Folk Music

Few systematic attempts were made to collect traditional Tasmanian folklore before the 1980s (a significant exception being the Royal Society's transcription of the Aboriginal calls of Fanny Cochrane Smith in 1903). Accordingly, only a handful of old whaling and convict songs have survived. More recently however, recognition of the importance of fieldwork has ensured preservation of a small amount of unique, orally transmitted material (including apple-shed dance tunes).

The history of Tasmania's vibrant and diverse folk scene divides into three main phases. Closely linked to the youth movements of the 1960s, and a response to the mass popularity of folksinging in America, Europe and the Australian mainland, the first phase centred around coffee lounge venues like the Wild Goose (Hobart), Copper Pot (Launceston), Crescendo Club (George Town) and the Folk Inn (Ulverstone). From 1968 to 1971, pioneering folk festivals were mounted by the Tasmanian University Folk Club and the Brumida organisation, an independent youth arts collective based on the north-west coast.

During the second, or Anglo–Celtic, phase of the revival (c 1973–86), folk music moved increasingly into pubs (the Bothy Folk Club in Hobart or the Bottom Pub Folk Club in Longford, for instance), and the emphasis shifted from American folk and protest to traditional British, Irish and Australian music. A central focus was the annual Longford Folk Festival (1977–86). The third phase of the revival (from about 1987 to the present) has witnessed the emergence of an eclectic, multicultural acoustic music and dance scene, centred around festivals at Cygnet and George Town.

Further reading: M Laffer, 'Southern folk', Honours thesis, UT, 1996.

Malcolm Turnbull