Celtic News May 2016

The May edition of Celtic News is always the biggest of the year. There is so much to tell you about. Quite apart from reporting on the Australian Celtic Festival itself, there are all the winners of the Australian Celtic Music Awards to honour.

This year, of course, we have the winners of the inaugural Australian Celtic Dance Championships to announce. And, for the first time, I will include details about the Inductees to the Celtic Roll of Honour.

The first item for this edition is a thought provoking submission from Colin Edwards. Having attended the 2015 Patagonia Celtic Festival, written about in an earlier edition of Celtic News, Colin was prompted to think about the position and future of similar Festivals in Australia.

Patagonia Celtic Festival 2016

Some thoughts on festivals with Patagonia Celtica in focus from Colin Edwards of Platform 9 3/4.

Patagonia Celtic FestivalOn reflection, as a performer, I looked at Patagonia Celtica 2015 with blinkered spectacles. As it was the 150th year celebrating Welsh emigration to Patagonia, I was expecting a higher level of focus on this historic event. In fact, it hardly rated a mention. ‘Encuentro’ translates from the Spanish as “Meeting’ and as this event was only the fourth occasion in Trevelin, that is exactly what it was –a bringing together of all forms of Celtic culture and cuisine to the far west of Argentina, nestling in the Andes.

The 5th Meeting was held in February 2016 and much of its strength and attraction is due to the drive and commitment of the local committee to the project. After all it is 1900km south-west of Buenos Aires!! That is equivalent to travelling from Melbourne to Rockhampton; further than Glen Innes to Adelaide.

What I hadn’t understood was the long-term commitment of the locals to their Celtic heritage particularly in finding ways to further develop and strengthen their legacy from the past.
The area has strong Welsh links so I shall ignore the presence of Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid!!  One of the major projects was the building of a new Welsh language school in Trevelin which was commissioned this year.

While I was there, the first of the cultural exchanges brought Dafydd, Baron Wigley and his famous harp playing wife Elinor Bennet with a gift of harps from Wales to schools in Patagonia.  But so much of the story unveiled after I left.  The governor of the Welsh province of Chubut in Argentina signed an accord with the First Minister of Wales, which envisaged increased cultural ties between Wales and Welsh Patagonia.

The ship carrying the emigrants – The ‘Mimosa’ – was commemorated in Liverpool with a plaque unveiled on the anniversary of its sailing (the original passengers paid £12 per adult or £6 per child for the journey in May 1865) and then a re-enactment of the arrival at Puerto Madryn – an event witnessed by the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones. In addition, many cultural events were staged including the visit of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, The National Youth Choir and Melody Music of Cardiff put together a touring Welsh Male Voice Choir from choirs throughout Wales.

Patagonia Celtic Festival

So then I looked at our festivals here in Australia and some milestones indeed this year. The National Folk Music Festival celebrated its 50th festival and Port Fairy its 40th and later this year Maldon will celebrate its 43rd – all junior to ‘the musician’s holiday weekend’ at Nariel Creek.
Certainly these are big events and all are presented as one-off events. The Celtic Festivals are celebrating more modestly with The Australian Celtic Festival leading the way on 24, followed by Beechworth on 22 and the National Celtic with 14 festivals this year. I know it’s always a difficult job each year to find the sponsors, the hard-working committee members and the volunteers to be able to run a festival and ensure that next year will be viable.

Unfortunately the Celtic Festival at Echuca fell in a hole in 2014 and has not resurfaced. Kapunda Celtic foundered and rebranded as a Music and Arts festival perhaps to attract a larger audience. So the writing on their walls is clearly visible to festival committees.

So where are the centres connecting with a Celtic past in Australia and how important is it for the festival to identify with a strong Celtic history in the region?

Glen Innes has strong links to a Scottish history and in more recent times erected the Celtic Standing Stones (1988) so it can truly boasts that it stands for things Celtic but does the ACF promote that Celtic theme strongly through the year?

Portarlington although named after a town in Ireland, would seem to have few continuing links to a Celtic past particularly when compared to Koroit, Warrnambool, Port Fairy and Killarney much further west. It offers no connected events throughout the year, however it has formed exciting reciprocal international connections (eg: Feis Rois) based on supporting new talent, and in a short time has developed a very strong international reputation.

Malvern has strong early Welsh links from the gold-era and was home to Joseph Jenkins, the ‘Welsh Swagman’ but apart from the involvement with local historians does not promote a Celtic link. Camperdown has an unique Scottish icon – an early statue of young Robert Burns – and has its own ‘Robert Burns Music Festival’ – surely something to promote the town and its Scottish heritage? In the week leading up to its festival it presents satellite concerts in rural centres across the Corangamite Shire – good local pre-publicity.

