Illawarra Folk Festival Train

An Article by Brian Dunnett

Organising committee for the Sutherland  Carriage

This year the volunteer committee of the Illawarra Folk Festival had a good look at the festival and its potential role that it plays in music/cultural development as regional event of some 25 year standing. The Illawarra Folk Festival is one of several significant national festival events but unlike its counterparts in other States, (The Woodford Folk Festival Queensland, Port Fairy in Victoria and the National Folk Festival Canberra) its contribution to NSW music/cultural development, particularly to the Sydney region is not very well known.

In this regards the Illawarra Folk Festival over the years has provided an opportunity for locally produced artists/musicians that is not obtained in the local government programs that are operated by local councils. The opportunity to perform at Folk Festivals, provide another experience for musicians and performing artists. They bring together programs and audiences that are more critical of artistic cultural standards for example that can assist musicians and performing artist development to a National and International Level.

In Sydney particularly where the major Sydney culture event is the Sydney Festival that uses very few local artists and lacks participation other than being an audience the Illawarra Folk Festival offers involvement. Participation and involvement of people in folk festival program is being seen as important for the development of all round music skills by many music organisations that are responsible for formal musical training of young people.  The participation in folk music not only introduces new music skills in instruments but an understanding that music is a life time enjoyment for those who become involved.

This year in the Illawarra Folk Festival you will find young musicians like Wollongong Conservatorium Flute Ensemble along side of Bush Bands and other traditional cultural music groups, overseas and international artists that offer an opportunity that is hard to find in today social environment.  More and more Sydney locations that once provide live music venues are disappearing for example.

This Year the committee approached the Sydney Festival with a proposal that the Illawarra Festival should become a " fringe" event that we allow many more people to experience the potential of music at all levels.

The development (over the last two years) of the "Music Train" could play a big part in linking the Sydney Festival with the Illawarra Folk Festival. "Music Trains" are not a new idea in Australia or overseas. They were common in the past during the days of steam rails and in Victoria a very popular "Blues" Train operates most week-end with a heritage steam train with specially designed carriages.

The Illawarra Music Train  concept is different, as it takes into account potential cultural development (or redevelopment) to a situation where it is common practices again to uses Sydney Rail journey's for leisure activities to sing and play instruments on the way. We will have 8 carriages:
  1. Bluegrass Carriage featuring “The Backburners”
  2. Inner-city Carriage
  3. Sutherland Carriage
  4. Hurstville Carriage
  5. Kids Carriage: Musos and Clown
  6. Singing Carriage
  7. Tin Whistle Carriage
  8. Irish Music Carriage

This “Music Train” is all run on the regular City Rail Central to Bulli Service over the weekend of the festival with the opportunity of expanding to more carriages over the next few years. The music train the festival committee feels should also be seen as a contribution to lowering carbon and green house gasses.

Why not consider travelling this way to the Illawarra Folk Festival next January

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