‘Folkie brains trust’ saves the day for 2022 NFF

National Folk Festival
Exhibition Park in Canberra
14-18 April 2022

After a two-year COVID hiatus, the National Folk Festival in Canberra is back this Easter – but the extended break wasn’t the largest challenge facing organisers, according to NFF Managing Director, Lynne O’Brien.

Richard spoke to National Folk Festival Managing Director, Lynne O’Brien

‘We lost a lot of the data during COVID when one of our software providers went bust,’ she says. ‘All of our data from the last four or five festivals is just in a big dump in a database.’

Fortunately, people she describes as the folkie brains trust came to the rescue to fill in the gaps faced by a new admin team.

Canberra-born Lynne O’Brien took over as managing director after Helen Roben left the festival shortly after last year’s Good Folk event in Queanbeyan. O’Brien had joined the festival’s board about two years after a career in the management of large and complex events.

Those who have been to previous festivals will notice a number of significant changes.

Changing COVID restrictions meant initially that there was to be no camping – for many, an essential part of the festival experience. As restrictions eased, organisers planned 1,000 camping places and the numbers have increased since then. While all spaces are now taken, Lynne O’Brien hopes they’ll be able to offer more closer to the festival.

For the first time, people will be able to get to the festival via light rail, and organisers hope that there will be free travel to and from the city for people with festival wristbands.

Day parking will be much the same as in previous years, though for safety reasons, anyone bringing a vehicle into the camping area will have to leave it there for the duration of the festival.

As festival artistic director Katie Noonan foreshadowed during last year’s COVID lockdowns, the emphasis will be on domestic artists. The easing of restrictions means that interstate as well as Canberra region performers are on the bill.

There’ll be an additional, outdoor, session bar and some smaller venues have gone to make way for a 5,000-seat marquee on the oval. There will be 100 per cent capacity at venues – and a lot more seating in the shade.

‘We planned this a long time ago to cater for the possibility that we might actually only have to have an outdoor venue, says Lynne O’Brien. ‘So yeah, it’s worked really well. And we’re hoping to fill it up every day.’

While the festival will strongly encourage performers and volunteers to be vaccinated (and most are) , there will, (health regulations at the time permitting), be no vaccination mandates.