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14th National Folklore Conference 2019 Program

April 12, 2019


An annual conference facilitated by the Australian Folklore Network, the National Library of Australia, the National Folk Festival and Curtin University.

National Library of Australia – April 18

Building on previous National Folklore Conferences since 2006, the Australian Folklore Network, the National Library of Australia and the National Folk Festival again host this one-day conference immediately before the National Folk Festival.

The conference brings together those involved in collecting, researching, archiving, performing and facilitating folklore in all its many varieties and is a prelude to the National Folk Festival, which also includes a stream of presentations and performances relevant to folklore research.

The organising partners for this event are all involved in one or more aspects of folklore collection, research, archiving and teaching:

• the National Library of Australia is the premier archive of folklore, as well as initiating and supporting extensive fieldwork programs and fellowships
• the National Folk Festival is the premier venue for the presentation and performance of Australian folk traditions
• the Australian Folklore Network connects the various folkloric interests and activities around the nation through its e-publication, Transmissions and through projects, presentations and publications
• the Australian Folklore Research Unit at Curtin University is involved in collecting, archiving, researching and teaching folklore – regionally, nationally and internationally

The conference brings these interests together, providing an opportunity for participants to discuss at a national level, issues and initiatives in the collection, study and dissemination of Australian folklore.

The conference also contains a number of related events and awareness opportunities, including a lunchtime concert as well as details of new publications, recordings and initiatives.
Conference Program

9.15 Graham Seal and NLA – Conference welcome and opening
9.30-10.30 Presentation session 1
Graham McDonald
The Death of Frank Gardiner
The notorious bushranger Frank Gardiner was exiled from Australia in 1876, a third of the way through a lengthy jail sentence. He ended up in San Francisco, California where he ran two saloons for a few years before disappearing. His ultimate fate remains a mystery, but this paper will explore the many theories and the folklore surrounding the death of Frank Gardiner.
Graham McDonald has been mucking around with folklore for well over 40 years, as an occasional performer, broadcaster, writer and arts administrator. Stories about Australian bushrangers have been of longstanding interest.

Mark Gregory
The Cyprus Brig and other folkloric finds

In 1953, the folk revival was catalysed by a New Theatre performance of Dick Diamond’s musical with a union theme – Reedy River. The play the play highlighted the interconnectedness of the folk revival, theatre and union culture and militancy. From this key event that both the folk song revival and a renewed interest in the writing and performing of union songs can be traced.
My interest and active involvement in the revival led me in 1994 to launch two websites, ‘Australian Folk Songs’ with 100 songs and ‘Union Songs‘. which became a distribution site for the 32 songs and poems I collected during the Patrick Dispute. ‘Union Songs’ now holds more than 843 songs and poems. Over the last ten year, through the National Library of Australia’s TROVE newspaper digitisation project, I have been able to add over a thousand new items to the Australian Folk Songs collection.
Mark Gregory inherited a fascination for rebellious song and poetry from his family. Whether it was his mother singing ‘Hallelujah, I’m a Bum’ or his father reciting ‘A Man’s a Man For a’ That’ or hearing Paul Robeson on a windup gramophone with ‘Joe Hill’ it entered his childhood repertory. As time and circumstance allowed, these experiences led to years of research into this extraordinary genre and the broader field of Australian folk song.
11-12.00 Presentation session 2

Yvette Staelens
Cornwall to Kadina with Twenty-Six Cornish Carols
Joseph Glasson was born in the Cornish village of Lelant in 1855 and he died in South Australia aged 83. He was one of the Cornish emigrants who settled in ‘Australia’s Little Cornwall’, one of the so-called ‘Cousin Jacks and Jennys’ who created communities of families with Cornish origins in mining districts on South Australia’s northern Yorke Peninsula. With him he brought his heritage and a specific music tradition, the Cornish folk carol. This paper will explore Joseph’s music making at home in Cornwall and in South Australia, seeking to understand the social dimensions of his music-making; context, community and intriguingly how a miner made it to the concert hall directing an award- winning choir.
Yvette Staelens is a Senior Teaching Fellow at Bournemouth University, Dorset, UK. She was awarded an AHRC Knowledge Transfer Fellowship for the ‘The Singing Landscape Project’and her research output includes the production of Folk Maps for the counties of Somerset, Gloucestershire and Hampshire, freely available online. She is currently co-ordinating the pioneering Human Henge project exploring the impact of prehistoric heritage on mental well-being. Yvette is a natural voice practitioner and currently musical director of three choirs in Somerset. She was also a founder member of the John Moore Quire and retains a research interest in West Gallery Music.
Kerith Power

The First Australian Women’s Songbook

In 1988, following my co-ordination of a series of National Women’s Music Festivals, I was funded by the Australia Council to compile the First Australian Women’s Songbook. I sent out a national call and throughout 1990 worked to compile 50 songs sent to me on cassette tapes from all over Australia, representing songwriters from a range of backgrounds and themes relevant to women. By 1991 I had completed a draft consisting of sheet music with short biographies and photographs of each songwriter. Now, I am working towards making a digital archive of these songs and songwriters accessible through the website of the Jessie Street National Women’s Library. This presentation will feature a demonstration of the website entries for Phyl Lobl, Demeter Tsounis and Judy Small to illustrate the continuing relevance of grassroots women’s music to Australian community life in the twenty-first century.
Kerith Power has been a songwriter-singer and guitar player since 1963, and has played at Woodford, the National Folk Festival and Port Fairy as a member of the traditional dance bands Nightcap String Band and Heroines Riding Bareback. In 1982 with feminist colleagues she organised a women’s concert in Lismore featuring Margret Roadknight and initiated the First National Women’s Music Festival in Lismore in 1985. She secured Australia Council funding and was involved in organising the three festivals that followed on a biennial basis, staffed by women volunteers and featuring a range of performers.

