For 21 years, the FolkWorld Fairbridge Festival has been a uniquely family-friendly draw for folks looking for a weekend of live music, camping, and independent crafts.
This year’s festival, held from April 26-28, will feature artists working across a variety strains of world music against a quintessentially scenic Western Australian backdrop of wide open spaces and mature bushland. An increasingly popular event, Fairbridge administrators received over 500 applications for acts and musicians from a variety of artists this time around, so organizers got to draw from a particularly large pool of performers when selecting 2013’s lineup.
This year there are several dozen acts performing at the festival. The highlighted performers reflect the festival’s overall diversity and provide a good cross-section of what to expect if you’re planning on attending.
One such act is Mama Kin, a Fremantle-based songwriter known for her heart-breaking ballads and her emotive live shows in equal measure. She will be there to support her new album, The Magician’s Daughter, which was recently selected by the ABC as an Album of the Week.
Another such act is Squeebz, a Melbourne-based band who’ll bring some Celtic-inspired jigs and airs to Fairbridge. No mere traditionalists, however, Squeebz offers a fresh take on a wide variety of world music from the British Isles and Breton, serving up a mélange that is uniquely their own.
For some good, old-fashioned Western swing, you can’t go wrong with Gleny Rae Virus and Her Tamworth Playboys. Combining that lonesome twang with that cool rockabilly sense of style and some dazzling instrumental chops, this band is always a magnetic live act.
Tinpan Orange returns to the Fairbridge Festival, bringing their atmospheric, indie-inflected sound to Western Australia once again. This Melburnian sibling duo has a knack for writing a timeless melody and brings a contemporary flair to the predominantly roots-oriented event.
And for the kids, there’s the Amazing Drumming Monkeys, a dynamic duo of monkey puppets going by the names of Bongo and Congo. Together, they play African-inspired hand drums and lead their audiences in educational dance and song. Their show, emphasizing sing-alongs and magic tricks, is geared towards children ages 2 to 8 years old.
The Festival Market offers a pleasant, engaging place to pick up a nifty souvenir for those looking for a change of pace from the live acts. Fairbridge is great at attracting original and distinctive stalls which offer handmade crafts.
In addition to providing a uniquely inclusive and family-friendly experience, part of Fairbridge’s mission is to foster burgeoning musical talents. The Quest Songwriting Competition is being held again this year in an attempt to fulfill that. There are two age categories: from 12 to 15 and from 16 to 18. The winners from each group will perform at Fairbridge Festival and both winners from last year are performing again this year.
Nestled along the Darling Scarp, Fairbridge Village is an inspired spot for a music festival. Originally the site of a turn-of-the-century farming school, many the village’s structures, including a historically important red-brick chapel, still stand today and help frame today’s festival. Some of the other structures, including original timber homes, are currently being renovated, while others serve as venues for Fairbridge Festival performances.
Fairbridge Lodging and Surrounds
While the festival is traditionally a camping excursion, there are plenty of alternative accommodations for those looking for something a little more comfortable. Pinjarra, the nearest town, has a few chain hotels, while Mandurah, WA’s second largest town and a short 20-minute drive away, boasts a wide array of hotels and holiday rentals. For those looking to make a bit more of their holiday, Mandurah’s a good destination to do so, with a couple well-respected beaches (Silver Sands and Halls Head) perfect for stretching out and sunbaking.
Even if you do just spend time in the area to catch the Festival, though, you’ll come away happy. This really is one of the more special annual musical events in Western Australia, one definitely worth the trek if you’re considering it.