We were “folkies” like many of our generation. Always enjoying groups like Peter Paul and Mary, The Seekers, and many singers of ballads and protest songs of the era.
From 1992, the National Folk Festival held in Canberra over Easter every year. It had for many years been held in different states around Australia, but like many such big events, it became obvious that every year, a new team of people were learning from scratch how to organise the event. That was why in 1992, it was decided to centralise the event in one location, with an ongoing team to undertake the organisation and administration.
Living in Canberra at the time, and seeing a couple of our favourite current performers, we had to give the Festival a go that first year. We bought a couple of day tickets so that we could attend concerts by these favourites. We were hooked. This was the last time we bought only day tickets – in subsequent years we bought full season tickets. There were so many venues and concerts. There were new performers to discover, and styles of music to explore. There were food stalls, craft stalls, street performers. There were featured artists from around Australia and overseas. Yes, we were hooked. For a few years, we were among the volunteers who helped run the event, and my husband also performed in the band that provided the music for the Saturday night Irish Ceili dance.
It was here that we discovered Roy Bailey, from the UK. He has been described as:
"one of folk music's finest performers and one of the world's best carriers of the people's message."
"...the greatest socialist folksinger of his generation" - Tony Benn (a former Labour MP in the UK.)
We made sure that we attended all his concerts. Sometimes we heard some of his songs more than once, but this did not happen often. He was not a song writer, but chose amazing songs to sing, gave great information about the songs and his performances were inspiring. Then at a concert in 1997, he announced that it had been confirmed that he would be performing in the Royal Albert Hall in London in March 1998. We had been talking about a UK holiday to visit the places of my husband’s childhood. The timing for the trip had been decided! We booked our tickets for the concert as soon as bookings opened – amongst the first bookings made we were told.
Yes, we were there on 29 March 1998 at Roy Bailey’s concert in the Royal Albert Hall. He knew we would be there, and made a point of telling the audience.
Yes, we were there!