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For more information see our article published on The Weekender Travel website.
St Albans village, Australia’s Central Coast (Just over an hour and a half drive’s away from Sydney)
Each year in April (held over a weekend close to Anzac Day)
On-site at the festival, St Albans village
Why visit this music festival? For some camping, music – festival fun!
Situated on the banks of the Macdonald River, with picturesque surrounds – it is a peaceful scenic village that comes alive for this event, and camping couldn’t be any more easy, fun or relaxing. The St Albans Folk Festival provides the best campsites, which feels miles away from the city!
While every festival will have some noise, choose to camp on the scenic banks of the river in a designated ‘quiet zone’ and you will have the best of both worlds: a peaceful night’s sleep, so you can enjoy fun days and nights out too! (But you’ll need to book early for these sites.)
It is not only an easy place to camp, but surrounded by nature it gives you the space to totally relax. With a variety of exceptional performances that keep you entertained throughout the entire event – it is also a family-friendly festival (with designated quiet zones, and a range of kids activities), and a perfect place to switch off, with limited phone reception, it forces you to disconnect from technology and have some valuable me or family time. It also has important amenities, and places to buy food and drinks (or rather festival stalls, there are no shops in the village).
St Albans Folk Festival exudes an intimate atmosphere, where over 4 days of music fun, there are a myriad of things to see and do. However, there is no rushing about at this festival. The beauty of this event is that you can sit back, relax and enjoy local or international acts as you witness shining talents, all performers here will certainly take you on a journey.
Or you can join in with the impromptu acoustic performances, it is a place where you can sing-a-long, dance or clap to the music, and really feel a part of this atmosphere. Or bring your own acoustic guitar and start your own jam session, either on the campgrounds or out the front of the Settlers Arms Inn, seem to be most popular places. Perhaps you might like to attend a music workshop too! Whatever you decide to do – you will really be a part of this cosy music festival.
Things to do
What are the many things that are on offer here?
There is yoga, Bollywood dancing, activities for children, karaoke (take part in karaoke, singing songs of the 60s revolution, with a live and most vibrant psychedelic band: Joe and Harmony’s Trippy Hippy Band), Gospel singing and craft workshops. There are also a variety of cultural food stalls, grab a plate of curry to keep you warm in the evening (or daytime) before your favourite show, perhaps more appropriately before some Bollywood dancing.
If you’re looking for a gift idea, whether for you or somebody else, this is the place to pick up something unique, such as artisan products, which include; shoes, bags, skincare, a variety of crafts and musical instruments.
If you just feel like a good ol’ fashioned Aussie pub meal and a beer – head to one of Australia’s oldest pubs The Settlers Arms Inn. Although, during festival time, the wait may be a little longer than usual, but worth it! However, with a variety of acts on stage in the beer garden and numerous impromptu performances that surround the pub – you probably won’t notice the wait.
Or if you rather keep moving, enjoy a wander through the quiet streets, and join festival-goers, musicians and locals as they navigate from the campgrounds, the pub, the stalls and stage areas. It’s a great way to meet and chat to like-minded others!
The highlights for the 2019 festival for us were two acts (pre-COVID-19); the Shane Howard Trio – listening to the anthemic ‘Solid Rock’ took me down memory lane, it was a privilege to witness one of Australia’s great iconic musicians. It was made even more special when Col the indigenous performer and didgeridoo player, who we all got to know at the Welcome to Country Ceremony – was invited up on stage with the band. ‘Solid Rock’; a song dealing with issues of land rights, was performed to perfection and was a heartfelt moment.
Our other favourite act; Joe Harmony’s Trippy Hippy Band – were also exceptional performers and great entertainers, they kept the audience mesmerised with only the best songs of the 60s revolution (songs were covered from bands such as; The Eagles, Janis Joplin, Pink Floyd and Bob Dylan), and with some humor thrown in too, keeping everyone’s attention throughout their entire performance.
The Trippy Hippy Band also included a karaoke night, but we weren’t brave enough to take part in, we did enjoy watching and listening to the band and a variety of singers. It was an experience I’ll never forget! On a cold night, the noodle stall at the entrance to the hall – I thought was a great idea! I never have been in an audience before watching a performance while eating 2-minute noodles. It certainly gave it a very homely and relaxed feel!
What makes this festival unique is that this is a historic town and a close-knit community – who embrace hundreds of travellers that visit the St Albans Folk Festival each year. Stay for the entire 4 days, and you become a part of this lovely community too.
And what is evident; attend the Welcome to Country Ceremony, a cosy little spot on the banks of the MacDonald River, where the locals call it “the beach area,” and while Australia’s indigenous connections are highlighted, it thus forms a bond between all who attend this magic little festival. It is the perfect start to this event, that allows a reverence and appreciation for our past and future indigenous connections. After a warm welcome, it also sets the scene for the new connections or friendships you are more than likely to make here. It truly is a unique festival!Keep in touch!
Shelley has published a variety of online articles. With a master’s in special education, this has allowed her to write in the area of education, through platforms such as The Huffington Post. Being an outdoor enthusiast, she has written for The Weekender Travel and currently writes for Kombi Lifestyle. She is keen to share her knowledge and enjoys writing informative articles that help the discerning traveller prepare for road trip holidays in Australia. Shelley is the founder of Kombi Lifestyle.