Dorrigo Showgrounds

25, 26, 27 October, 2019

History of the
Dorrigo Folk
& Bluegrass
Festival

In 2002, after living in Dorrigo for 2 years, Jack Sommers of The Sommers Family Band recognised that the township needed a music festival. With the enormous help of a small dedicated team, Jack’s vision emerged as The Dorrigo Folk & Bluegrass Festival, its genesis August 30th-September 1st 2002 at the Dorrigo Showgrounds, NSW, Australia. There were approximately 300 people in attendance, most of them visitors to the area. The line-up included Wongawilli, Bubbly Mary, Copper Kettle, Us Not Them, Gypsy Hot Club and The Sommers Family Band and it was just $7 for a session ticket.

The Festival is now one of the Major Events in Dorrigo. We have over 3,000 patrons from all over the country, many of whom have been coming since the festival’s inception. Our line-up for the last 5 years has consisted of 50+ bands, local, National and International. The Festival has been nurtured to a size where it is able to continue yet still holds a very authentic and homely atmosphere. The Festival Committee is proud that we’re able to present the finest traditional, contemporary and acoustic music to you, our dearest patrons. We find joy in seeing festival audiences and musicians connecting, jamming and enjoying what we can so happily and humbly provide. To us, the festival is all about that connection and the celebration of it.

The Festival Committee recognises the importance of involving and providing younger generations with opportunities to perform and learn. This is why each year our programme features a combination of artists with a fresh realisation of music and practiced, well-versed artists from Australia and overseas. In 2017 we held the Inaugural Dorrigo Old-Time Music School featuring tutors from Australia and America. This is an opportunity for musicians of all ages and background to learn, jam and perform with tutors who have the knowledge, heritage and respect of Old-Time music. The school is not just for musicians focusing on the Old-Time genre, there are many skills taught at the camp that are applicable across a wide range of musical genres.

Photo by Glen Jackson

The DF&BF Inc. supports all creative arts and we believe they are the pinnacle of culture and our diversity. They evoke emotion, bring the stragglers and the masses together, allow imagination, beg for unique connections between seemingly disparate ideas and accompany our originality. And we believe that is what the festival has achieved over the last 17 years and will continue to achieve.

Over the years the Festival Committee has worked alongside local artists involving local schools and community groups in visual arts projects. These are displayed in the venues over the festival weekend. It is important to us that we involve the youth of Dorrigo’s regional surrounds to provide them with a visual into different cultures. We have also worked with the local schools facilitating musicians to give workshops for school age students, who are then provided the opportunity to perform at the festival. Many different artistic opportunities have arisen from a strong partnership with Dorrigo’s schools and we are thrilled about it. During the Festival local schools and community groups run a Sausage Sizzle providing a kid friendly and affordable meal, as well as supporting local groups. During the Festival patrons are able to have a wander around the food and craft stalls to gain a little taste of the handmade crafts and fresh produce the local area has to provide.

The Festival prides itself in making all efforts possible to be environmentally friendly. In 2017 we introduced the ‘Keep Cup’ scheme where we provide mugs which the patrons are able to use over the weekend in place of disposable coffee cups. Festival Volunteers collect and clean the mugs to be reused. In past years we have limited the use of takeaway containers which are not biodegradable and the food stalls have happily cooperated and supported this choice. In 2018 we aimed to have zero takeaway containers and disposable coffee cups which are not biodegradable or recyclable, plastic bottles, cans and plastic straws. Since 2016 we have had Rubbish Rooms which are run by volunteers who help patrons and campers place their rubbish into the correct bin. We encourage campers to use the Rubbish Rooms respectfully or to take their rubbish with them to assist us in keeping our Footprint as small as possible.

Dangar Falls photo by Alex Spurway

The Festival is held at the Dorrigo Showgrounds on Gumbaynggirr Country, a 5 minute drive from the Dorrigo National Park and Rainforest Centre at the top of the mountain. We are lucky to be set in the area of World Heritage Listed Gondwana rainforest. Dorrigo and its surrounds is also home to many beautiful cascading waterfalls including Dangar Falls, 2 minutes drive from the Showground. The festival is held in Spring every year over the last weekend of October, when nature is at its finest and you can enjoy a fresh dip or a stroll in the green hills.

The Dorrigo Folk & Bluegrass Festival Inc. is a not-for profit event run completely by volunteers. Bridget Rees, Peter Clark, Angela Sommers Rees, Caroline Brauhart, Cheryl Turner, Lynda Lewis and John Pitkin would like to extend thanks to Jack Sommers, Judy Mortlock, Al Hartley and Lee Fielding. And our greatest thanks to the dedicated volunteers, musicians and festival patrons from all corners of the globe who support and make this event possible.

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All Rights Reserved.