Patagonia Celtic Festival

These are all very different festivals with different budgets and composition of organising committees, so what is the recipe for on-going success? Is it to be measured by size and the number of International artists? Is it measured by the way that those visiting are immersed in the ‘Celtic Spirit’ generated by the festival? For success does it need to be a complete offering of Celtic Culture – music, dance artifacts, gifts and culinary delights? Or is it sufficient just to have good music, good camaraderie and ample supplies of Guinness?
Coming from a Celtic background, I understand the feeling of isolation from my homeland and welcome the revitalising effect of being involved in Celtic Music Festivals here in Australia and we certainly have variety. So is part of the key to survival to establish links beyond Australia? Festival Interceltique de Lorient showcases Australia this year and is one of a small number of festivals that promote the individual Celtic ‘Nations’.  ACF is unique in that respect in Australia.

We have the concept of ‘Twin Towns’, why not twin ‘Celtic Events’? Should Rotary exchange in areas with a Celtic heritage seek to enhance that bond with young people from Celtic Nations rather than exchanges based on language differences? Who would not want to experience The Isle Of Skye or Donegal or Pembrokeshire in Wales or life in the Orkneys? Should we seek strong overseas associations and exchanges that will help us grow and inspire our young and emerging talent?

At the very least we need to ensure that our festivals motivate and inspire the organising committees so that they come back next year with friends!!


The Australian Celtic Festival 2016

Unusually, I didn’t actually make it up to “the hill” this year. My weekend was very full though, and I can always rely on others to let me know how the Festival proper went. We had wonderful weather until quite late on Sunday, when there was some rain. That really didn’t dampen anyone’s enthusiasm!

Entertainment was a very high standard and everybody who attended enjoyed themselves enormously. Good company, good music, some really great dancing and, of course, the massed pipe bands made for a wonderful weekend. Added to that, the spectacle of a genuine Celtic wedding in the Stone Circle on Saturday appealed to everybody. Our congratulations to Naomi and Bob!

And what was I doing, I hear you ask? I started the Festival by attending the screening of “Island Bound” on Thursday evening. That was a most interesting documentary, tracing the movement of Celtic music, particularly to the Americas.

On Friday night, I was at the Murphy’s Pigs concert at Glen Innes Services Club. The concert was preceded by the traditional Address to the Haggis, read by Jim Donald with Malcolm Parsons as the Piper. This evening event is becoming a fixture at the Festival and drew a huge crowd. And a highlight for me was Dominic from the Pigs playing Volare and That’s Amore!

On Saturday afternoon I joined a small audience to listen to Mark Cryle and Carmel Newman who were joined for part of the session by the wonderful Michael Fix. That session was a real treat.

Saturday evening was The Official Celtic Awards Night – with the Awards listed later in this Newsletter. And on Sunday I went to dinner at The Hereford Steakhouse with entertainment by Mark Cryle and Carmel Newman, joined on this occasion by Rebecca and Donald. Then I took a few days to recover!


The Official Celtic Awards Night

The Australian Celtic Dance Championships

First, let me introduce you to the judges of this year’s contest. Petar and Jessica Grulovic are co-Principals of Triple Threat Theatre Academy, based in Mackay, Queensland. Staff and students of the Academy are preparing for their 10th production, a musical trip through Scotland and Ireland, called “Celtic Journey”.

This event is always spectacular. As the years have gone on, the number of Awards presented has continued to grow. In 2016, the Inaugural Australian Celtic Dance Championships were added to the list. So here are all the winners of all the Awards.

Petar started Irish dancing at age 7 and over his competitive career received nine Queensland state championships and is a former Australian Champion. He also placed in the 2002 World Irish Dancing Championships.

Jessica has worked professionally with Opera Queensland. She teaches Celtic classical, modern and folk music to her private students in North Queensland.

Molly ArmstrongPetar and Jessica were very excited to have the opportunity to judge the inaugural Australian Celtic Dance Championships.

Solo winner was Molly Armstrong (pictured on the right), runner up was Brianna Holdstock and Highly Commended was Shea Mulligan.

Winner in the group category was Cape Byron Celtic Dance, with Flora Grubb School of Highland Dancing as the runner up. Norther Celts was the Highly Commended group. Congratulations to you all.

Celtic Roll of Honour

When considering who to honour annually on The Celtic Honour Roll, we should particularly remember those who were here right at the beginning of the Australian Standing Stones. The next person to be added to the Honour Roll was here before the beginning.

