National Folk Festival 2012

Reports from the National Folk Festival in Canberra

For the second year in a row, a strong contingent of Box Hill Scots went to Canberra over the Easter long weekend to attend the NFF. This was mainly because Ceffyl Gwyn, our Welsh dance group, in conjunction with George Ansell’s English Country Dancers was once again successful in applying to be part of the Festival. Our two groups performed under the joint banner of the Whitehorse English and Welsh Dancers. The featured state this year was Queensland.

 The NFF is an exhilarating affair, well worth attending. The weekend offers a feast of folk music, poetry, song and dance, with up to 20 concerts, workshops and dance displays happening at any one time, not to mention the numerous busker events and activities. Here’s what some of our members said about this year’s festival, starting with Gerard’s enthusiastic report.

 “I first went in 2001 and been every year bar one, usually driving up Wednesday, looking probably at the current Canberra Art Gallery special exhibition (e.g. Great Masters, Renaissance) and Museum (e.g. Silk Route) on Thursday, ready to start the festival Thursday night with the Opening Dance or first concerts.

 “I love the busy, but not oppressively crowded, peaceful family, all ages, carnival atmosphere with the streets full of weirdly costumed performers walking to and from their Piazza displays, wonderful street artists ranging from eccentric Spooky Men Chorale choirs and flamboyantly garbed Morris Dancers to 3-metre high kilted Scotsmen leading metre-tall dogs. No irritating head-banging music from anywhere and no pestiferous, wandering drunks; just friendly international folkie music and dance with their peaceful and friendly devotees.

 “I love the colourful, hippie-type shops of clothes, jewellery, ornaments and decorations interspaced with the wide variety of international food stalls. I love the dance workshops available all day from 9.00 each morning to 8.00 each evening. I love the grand evening balls, especially the Colonial Ball and the Scottish Ball, both of which commence with up to 25 sets of gorgeously ball-gowned ladies and, of course, their extremely handsome gentlemen, dancing to vibrant live music provided by the massed musicians of the featured state that year. I love the afternoon dances, especially the Dancers’ Dance (of experienced dancers’ favourites), the Contra dances plus the Playford dance with the women all elegantly Empire-gowned.

 “There also, all day from 9.00 till midnight, is the massive selection of local and international folk musicians performing, so many that only one out of a choice of approximately a half dozen at a time in the different venues must be carefully selected. The poets can also be enjoyed especially over a Poet's Breakfast. If I could sing I could also enjoy the Festival Choir which performs as the opening act in the final 'Best of the Festival' Monday evening concert.

 “From Thursday evening, non-stop 9.00 till midnight and beyond as late as you like in the Session Bar, till Monday evening, the festival is a wonderful experience for anyone who loves folk music and dance of Celtic traditions or other. I love the Piazza displays we do whenever one of our dance groups submits and wins acceptance. I have danced in elaborate Piazza performances with Colonial Dancers e.g. Melbourne Cup anniversary, Best of Victoria, plus with the Whitehorse (Ceffyl Gwyn) Welsh Dancers, the English Dancers, the Irish dancers and have also helped out in the attendant workshops for these groups.

“You should consider attending.”

Gerard Burrows


“While there were many very enjoyable aspects of the festival, the highlights for me were probably the balls, both the Scottish ball and the Colonial Heritage ball. It is not often that one has the experience of being part of 25(+) sets in full evening attire enthusiastically dancing to wonderful live music (particularly at the Scottish ball). Great fun!”

Sandra Kipp


“As first time NFF participants, Peter and I had a wonderful time. A variety of dance workshops, displays (particularly the Whitehorse dancers!), dances and the Scottish and Heritage balls were all such fun. I wasn't sure my feet would be able to walk afterwards but they survived and I loved it! I enjoyed the Session Experience (playing music with others). I enjoyed the variety of different performances but was really blown away by the talent of April Verch (I wish I had known about her before the final concert – she has the astonishing ability to fiddle, sing and tap dance at the same time. I would have gone to ALL her sessions!!!) The food and the weather were amazing. I could go on .....”

Susie Sanders                                                                                                                                        


The NFF was my first experience of Canberra's cornucopia of entertainment and delight.  Every day I thoroughly enjoyed the varied dancing, and singing with the Festival choir. Highlights for me were:

·   watching the beautiful synchronised movement of the dancing displays

·   the celebration of our rich cultural heritage in music, food, dance & craft

·   wonderfully talented songwriters telling wise and wistful stories in song  about hardship and courage, and what it takes to make life meaningful.

·   Bukhehuluun Ganburged, a Mongolian throat singer producing incredible music, sometimes like a didgeridoo or a bird

·   the high energy Celts, the Battlefield Band

·   the company of friends to share the pleasure

 Peter Sanders


“I think that Festival enjoyment increases with each visit and growing familiarity. Being part of the Welsh/English dance group brings its own fun and challenges but there are other opportunities that make the event a dancer’s feast, be it Ball, Ceilidh or workshop. I always enjoy something new and this year it was East European dance. Concert highlights included the Battlefield Band and the London Klezmer Quartet. And I can't resist the beautiful work of Des, the amazing Celtic jeweller.”

Carole de Fraga


“As part of The Beginner’s Stream, I ran two workshops on Australian Heritage Basics which were successful. The Scottish Beginner’s Workshop had nine sets and the Scottish Ball had a hall full at the beginning of the evening. I did not count the sets but there would have been at least 25 to 30 sets.  The aim of Scottish Country Dancing at the NFF is to have dances that can be danced by experienced dancers from other styles, so not too complex but still interesting. The music from Chris Duncan, Catherine & Jennifer Strutt was fabulous. ”

Coral Eden