Our interview with the Director, Port Fairy Folk Festival – Caroline Moore
Port Fairy Folk Festival 2019
March 8 to 11
By Rob Dickens
It is looming. The 43rd Port Fairy Folk Festival will be kicking off in around six weeks and we though it a perfect time to chat with the Festival Director, Caroline Moore. Listening Through The Lens will be covering the event which has just been cited as one of the best festivals in the world.
Also festival organisers have today announced the Festival of Small Halls will feature on opening night at the historic Lecture Hall, with Canada’s Juno Award-winning The Once, and John Flanagan, they will also be performing throughout the festival.
RD: Port Fairy Folk Festival is into its 43rd year. Do you hold the mantle of Australia’s longest-running music festival?
CM: Port Fairy is one of the longest running music festivals in Australia, but the National Folk Festival in Canberra has been running for over 50 years, so in comparison to them we are still a spring chicken! Jamie McKew, the Founding Director of Port Fairy Folk Festival, and my predecessor was at the helm for 40 festivals so that is quite amazing. This year will be my third festival that I have had the privilege of programming.
How much do you consider the local community and the history/tradition of the town contribute to the festival’s unique character and longevity?
Port Fairy Folk Festival has that certain je ne sais quoi, and it is the sum total of all of its parts; the community, the volunteers, the location, the artists, and the audience.
What would you say are the fundamental criteria for selecting artists to perform there? Musical diversity, mixing international with local performers, balancing drawing power with innovation? Others?
Quality is what it is all about, and the representation of folk music and storytelling of all cultures and traditions is what we aim to achieve with the program. We also love working with artists who are open to collaboration and have the capacity to push boundaries and challenge and inspire the audience and each other.
In recent years, the festival has sold out. Are you planning much the same presentation scale this year in terms of performance areas, number of sets? Any plans for expansion down the track to cater for the demand?
For 2019 there are still tickets available, and traditionally we do sell out closer to the event. We are not of the school of thought that bigger is better. We carefully juxtapose large and small venues, from the glorious Lecture Hall and St John’s Church, to the major purpose built stages in the Arena. Atmosphere for the artist and the audience is a priority, and expansion is not on the cards, but rather focussing on being better at what we do. It is extraordinary that we can create a recital style sensation in many of our venues, as well as have raucously fun venues as well. This year we are continuing to finesse what we have had in place with art and constantly with the view to improve access and the overall experience for all involved.
As well as the music there’s an abundance of local crafts and fine food at the festival, what can we expect to see this year in that space this year?
The stalls are just fabulous. This year we have more vegetarian and vegan options on offer in food, and with crafts and art there are just too many to note. I always get tempted and invariably come home with something that I just had to have. We have art and craft in the arena and the village.
Another stand-out feature of the festival is the Writers’ Program. This year’s gathering looks particularly strong. Can you explain how this was put together?
Thank you that is very kind. The Writers Program has been a long standing tradition of the Festival, and we put it together in a number of ways. Jim Haynes, OAM, works with a host of poets and writers to put together the great traditions of the festival such as the Poets Brawl and the Pat Glover Award as storytelling and poetry are great parts of the folk tradition. In addition to this I love exploring other writers for the program, so it really is just about putting your thinking cap on and asking if they are up for it. We are so excited to have Paul Livingston, Broderick Smith, Mary Coughlan and Benjamin Lindner, who will take us on historic and autobiographical journeys as a part of the program.
I love radio broadcast segments (live or delayed) at festivals – a terrific way to be introduced to new artists. I’ve particularly enjoyed them at Port Fairy because they are presented so well. Will there be some live broadcasts this year and can you provide any details?
Radio is just wonderful and you hit the nail on the head as it is a great way to… for want of a better word… share the love. This year we have a Saturday morning live broadcast from The Reardon Theatre with ABC Radio, which will feature Ralph McTell, Greta Stanley, Sharon Shannon, Oxo Cubans, Didirri, Liz Stringer, Rebetien, and The Weeping Willows. In addition to this our friends from Blues & Roots Radio Canada, will be recording and interviewing throughout the festival.
I’ve heard how good ‘Vandemonian Lags’ is? With an all-star cast and the fact that I don’t believe it has been performed many times, you must be thrilled to be presenting this gem?
It is just brilliant that we can present Vandemonian Lags at the festival. It was first performed as a part of Dark Mofo, in Tasmania, and has only been presented on this side of Bass Strait once before as a part of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival. So to be able to present it for the first time in Victoria is a great thrill. It will be performed on opening night and a second performance on the Sunday. I truly believe our audiences will just love it.
Tell us about The Port Fairy Folk Festival Committee. How large is it and how you coordinate all the many strands of events and programs, volunteers, Publicity, logistics, sound, stage production, artist support etc. it’s quite an achievement in itself, even before the first note is played!
The Port Fairy Folk Festival Committee are incredible and comprise 10 amazing people who volunteer their time all year round to present this event. Each of the committee then work with further volunteer groups in the delivery of their portfolios which include Construction, Friends of the Festival, Accommodation and Performer Liaison, Security and Safety, Amenities, Ticketing, Business, Marketing & Sponsorship, Visual Arts… you name it. … I am truly in awe of all of them as they drive this amazing event.
You have announced a partnership with Wannon Water to drastically reduce the use of single-use plastic water bottles at this year’s event. Tap water will be available throughout the Festival Arena. I have to applaud this move. The bottled water industry has always seemed an unnecessary development and then there’s the significant plastics disposal problem. Congratulations on this initiative for 2019! How will it work on the site?
The Committee have been liaising with Wannon Water for some time. The mains water we have in our area is bore water, so to encourage people to really eliminate buying bottled water Wannon Water came to the party to bring in what has been applauded as Australia’s best tasting water from the Grampians. We will have hydration stations throughout the site which will be clearly identified, and spring water fountains back stage for artists and crew. We have notified all performers and volunteers that we will not be providing bottled water and they are to bring their reusable water bottles, and we are notifying all patrons that this initiative is in place and for them to bring their own water bottles. We have a long term strategy to eliminate single use plastic, but due to our location it needs to be implemented in stages.
Caroline, thanks for your time!
Thanks to Ali Webb, House of Webb
Our interview with the Director, Port Fairy Folk Festival – Caroline Moore