Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


Tunes, tales and true connections

  • 02 April 2024
I can’t stand the term ‘my happy place’. It’s too banal, too thin, too constructed for an Instagram post, to account for how much place can mean to us. Words to go with a touched-up photo of a holiday spot, designed to make social media followers feel a little bit like you’re ‘living your best life’ (another favourite phrase).

But I was in my happy place a few weekends ago. Down on the coast at Port Fairy in southwest Victoria for the annual Folk Festival. Some of the usual suspects amongst family and friends camped together, swimming in the icy ocean when it got hot enough, wandering through town, but mostly listening to music and convening for evening drinks to discuss the days listening and plan the night’s program.

At a festival like this, which is called a folk festival but includes artists from all sorts of genres, there’s a joy in discovering artists you’ve never heard before. Maybe a local acoustic singer whose voice holds you, or a pair of fiddlers from Finland who mesmerise. There are artists who return, who’ve sometimes not been since they were ‘undiscovered’, now having ‘represented’ Australia at Eurovision or the like. They play songs from their early days, and crowds listen with knowing, conspiratorial smiles.

There are stalwarts. This year the Irish singer, Luka Bloom, and the English folk great, Ralph McTell. At 68 and 79 respectively, they’ve seen a festival or two. Both have songs they proudly sing every night. Bloom, who’s brother Christie Moore opens every show with Bloom’s ‘City of Chicago’, commented on stage that he gets asked sometimes if he’s sick of singing it himself. He said he loved sharing it, is proud of it. McTell said something similar about the finale to his set, which he describes as ‘my medley of greatest hit’. I don’t tire of listening to ’Streets of London’, and I’m glad McTell doesn’t tire of playing it. It’s a treat to hear these artists sing these songs again.


'What are the places, songs, works of art that you revisit for the ways they hold memories and meaning for you?'  

Two of the most compelling artists at the festival, who I hadn’t seen live before, were into their 80s, Graham Nash, at 82, and Judy Collins, at 84. I mention their ages by way of inspiration. These two were powerful, compelling performers, their voices strong and tender. Hearing Nash sing