26 October 2015 by Wendy Tanner
Yes!! There is yet another Festival in our district, and this one is just a short drive up the mountain, in the small town of Dorrigo.
Driving through World Heritage Rainforest, with spectcular views down to the coast and cascading waterfalls, giving the road its name “Waterfall Way”, just past the entrance to the Dorrigo National Park, you reach the quaint town of Dorrigo. On the western side of town (don’t blink or you’ll miss it), is the showground, the site of this friendly little 3 day festival, which was held this year from 23rd to 25th October.
The annual Dorrigo Folk and Bluegrass Festival is in its 14th year, and started, like many of these (blue)grass-roots events, from very modest beginnings. In 2001, 17-year-old Jack Sommers had a vision for a local festival to celebrate “music in the hills”. Now, 14 years later, his mother, Bridget Rees, the festival organiser, carries the banner.
What I love about this festival is that it is small and family-friendly. Most of the performers I heard, said the same thing. In the grounds there was such a nice laid-back vibe with lots of people sitting around on picnic blankets and hay bales, jamming and chatting.
For kids, there was storytelling, singalongs and circus workshops. The Pitt Family Circus entertained adults and children alike with their acrobatic skills and dry wit.
Performers were many and varied from lyrical acapella groups to foot-tapping bluegrass bands. International acts included the LeBlanc Bros Cajun Band from Louisiana and, from Nashville, USA, Chris Henry and the Hardcore Grass, who appeared on stage, slick and clean-cut, in grey suits and ties. Chris’s singing and mandolin playing were mesmerizing!!
For people who like music with a message, there were several performances by the Shane Howard Trio. Shane Howard was the founding member of the Goanna Band, whose song “Solid Rock” became an anthem for those espousing Aboriginal rights in the 80’s. In fact, the day after the Dorrigo Festival, Shane Howard was off to Uluru for the 30th Anniversary Celebration of the handing back of Uluru to the Traditional Owners.
There was an fun family folk dance or “Ceilidh” in the main pavillion, accompanied by a real Scottish duo and the Bellingen Pipe Band wearing tartan kilts and all.
So, if you love this kind of music, why not book into The Promised Land Retreat next year, and spend one, two or three days, lapping up the unique vibe of this fabulous festival. The dates have already been set for 2016 – 24th, 25th and 26th October.
And if you want to capture the vibe, check out this little video created by Bellingen local, Kell Stoner, of the 2014 Festival: “Music Played By Folk”.
Thanks to Kell for some of the photos included in this post, and also Bruce Jacups, photographer extraordinaire!!