Acclaimed Australian musician Katie Noonan has joined the National Folk Festival (NFF) as artistic director.
Working toward presenting her inaugural festival in 2022 (the 2020 and 2021 events were cancelled due to Coronavirus), the part-time role will require Noonan spend one week in Canberra each month working with organisers to shape the event’s program.
Speaking to Canberra Weekly at the NFF’s Mitchell offices, her first day on the job involved finally meeting key stakeholders, like Festival managing director Helen Roben face-to-face.
The charming and affable Noonan said having finished up her five-year artistic directorship of the Queensland Music Festival in 2019, she was keen to continue with similar work.
“I love getting to know a community, getting to work with such a beautiful, long-loved construct like the National Folk Festival,” she said.
“It just felt like a beautiful group of people whose intentions are very much aligned with my intentions of music and community.”
With a long time between now and Easter 2022, Noonan is confident she can deliver a robust program regardless of the circumstances.
“I’m an improvising musician, so I’m used to improvising,” she said. “So, we will just see how we can evolve, whether that involves international artists or not.
“I would very, very happily program an entirely Australian festival … There’s a perception that people from overseas are better than us, and they’re just not.”
The inaugural folk festival was held in 1967, and Noonan’s first festival as AD next year – she played it in 2012 – will mark 30 years of the ‘folkie’ being permanently based in Canberra.
Through her creative programming, Noonan will look to honour the history of the festival while looking to highlight “all the colours of Australia today”.
“It’s important to preserve what we know and love about the folk festival, which is obviously fairly traditional folk, a largely Euro-Celtic tradition,” she said.
“I love that music, but the Australia that this festival was dreamt for was in 1967, and the Australia of 2021 is vastly different.
“I’m very passionate about First Nations engagement … for me I don’t feel you can have a National Folk Festival and not have a genuine First Nations program.”
Having played countless gigs in Canberra throughout her career, Noonan is fond of the city and maintains strong connections here.
“I’ve had some of the best gigs of my life in Canberra … but also a lot of my musician friends have lived here,” she said.
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