I was like, ‘Wow, where were we for the weekend? That was just so awesome’.”

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David De Santi encouraged punters to get their tickets early, after restricting attendance to 2000 tickets this January, which sold out before the festival started.

“We have extended the 2024 festival to 2300 tickets, but with the amazing diversity of the line-up we expect to sell out again,” David said.

The annual festival will run from the evening of 19 January to 21 January with six stages featuring a traditional mix of folk, indie, world, roots, Celtic, Balkan and bluegrass music, poetry, dance and comedy, as well as the one-day festival Folk School.

View the full festival line-up and book tickets on the website.

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