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The Top Half Folk Festival returns for its 52nd year, offering festival lovers the chance to get out to Ross River Resort for three folk-filled days of music, workshops and camping.

By Betty Sweetlove

GET READY TO bush dance, jig and jam the night away at the Top Half Folk Festival – the perfect opportunity to experience the eclectic and diverse folk scene of Central Australia, with a program boasting over 30 artists, workshops, jam sessions and children’s activities.

This year’s line-up is put together by Alice Springs Folk Club President Gleny Rae, working alongside none other than Festival Patron Ted Egan AO. With a boom in Folk Club activities popping up around Mparntwe/Alice Springs of late, the 2024 festival is set to be the biggest so far. Its legacy lies in the passionate artists behind the scenes and the enduring culture of Arrernte land.

“The mob here have been making music and telling stories for 60,000 years! It has been a rich seam of folk traditions in the postcolonial prism since the 70s, when the first festival was held,” says Rae.

Headline acts include triple Golden Guitar winners Felicity Urquhart and The Waifs’ Josh Cunningham, and dynamic performance duo Mic Conway and Robbie Long.

“Mic Conway is an absolute living legend, from his days on Countdown with The Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band to The National Junk Band, and now his wonderful vaudevillian collaboration with another guitar maestro, Robbie Long.”

Not to be missed is the vast homegrown talent on show. The local line-up promises toe-tapping trad folk, as well as stunning new arrangements.

“We are super excited to present the incredible baritone singer Archer – featured in 2020 film I'm Wanita – in collaboration with the Alice Springs World Chamber Orchestra … There will be traditional folk, lots of singalongs and sessions, plus contemporary music from local legends like Katie Harder and Wilful Mischief,” says Rae.

Other rising NT stars on the bill include folk-pop sensation The Wanted Gems, and enchanting emerging ensembles Moongaze, Siren Song, and Anchor and Kite.

An activity-packed adventure, this festival is a playground of family fun. Kids can get crafty making their own instruments, and workshops in singing and songwriting are open to all ages. Jump onstage for folkie-oke – aka folk karaoke – or grab your teammates for the Folk Quiz. There’s a space for everyone at this unique festival.

“We have such a diverse and creative community here, and we hope to present a good cross section of this with our programming. Saturday night features a Queer as Folk Cabaret to bring a focus onto the LGBTQIA+ proponents of folk music, there is a youth showcase for emerging young performers, and a First Nations space to sit down, listen and learn,” says Rae.

In the grand tradition of folk festivals, camp for the weekend and don’t forget your instruments! This year’s outstanding program is sure to convert any folk-sceptics out there – they’ll be singing a different tune in no time.

Top Half Folk Festival

Photo: Broken Creek by Liz Arcus

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