Newstead Live! 2015
January 26th, 2015 | Festivals, Poems for adults, Poems for children
I have just returned from another very enjoyable Australia Day Long Weekend at Newstead Live!, a fabulous folk festival held in the town of Newstead, in central Victoria.
While it is primarily a music festival, the Festival Director, Andrew Pattison, has always been a strong supporter of the spoken word, and poetry and the spoken word therefore remains a relatively small but nonetheless important part of the programme.
There are three “Breakfast” shows held over the weekend – Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Because the numbers are smaller than at larger festivals, singers and musicians are always welcome. Newcomers to the Breakfasts this year were singer/songwriter Maggie Somerville, and poets/reciters Jim Brown, David Campbell, and Ellinor Campbell.
Here is a typical Breakfast crowd.
The weather was very kind – warm and dry without being too hot – and my impression was that crowd numbers were generally a little up on last year. Certainly the “Grumpy Old Poets” show at the Anglican Church on Saturday, and the “Poetry Workshop” at the Old Post Office on Sunday, drew the best crowds I have ever seen. Both were vibrant, highly enjoyable events.
I launched my new book, “‘The Billy That Died With Its Boots On’ and Other Australian Verse”, at Lilliput on Saturday afternoon. The crowd was small, but highly receptive. Thank you to David Campbell, Jim Brown, Jim Smith, Ken Prato and Ellinor Campbell were performing poems from the book. Thanks also to Maggie Somerville for singing “The Sash”, the song she has created from my poem of the same name.
The “Poetry and Music” show at the Troubadour on Sunday evening, featuring Danny Spooner, Jim Brown, Maggie Somerville, David Campbell, Dingo’s Breakfast, Keith McKenry, Jim Smith and Jan Wositzky, was also well received.
So far as the solo spoken word shows were concerned, Keith McKenry was extremely happy with his launch of his new biography of Australian folklorist John Meredith, and I also heard wonderful reports of Jan Wositzky’s Gallipoli show.
My involvement with the spoken word did not leave me a lot of time to attend the many music events, but two that definitely made an impression were “Harpers Bizarre” at the Dig cafe…
…and the “Wise Women” (Louisa Wise performing with her three daughters) at the Playground. (Louisa is seated at the front playing the dulcimer. Behind her, from left to right, are Rowena, Lucy and Ruth.) Later, unable to find her spoons, Louisa improvised with a violin bow and a whiskey bottle…
I also loved watching Martyn Wyndham-Read (right) and Dave de Hugard (left) sparking off each other. (That’s Ken Prato in the middle.)
Andrew Pattison is talking of scaling down his involvement with the festival next year, and handing the reins over to the locals. Let us hope the transition takes place smoothly, and Newstead Live! retains its warm, friendly atmosphere, as well as remaining a showcase for Australia’s best musical, and spoken word, talent.