A Whare Flat Folk Festival Experience - Jared Smith

For those who have a keen interest in folk music and its traditions in Dunedin, Whare Flat Folk Festival has become an institution. Although Jo and I have been playing our own brand of country folk for a few years now, with family and other musical commitments over previous new years we had not yet had a chance to attend the festival. Now in it’s 43rd year running, 2017/18 would be our first and what an introduction it was!

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It is a good place

Impressions from a guest 'flogger' - Kieran Ford.

Charlotte enters the marquee. It’s the evening concert. She’s been gone a while. She’s looking pale.

“I’ve just been held up by a bunch of kids on the steps demanding a ransom to let me past. I didn’t know what to do!”

And so began Whare Flat.

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A final Note

And another bead has been threaded onto the long and colourful necklace of Whare Flat Festivals reaching back into time and always around to find again its Folk beginnings.  

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Festival Musings from Bernadette #2

I was just watching a documentary on the weekend that was made about the Whare Flat [Folk] Festival and it made me think about what inspired me to become the coordinator of this event and what kept me doing it for so long. Whenever you talk to people about why they go to the festival and what takes them back there it sounds a bit like a broken record - it is the community.

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Festival Musings from Bernadette #1

I first attended the Whare Flat Festival in 1979/1980  having been asked by a friend to help him run a singing workshop. I had no idea what to expect and was astounded with the range of music I discovered, the instruments I didn't know existed and the quality of the performers. I didn't know I was a folkie but quickly discovered that I loved everything about this festival. I hadn't realised that I could spend four days immersing myself in music and dance and feel friends with people I'd never met before.

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Song birds and night owls

I really do like the poster for the festival this year, the stars above the manuka, the moon and the morepork, the outline of the tent with its guy ropes.

It recalls happy wanderings in the dark with my violin, back from a session or an evening concert, still mulling the music, when a morepork call alerts me to the quiet of the site, the light of the low moon behind the trees, the Milky Way above, and, looking up with a smile and a little sigh, I stumble over the guy ropes again.

The line-up of violins this year is also quietly exciting; Serbian, Scottish, old time American, I know I will be completely blown away, like last year, at the way each player makes the thing sing out exactly the way it should while all the serious skill this must take is somehow wrapped up in smiles, banter and foot stomping; beguiling nods and winks that make the fiddle playing seem completely effortless. There is little reason why they shouldn’t act and look more like tennis players, grunting at particularly strenuous ornamentations, wearing sweatbands and sport shoes, determined to keep time. But they don’t, they look like they are having a ball.

It’s the shared joy of these musicians, makes me forget the guy ropes every time.

The First Post

Every year in late December when I turn up the Silverstream Valley Road and head into the glen where the Waiora Scout Camp is nestled, I experience the same feeling that it was just last week I was here - but I'm only ever driving this way to go to and from the annual Whare Flat Folk Festival. I guess thirty-five years of doing it gradually compresses the experience in your mind.

As a veteran of this thing I might be expected to wax lyrical about the good old days and deride the youthful, electric eccentrics that infiltrate the midnight sessions and daytime stages but, the truth is, it's the very thing that keeps me coming back. Mostly, when I'm not strumming something, I'm a desk jockey - the interface between "it's too loud" and "we can't hear the fiddle," and the sublime moments of synergy when fine performance and great technical wizardry come together like a classical sculpture before its arms were broken.

There's a soft side to the festival and there's an edge, and it's the ability of those two things to coexist that makes the gathering special. Age ceases to exist, we're all singers in the midnight choir, pickers and drinkers, dancing like nobody's watching.

At the apex of the year, one is remembered, the next is faced "with friends on every side"; and we're reminded of why we come back time and time again.