Folkworld Fairbridge Festival Wrap Up 2013 - Part 1
Well, another year has been and gone and I can honestly say Fairbridge Festival is my favourite time of year. There’s something about thousands of people who love music and a good time crammed into a tiny eco-village near where I used to grow up that just speaks to the inner hippie in everyone. For me, it’s really special going back to a place where I spent my school holidays as a child and hearing the best of the best in Folk, Blues, and Roots singing their hearts out and having a great ol’ time, as well as seeing little kids no older than ten playing trumpet, keyboard- even the spoons- for money and knowing that one day, we could be listening to them onstage! It’s a truly wonderful place to be.
This year was the 21st annual Fairbridge and we were promised a spectacular year- and as usual, it was delivered. For those of you that have never heard of Fairbridge before, here’s a small synopsis of the history. It’s located about 5 minutes out of Pinjarra and an hour and a halfish out of Perth, depending on traffic. Basically a guy called Kingsley Fairbridge and his wife Ruby, came to Australia in 1912 from South Africa and established the worlds first Fairbridge Farm school, where they looked after a total of 3580 children between 1913 and 1983, many of whom were poor and orphaned. While they were at Fairbridge these children stayed at the residences, went to school, and unfortunately, some also died while they were there, which is horrible but makes for some great ghost stories- as Fairbridge regulars will tell you. Fairbridge was also especially important during World War II because it was used as a hospital, a training depot, and the list goes on.
Fairbridge now is a tourist destination, and it’s also used a lot for school camps, and a Youth Program is run out of there too, continuing on the legacy of looking after children. Of course it’s also the ideal location for the festival because of its distance from grumpy council members, large areas where people can camp and multiple places where stages can be placed. It’s a three day festival starting at 4pm on Friday and not stopping until 10.00pm on Sunday. There are three camping areas for the festival: Oval, Fields, and Kingsley, or you can stay in one of the many cottages if you’re super rich. ‘Oval’ is just what it sounds like, camping on an oval. It’s really close to the festival which is great but if it rains, it’s Russian roulette as to whether or not your tent ends up underwater. Oval is where your tent will be set up if you choose the ‘Cosy Camping’ festival option- someone comes in, sets up a tent and bed for you so it’s ready when you get there, and packs it down again afterwards. It’s the tourist from the city option- but I guess it’s good for lazy people. ‘Fields’ is my favourite, you’re basically camping in a valley, so it gets very cold at night but it’s totally worth it to wake up to the beautiful surrounds. It is a bit of a walk back to the festival, maybe ten minutes, which isn’t too bad but I guess if you’re a little older it might get tiresome after a while. ‘Kingsley’ is supposed to be the nicest camping ground, and it sells out very quickly so I can’t actually tell you anything about it, having never camped there. If you have though- let us know in the comments! You can also buy a day pass, and come just for the day, or separate day passes if you have a house nearby and you just go home and sleep there if that suits you. There’s an option for everyone! :)
Fairbridge has showers, and toilets, and also an impressive array of food and drink vans. There’s pizza, kebabs, curries, burgers, nachos, ice-cream as well as vegetarian food, South American cuisine, and just about anything else you can think of. There were three ‘coffee’ vans this year and all three of them sold out of Chai by Sunday morning- WHO DOESN’T BRING A WHOLE HEAP OF CHAI TO A HIPPIE FESTIVAL!!?? Jeez. It was really great to see the kebab stores open until 1am true to form and I got a double scoop from the guy at Simmo's ice cream at a billion am in the morning. (SCORE!) On a serious note all of the cutlery and food containers were made from a compostable material and there were volunteers at every bin yelling ‘WORM COMPOST!’ or ‘RECYCLABLE!’ at you in case you got confused, which was really easy to do because there were so many different bin lid colours. They did a really great job, and who doesn’t want to save the Earth? Thanks volunteers! There’s a range of arts and crafts stalls too, as well as plenty of street theatre, henna, hair braiding/wrapping/dreading and plenty of other random delights to keep even the grumpiest mother in law happy.
