When it comes to Celtic Festivals, a few things spring to mind: Haggis, Irish dancing, pipes and drums, Vikings, kilts, Gaelic poetry.. It’s all that and a bit more at The National Celtic Festival that’s set to shine amidst the sparkling Portarlington foreshore this June long weekend.
Boasting crowds of over 15,000 and performances across 14 stages, the festival is the premier Celtic gathering in Australasia and it’s easy to see why it with its breadth of artistic talent, rich in culture.
The festival attracts some of the best and most diverse Celtic Folk acts from across the country and the globe, bringing with them a twist of blues, classical, country, jazz, indie, rock and much more for this years celebration. The diversity of this festival gives the National Celtic Festival a distinct edge, attracting audiences from all walks of life.
Showcasing high profile acts and unearthing new talent in the local and global folk music and arts scene, festival director Una McAlinden reveals the quality of the programming sees the festival held in high regard alongside festivals such as Celtic Connections in Scotland and Celtic Colours in Canada, and features artists punters would see at festivals such as Queenscliff Music Festival.
“We’re got a band called Altan who are performing as part of their 30th anniversary, and they are legends of the Irish trad scene so that’s definitely a highlight for all the die-hard trads,” McAlinden smiles. “We’ve got old favourites coming back to the festival, as well as new people to introduce,” she continues. “Damien Leith is back again for his third time, and Paul McKenna is coming back this year with his whole band; they’re a great young contemporary trad band and they’ve got an amazing reputation so it’s great to be able to introduce this young act from Scotland.”
They join an already exciting and eclectic line-up of musical showcases including some of the very best locals featuring folk singer-songwriter Maria Forde, fiddler Declan Simpson and flute player Beth McCracken accompanied by Trouble In The Kitchen guitarist Benno Stephenson, and traditionalists Catherine Fraser Trio, along with vibrant string three-piece Telenn Tri, multi-instrumental powerhouse Claymore, trad-folk icons Trouble in the Kitchen, and Señor Cabrales who will take you to Scotland via Spain!
Along with the focus in diverse genres of music, the festival delves deep into the culture to include countless comedy, dance, literature, medieval sports and theatre troupes for festival-goers at a range of venues throughout the town.
Our personal favourite part of the weekend comes with displays of Celtic martial arts and the resident Vikings who settle in for the weekend to present traditional Vikings practices of wrestling, animal hide curing and iron mongering. Make sure you visit them in front of The Club Room at some point over the weekend, you won’t regret it!
With all the music, art and entertainment, you can’t forget about The Folk Market, bursting with fine food and fresh produce from a wide range of food trucks, along with delicious local wines, craft brews and spirits from Victoria’s bespoke distilleries. Here you’ll find all the regular delicious festival food, along with a range of delicious cultural tastings. This market is adjacent to the festival and free to the public, so non-ticket holders can get amongst it.
This event truly transforms Portarlington’s foreshore and surrounding haunts into a bustling winter-wonderland. With an easy 90-minute drive out of Melbourne to the stunning Bellarine Peninsula, and with the festival right on our doorstep, there’s no excuse to miss experiencing Australia’s premier Celtic Folk festival.
Rug up, put your winter woollies on and dive head first into this Celtic affair.
When & Where: WG Little Reserve, Newcombe Street, Portarlington – June 8 – 11.
Tickets: via trybooking.com. Weekend Prices: $170 | $70 Youth Weekend Festival + Camping / Ferry packages available online. Day Tickets also available.
Written by Talia Rinaldo