1 February 2021

National Folk Festival turns to in-tune Queanbeyan for scaled-back, COVID-safe event

| Ian Bushnell
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Kim Wang

Queanbeyan’s Kim Yang performs at the launch of Good Folk. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

Golden Guitar Awards Female Artist of the Year Fanny Lumsden and local rapper/poet/author Omar Musa will headline a scaled-back, COVID-safe National Folk Festival event this Easter in Queanbeyan.

It’s a coup for the Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council, which is keen to capitalise on the economic benefits of the festival and bring some cheer to a community racked by drought, fire, flood and pandemic.

Launched on Friday at the refurbished Royal Hotel, Good Folk aims to keep the spirit of the Festival alive after COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the traditional Easter event at Exhibition Park in 2020 and again this year.

The re-imagined two-day event across Saturday 3 April and Sunday 4 April will include 22 concerts in classic Queanbeyan venues including The Q, a newly upgraded Bicentennial Hall, the historic Royal, and Campbell & George, which will become a sessions bar.

The event will also spill onto the streets on the Saturday with dancing and a competition for buskers, with local businesses encouraged to trade on to the footpath to provide a market atmosphere.

As well as Lumsden and Musa, an impressive list of local and national artists will turn out, including Central Coast trio Little Quirks, one of Australia’s most enduring musical ensembles, Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen, popular band 1920 and local singer Kim Yang, who performed her bushfire song Garden of Eden at the launch.

Festival organisers were not prepared to see another year go by without an event and have its brand lose visibility but knew it would have to be smaller and COVID-safe.

With EPIC still a testing site and uncertainty about the costs and logistics of managing an event there, the Festival identified Queanbeyan, with its main street and venues within walking distance, as a possible site, reaching out to Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council, which immediately grasped the opportunity to be a partner.

Local businesses also jumped at the chance to be involved, and the event has attracted a long list of sponsors.

Fanny Lumsden

The award-winning Fanny Lumsden. Photo: File.

Mayor Tim Overall said council unanimously agreed to get involved.

”It’s a plus for Queanbeyan and council was very pleased to be approached by the National Folk Festival which identified Queanbeyan as, I guess something different, a different venue, but one that has all the attributes to host such an event,” he said.

Mr Overall is hoping the event will be an economic boon for the border town, with an influx of visitors over Easter.

”My message is whether you’re in the Canberra-Queanbeyan region, across the state, interstate, come to Queanbeyan for Easter,” he said.

“The special thing about Queanbeyan is you can come into town, park your car, free parking and you will be able to walk to all our magnificent venues, whether it’s the pubs, clubs, enjoy the restaurants and cafes, it’s all in walking distance.”

Festival managing director Helen Roben said a very different and special location other than EPIC was needed to stage the event.

”We wanted to find somewhere that has a very strong sense of community and also great venues, good accommodation, fantastic venues and hubs, and transport options.”

The Festival is working to strict COVID-19 plans and all venues will be socially distanced, which in NSW at present is 75 per cent of capacity, plenty of hand sanitiser and check-ins for all performances.

Tim Overall, Helen Roben and Omar Musa

Queanbeyan Mayor Tim Overall, National Folk Festival managing director Helen Roben and Omar Musa at the Royal Hotel. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

Queanbeyan’s favourite son, Musa, who has been quiet of late writing new material, will perform exclusively for the Folk Festival. He’s excited at the prospect of such an event in a home town he is passionate about.

Musa, who gave a mesmerising rendition of a work about growing up in Queanbeyan, said he was excited at the prospect of performing again in his home town.

”What I love about Queanbeyan is that it has a sense of community. These events are only going to bolster that so to be able to do stuff that usually I might do interstate or overseas that’s about Queanbeyan, hopefully they have universal themes, but sometimes people can’t relate to them, to actually do it in Queanbeyan is a really cool feeling. There’s an extra resonance that comes with that,” he said.

It will be his first folk gig but he has always prided himself on not fitting into any box.

”All these types of expression and storytelling are all branches of the same river. I don’t need to restrict myself, and as far as I can tell a lot of stuff in folk music and folklore is related to a sense of place, and that’s something I try to build in really strongly to my work,” Musa said.

Business to get behind the Good Folk include The Royal Hotel, Recruitment Hive and Campbell & George, Bentspoke, Lerida Estate, Central Motel Queanbeyan, Queanbeyan Leagues Club, Thirty4 Cafe, BMA Magazine and Counterfeit Copy.

Tickets for Good Folk will be available from the middle of next week at the National Folk Festival website.

Original Article published by Ian Bushnell on The RiotACT.

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