Getting Retrospective with Jamie McKew on Port Fairy’s 40th Festival
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Getting Retrospective with Jamie McKew on Port Fairy’s 40th Festival

After 40 festivals over 38 years, Port Fairy Folk Festival has no plans for slowing down. “We want to be forever young,” says outgoing director and founder Jamie McKew. “It’s got a young spirit and we’ve got a lot of energy and we’re just going to keep that going – let’s be forever young.”

“In the early days, the first one was just have a crack at it and see what happens, and that went pretty well. So we thought, ‘Okay we’d do another one’, and that one went pretty well…so we kept that going.”

A strategy that has paid off well for McKew and the festival, with plenty of steam left in the engine and plenty of plans to celebrate their milestone event. “Just because you turn 40 doesn’t mean you go, ‘What’s going on?’, you’re just going to keep going.”

Jamie McKew image

Starting in the late ’70s, Port Fairy Folk Festival has only grown over the years. “What used to be a small festival in a small town, is now a massive festival in a small town. [With a] 2,000 people population, we bring 15,000 and more a day to the festival. [It’s] a massive job to squeeze that many people into a small town.”

The seaside town of Port Fairy and its community have embraced the festival greatly over the years, “It’s made it its own kind of event in its own way”.

Festival goers are not only treated to an extensive line up of international and national acts, but they also get to experience everything the town of Port Fairy has to offer.

“We’ve always been a small town festival in the sense that we’ve always used the town. So when you come to Port Fairy, you get to know the town as well,” he says.

Not only do audiences get to know the town of Port Fairy, but they also get to see their fair share of young and upcoming acts. “It’s been great to look for the new talent, and see that they jump up the ladder at Port Fairy,” Jamie says of performers who have played Port Fairy only to receive mainstream attention.

“Xavier Rudd was one of them, I used to know him when he was in school. So years later he rang me up and said, ‘Can I have a gig at Port Fairy?’” McKew say before continuing, “People came to Port Fairy and said, ‘Who’s this Xavier Rudd guy?’ He’s pretty good, go have a look at him.”

McKew has plenty of plans after he steps down as the director of Port Fairy, “I’m going to dust off a few guitars and play a bit more music myself, just for a little fun,” he smiles.

On the new director, Caroline Moore, McKew says, “It’s great to see – Caroline will be a great director [and] she’ll do a really good job. It’s good having some new people bringing in some new ideas.”

Port Fairy Folk Festival has plenty of vision for its future beyond their first 40 festivals, “We’ve got to 40 without too much trouble, so it shouldn’t be too much to get to the next 40″.

Written by Claire Rosenberg

When & Where: Port Fairy Folk Festival, Port Fairy – March 11-14

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