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Community spirit keeps Fleurieu Folk Festival flourishing


Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19 and travel bans, the regional music festival will continue in October.

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Volunteers for the Fleurieu Folk Festival have worked hard to ensure the music event will return for its fifteenth year, one that will have a stronger focus on local talent due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“From the beginning of the year we made a conscious decision that we were gonna go all out and keep our fingers crossed that it could go ahead,” says festival director Valerie Corfield.

“We are of course mindful of the changing sitaution around COVID travel restrictions, but regardless we have such talent here in SA we will always have some sort of show.”

The volunteer-run celebration of diverse music runs for three days, over the weekend of October 15-17, at the Willunga Recreation Park in the centre of town.

The restrictions of COVID-19 have forced the festival’s 12-member committee to change how they usually organise the event.

“We’ve been getting really good at Zoom meetings. Although they’re not ideal they’re close to a personal meeting,” says Corfield.

“It’s actually benefitted us learning this new skill. It’s been quite a steep learning curve.”

The festival annually presents more than 60 local, interstate, and international musicians, who cover music genres from Celtic, Americana and Blues to country and indie-pop.

This year, with COVID-19 making international guest appearances impossible, the plan at the moment is for the stage to feature local and interstate musicians, including six headlining performers from all over Australia.

These include Pete Denahy (Vic), Emma Dean (Qld), Toby Beard (WA), The Royal High Jinx (Vic), Totally Gourdgeous (Vic), and Siobhán Owen (SA).

Corfield says she of course can’t expect interstate acts to undertake the current two-week quarantine imposed by the South Australian government, but hopes that the situation could change in the coming weeks. The committee will meet within a fortnight to decide on the final plan.

Performers include young folk musicians breaking into the scene.

“To be honest, we’re really fortunate in South Australia to have some outstanding talent available,” Corfield says, but she hopes the international acts will be back soon.

“We knew that the international talent couldn’t come [in 2020] but we’ve already booked some of them in for 2022.”

The pandemic has caused some unexpected headaches – beyond the normal social distancing rules – for the committee.

With liquor law changes, the festival has had to hire more security and they’ve also found challenges with marquee hire.

“Because they haven’t had the business, some of them don’t exist anymore,” Corfield says.

The organisers put a heavy focus on working with regional businesses to supply everything from the beer to the fences and local stallholders have been given first preference for stall spaces.

“We are really mindful of always dealing with the local community. Wherever we can we shop locally,” says Corfield.

“When the festival is on it is 150 people we need to set the festival up from a sports field to a three-day family-friendly festival.

“We have a load of volunteers who are local. Though we have some from interstate.”

With many South Australians holidaying at home, organisers are expecting the festival’s turn out to be larger than ever before.

“We’re up on ticket sales from this time last year,” says Corfield, but adds that there are still plenty of tickets available.

“If we want to be sustainable and if South Australia wants to keep it here forever and ever we need people to come and pay the entrance fee.”

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