Now the stages at Fairbridge are absolutely one of the modern wonders of the world. There are 15 different venues and they are all themed, and unique. Starting biggest- smallest/most obscure I’m just going to briefly go through why each one is awesome. The Mandja Marquee is the biggest and is where the opening and closing acts are held. It’s all seated with a small dance/kids sitting area depending on the act, and it was great to get up and have a bit of a jump around for some acts. It’s also close to one of the drinking areas- Gus’s Bar, so you can sit and have some beers and a listen, although you may not be able to see the stage. Next we have the Riverside Stage which for those keeping track at home was the only stage running a digital sound system. (YEAH D-SHOW!!) It got really muddy in here when it rained on the Saturday :( which made for my feet sticking to the floor a lot, but it was okay because there’s no real dancing at this stage, again, it’s mostly seated. Get there early at this stage because it’s smaller than it should be for the popularity of the acts that perform here. Then we have the Hoopla Stage which is the main stage at night for going and dancing because they build it over the basketball court which means the floor is perfect for jumping around. Keeping with this asset most of the acts on this stage are fast and make you want to dance around, more so as the night gets later. There are also a few dance workshops usually held here which range from family orientated to advanced dance lessons which are always a lot of fun. There’s still seats for those of you that need them, there’s just less and they aren’t in neat rows like the other venues.
Next is the Chapel which is one of my favourite venues because of the acoustics. As you can imagine this venue is suited to groups where the vocals really drive the music: gospel singers, bluesy soul acts and the like. They book acts in here that will suit the amazing natural sound of the chapel- making it definitely worth a look in. Next is the Clubhouse, I find there seem to be a lot of workshops as well as the more bluesy acts in here. The Loft is a cosy upstairs room that is great for all the singer songwriters, and also for the ‘Fairbridge Finale’ choir practices. The Dining Hall is a beautiful wood paneled room with a TINY stage but is all blues- all the time. They will put on more danceable bands at the end of the night too. I don’t like this stage because it always smells like food and it puts me off, but it is one of the drinking areas and it’s always warm in there. It’s also near the only ‘real’ toilets open for public use. Ruby’s Bar is one of my absolute favourites, a gorgeous half indoor, half outdoor chilled out venue with a range of different acts, and it’s another drinking area. If you’re not sure what acts you might like, it’s the perfect venue to sit and relax and just watch the different bands. It’s also got a small dancing area for those of you so inclined. Then there are two areas designed for people 15- 20ish, Youthopia Stage and Youthopia Seedbox. The Seedbox is a ‘workshop’ orientated area, learn how to sing harmonies and learn to juggle, etc. The actual stage is probably my least favourite, just because there are so many juvies running around! It’s really frustrating. It’s also quite a weird stage to get to, it’s in and around and behind and just all round the cause of many frustrations for me personally. I just avoid it like the plague. That doesn’t mean you won’t love it- it’s a wonderful idea, just not my cup of tea. The Retreat is where the main workshops are held, be it mediation, or learn how-tos where patrons are encouraged to bang along on a guitar or a fiddle, or even just sing along. These are one of the best bits of the festival if you’re a musician because most of the acts run their own workshop too and it’s a great chance to learn some really cool techniques. For those with kids, the Kids Tent, Club West, and the Belfast Lawn all have storytelling, things to do, games, and bands with child orientated sets playing for your little ones entertainment. The kids program at Fairbridge has always been really great. The last venue is just the entire of Fairbridge: Street Theatre has always been a major part of the festival and will continue to be as long as it is always as wonderful as it was this year.
There’s so many other great things about Fairbridge that I haven’t mentioned yet, but that will have to wait for another day because I have had almost no sleep and my hands are about to fall off from typing. Stay tuned for the other half and in the meantime let us know what you think! Tweet us: @isolatednation, @perthsoundchic or leave a comment in the box below.