Sydney is home to many different music festivals, all spanning various genres. Until now the folk music genre has been relegated to regional areas outside of the city. Next weekend that will all change when Sydney plays host to the inaugural Sydney Folk Festival over the course of two days and three nights. Across four easily accessible venues along Pitt Street over 60 acts will flood the city in a massive celebration of perhaps the most expressive and emotional music genre there is.
According to the President of Folk Federation NSW Brian Jonathon, a truly urban folk festival was long overdue.
“There are scores of regional folk festivals across the country, where artists and audiences have to ‘go bush’ for a rough (and often soggy!) experience. But we thought it was time to bring the rich diversity of contemporary folk to town!”
During planning, the team behind Sydney Folk Festival wanted to showcase the rich diversity of styles which fall under the folk music umbrella.
“We’ve prepared a joyous celebration of all the musical genres that sit under the big umbrella of ‘folk.’ Storytelling – colonial, indigenous, multicultural – is central… but so is participation. There’s dance, poetry, theatre, food and drink… and much, much more.” said Artistic Director, Warren Fahey.
One other factor which heavily influenced the program was a dedication to shattering the “outdated stereotype” that folk is a genre dominated by older musicians. In order to achieve this goal the festival was programmed around the theme, ‘the next generation of folk.’ Three artists which epitomise this theme are 10-year-old Allegra Dunning, rising talent Rayn and young star Kay Proudlove. City Hub spoke with all three artists about their experiences as younger artists within the genre and the importance of festivals for their careers.
All three artists echoed the importance of folk festivals to them finding their love for the genre. By attending various festivals all three artists were able to discover a range of different styles before finding the style of folk which most resonated with them.
For Kay Proudlove, in particular, the festivals played an incredibly influential role in her musical development, because she not only attended festivals as a music fan but also participated in many songwriting workshops.
“I used to attend a lot of folk festivals growing up, my parents took me along with them to stuff like the Illawarra Folk Festival and Blue Mountains Music Festival,” Proudlove recalled before adding, “I remember doing a lot of the songwriting workshops that were available at those events, so my career grew from there.”
Another key element of the Sydney Folk Festival which all three artists are incredibly excited for is the opportunity to play a major festival within the metropolitan area.
“I’m really excited for the Sydney Folk Festival. I think it will be a really special experience because it’s a great opportunity for there to be a festival that’s close to a lot of people in the city,” said Dunning.
This shift to a metropolitan setting is something which Proudlove says gives Sydney Folk Festival an even greater significance. “I find that most festivals are in rural locations, so sometimes it can be a bit of an effort to get there. Hopefully the Sydney Folk Festival will bring in a new audience for folk music, the people that thrive in the city and don’t often travel outside of there can get a taste of what it’s all about.”
According to Proudlove, the artists are hopeful that Sydney Folk Festival will also lead to further opportunities for folk artists in the future.
“The folk scene really thrives in the summer, because that’s when the majority of festivals are. Other than that though there is definitely room to grow because there are not really all that many folk-based gigs that happen outside of the festivals. By bringing a festival into the city like Sydney Folk Festival is doing hopefully that will spark a bit more engagement with the folk scene.”
As a fresh artist on the folk scene, Sydney Folk Festival is set to be Rayn’s biggest opportunity to date. “I’m very very grateful that I’ve been given the opportunity to play the Sydney Folk Festival, said Rayn, “I’m obviously not a very well known artist yet but they’re really giving the younger generation a chance to show their music. It’s a very good opportunity for people who have a lot of talent to have a place to get out and play to people.”
With festival workshops playing such a pivotal part in her career Proudlove would “love” to be able to use her knowledge and skills to nurture the next generation of folk greats. When speaking with City Hub her excitement to see Allegra Dunning perform at the festival was palpable, “I’m so pumped to finally see Allegra Dunning play. She is so young but she’s already amazing, she’s going to be a ridiculous talent.”
Looking ahead to the future all three artists, but particularly Kay Proudlove, are hoping to not only see folk music continue to grow but also evolve as more fresh faces and ideas enter the genre.
“There’s a lot of people out there that think folk music is just for older generations, but for me, folk music is about storytelling and connection, which I think is something that is important to younger generations as well. That’s always going to manifest in different ways through younger generations. Especially with new instruments and new ways of producing music, I think that folk music will change with younger generations but the storytelling and connection will always be at the core.”
Sydney Folk Festival
Aug 16-18. Various Venues & Prices. Tickets & Info: www.sydneyfolkfestival.com