12-1.30 Lunch and Concert
Theresa (Teri) Young is this year’s featured guest of the National Library of Australia. Teri is a young singer/composer who makes simple and sincere Australian folk music – songs about people, communities, death, love and all things honest. She plays a cittern guitar and sings, telling the stories of people and places. Teri was the winner of the 2018 National Festival Alistair Hulett award for Songs of Social Justice. Join Teri accompanied by Hamish Stevenson and Ross Smithard, in conversation and concert with NLA folklorist, Rob Willis.
12.00 in the Theatre
1.30 -3.00 Presentation session 3
Heather Clarke
Rediscovering a lost convict culture
Some of the reasons we study history are to find new perspectives, and to recover lost knowledge. The culture of early Australian convicts is a field where little research has been undertaken. This gap in knowledge arose from people wanting to forget the “convict stain” with the perception of convicts leading vile and degraded lives. However, convicts were transported with their robust enthusiasm for music and dance unbroken. The records of their closely monitored lives, though never intended for this purpose, provide a vast amount of information about their pastimes. By studying official documents in Britain, in-transit, and in the colony, it is possible to uncover this culture and to capture a glimpse of a very different convict identity. Doctoral research at the Queensland University of Technology has revealed a substantial body of data about the tunes and dances which convicts shared. This is a significant contribution to our understanding of Australian heritage, covering both cultural and labour history. Given that an estimated 1/3 of the population have a convict ancestor, it provides a fresh insight into the ways our forebears coped with their new lives in a strange land.
Dr Heather Clarke is a 3rd generation folkie, involved in folk music and dance all her life, she specialises in Australian step dance and early colonial culture. Her ambition is to enrich and expand the bush tradition by highlighting aspects which have been under-represented. In 2018 Heather completed a doctoral research project into convict culture.

Emma Nixon
Scottish Ceilidhs in Brisbane: ritual and identity through dance and music
Scottish ceilidhs are a community-based form of celebration centred around traditional music and dance. Ceilidhs are currently popular in Australia to celebrate weddings, birthdays and significant Scottish dates. Further, community ceilidhs being run in Brisbane are attracting an increasing number of participants, who come for many different reasons. Some come to engage in their own heritage, others enjoy the participatory nature of the entertainment and/ or the opportunity to include family members of different generations in a joint, physical and fun activity. This presentation explores why people choose to book a live ceilidh band and dance caller to mark significant occasions and incorporates the findings of a survey of ceilidh- goers and discusses the motivations of attendees of community events and those who have chosen to engage artists for private ceilidhs.
Emma Nixon is an award-winning teacher and performer, who combines the classical and traditional disciplines with a particular emphasis on the Scottish fiddle tradition in Australia. Emma is also a highly regarded researcher, currently undertaking study towards a PhD, having completed been completed a Master of Music in Folk and Traditional Music at Newcastle University (UK). Emma performs around Australia and internationally with both Cloudstreet and The Black Bear Duo and is the founder and musical director of the Queensland Youth Folk Orchestra.

Dave de Hugard
The Forgotten Mudgee Waltz
John Meredith recorded in the 1950s a number of versions of a waltz that came to be known as ‘The Mudgee Waltz’. Significant among these recordings are the versions played by George Davis, Tom Blackman (Jun.), Vince Holland and Vince’s father, Fred Holland. Tom Blackman (Jun.) told Meredith he learned the tune from his father Tom Blackman (Sen.). Now transcriptions of the Davis, Blackman and Vince Holland versions appear in the classic, ‘Folk Songs of Australia’ 1968. But totally absent in this publication and significantly so, in my view, is the version that Fred Holland himself played. ‘Significantly’ because Meredith tells us Fred Holland told him he taught the tune to Tom Blackman (Sen.). And since Fred Holland’s version is interestingly different from the other versions mentioned above, it is this missing Fred Holland tune that I am calling here, ‘The Forgotten Mudgee Waltz’.

As a folklorist, collector and a performer and interpreter of traditional Australian songs and tunes, Dave de Hugard has had a long interest in folk creativity. He has also had a continuing interest in the seeking out of possible origins of traditional tunes. For Dave, though, it is not where a tune might originally have come from that is important, but what traditional musicians have done with it. Dave will take a look at some of the tunes that, collectively, we know these days as ‘The Mudgee Waltz’. Some of these variant tunes we will know, while some we may not.

3.30-4.30 Presentation Session 4

Graham Seal (Chair), Jenny Gall, Rob Willis, Gwenda Davey
Panel and discussion session – Where to next for Australian Folklore?

4.30 Conference concludes



The Australian Folklore Network (AFN) is a national coalition of individuals and organisations with an interest in one or more aspects of folklore collection, archiving, research, teaching, administration and performing. In partnership with the National Library of Australia, the National Folk Festival and Curtin University, the AFN hosts an annual conference, publishes the occasional Transmissions, coordinates the Register of Australian Folklore Collections, carries out and fosters projects and generally promotes Australian folklore in all its varieties nationally and internationally.

Individuals and organisations with an involvement or interest in these activities are invited to add their email address to our list. It is also possible for organisations and individuals to affiliate with the AFN at no-charge and obligation-free. Affiliates appear on the Affiliates list at the AFN blog

To join the AFN email list contact

To affiliate with the AFN go to

Follow the AFN on Facebook.
(The AFN is coordinated and resourced through the Australian Folklore Research Unit at Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia)

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