Peter AlexanderPeter Alexander

Peter was active in the Scottish and Celtic Communities, being the Convenor of the Celtic Council of Australia at its foundation. In this role, he drove the whole concept of The Australian Standing Stones even before Glen Innes was chosen as the site.

As one of the inaugural Guardians of The Australian Standing Stones, Peter was a Life Guardian. As Convenor of the Celtic Council of Australia, he was the Deputy Chief Guardian, a position always held by the Convenor of the Celtic Council, with the Mayor of Glen Innes being the Chief Guardian. Peter was also, until his death in 2003, a proud warden of the Scottish Memorial Cairn at Mosman.

A prolific writer, Peter published 2 papers in Scottish Gaelic, edited the Clan Macallister newsletter and Harmabee for the Kenya Australia Society, as well as the history of the 458 Squadron “We Find and Destroy”.

Peter’s 32 years of work on behalf of ex-servicemen was recognised at his retirement from the Australian Veterans and Defence Services Council, by then Defence Minister Danna Vale with the words “‘Peter, words are never enough to truly acclaim your exceptional service – you are one of Australia’s finest sons. You are a national living treasure and your life is an exceptional example of citizenship of the highest order.” Peter Alexander is totally deserving of his place on the Honour Roll.

Colin Lute DuA
Col LuteCol Lute is another who has been closely connected with The Australian Standing Stones from the very early years. As a Councillor of the former Glen Innes Municipal Council, Col became a Member of the Australian Standing Stones Management Board in 1995. He became Chair of the Management Board in 2004 and held this position for eight years.

In the beginning, the Festival was a sub-committee of the ASSMB. After it became a separate entity, Col continued to work tirelessly for both the Management Board and the Festival, organising the Kirkin’ of the Tartan, working closely with the Ministers’ Fraternal.

Col Lute is a Guardian of the Standing Stones. Most importantly he is recognised as a living history resource. His knowledge of the town and the Standing Stones is extensive. Col willingly shares this knowledge with visitors as he leads guided tours around the town, culminating at the Standing Stones. Col is truly a worthy inclusion on the Honour Roll.

The 2016 Triquetra Awards

Presented annually for services to the Celtic Community and to The Australian Celtic Festival, these beautiful medallions are a true recognition of excellence. This year’s Awards went to:

The Triquetra Ambassador – Steve Passfield
The Triquetra Achiever- Fay Binns
The 2016 Triquetra Medallion – Raelene Watson

The Australian Celtic Music Awards

Celtic Album of the Year  – Murphy’s Pigs for ‘Larrikins & Knuckle Boys’
Celtic Male Artist of the Year – Darren Coggan
Celtic Female Artist of the Year – Sarah Lynn
Celtic Song of the Year  – Murphy’s Pigs for ‘Devils Thirteen’
Celtic Group of the Year – Murphy’s Pigs
Celtic Album Producer of the Year – Steve Passfield
International Artist of the Year – Clan Celtica (New Zealand)
Wendy Watts New Celtic Talent of the Year – Kathryn Jones
Celtic Instrumental of the Year – Carmel Newman for ‘The Three Little Jigs’

2016 Australian Celtic Music Awards winners
Back row – Murphy’s Pigs, Darren Coggan, Kathryn Jones, Carmel Newman, Col Lute (2016 Celtic Roll of Honour Inductee) Sarah Lynn; Front row – Karen Armstrong (Representing Celtic Dance Winners), Steve Passfield (2016 Triquetra Ambassador recipient), Raelene Watson (2016 Triquetra recipient), Fay Binns (2016 Triquetra Achiever recipient)

Australian Celtic Artist of the Year – MURPHY’S PIGS
Murphy's Pigs


Announcing Murphy’s Pigs 10th Anniversary Concert Saturday 17th September 2016

And following on from their very successful Australian Celtic Music Awards, John and the Band invite you to come and celebrate Murphy’s Pigs 10th Anniversary at Glen Innes Services Club on Saturday 17th September. Doors open at 6 pm with the show from 7pm. Glen Innes group Lorica (Martin Moxey, Christine Davis and Vince Redal) will be supporting Murphy’s Pigs. This will be the stand-out event of Spring 2016, so bookings are essential! $20 per ticket (concert only). Tickets are on sale NOW so reserve your table today. Book on 02 6732 1355 or julie@giservices.com.au.


Well, that’s pretty much all from me this month. Next month there will be quite a bit more to tell you about. There are some exciting anniversaries coming up here in Glen Innes, so watch this space!

Barbara McLennan
Celtic News
02 6734 5189

Published with permission from Celtic News