Now in its fifth year, the Festival Of Small Halls has grown into a regional tour de force that takes folk artists into the Australian Outback and beyond.
In partnership with the organisers of Woodford Folk Festival, Woodfordia Inc., and Mullum Music Festival, the Festival Of Small Halls
has been spearheaded by Woodfordia Head Of Programming, Chloe Goodyear.
“One of the reasons we started [Festival Of] Small Halls is because for the kinds of music that we present at Woodford [Folk Festival] and the kinds of artists, there's not a lot on offer in terms of venues,” Chloe says.
“It's really difficult to present music that you need people to listen to in a bar for example, and Australia has huge numbers of really fantastic musicians.
"So for us it was about building a tour route that folk and traditional artists will be able to get on where people have learned to appreciate that kind of music and aren't so worried about the name attached to it.”
This year, Festival Of Small Halls presents a double-bill of US and Australian talent with Vance Gilbert and our very own Liz Stringer set to take the reins. Chloe explains how selecting the right artists for this style of tour is paramount to its success.
“We have a great relationship with the halls that have been coming back year after year, and I feel like we've learned also a lot about what type of artist will work in that setting, and artists of the quality and good humour that Vance and Liz have.”
The Festival Of Small Halls model has been borrowed and adapted from similar programmes in Canada and England.
Chloe was directly inspired by the event of the same name held in Canada's smallest province, Prince Edward Island (PEI). “The one in PEI that is actually called Festival Of Small Halls is over a couple of weeks,” Chloe says.
“Artists will go in and they'll play three or four shows in different halls but they're not touring in the same way that they do in Australia. Ours is a straight-up touring project and theirs is a festival grouped together over a few weeks. It's really beautiful.”
Though she won't take full credit, it is Chloe we have to thank for initiating such a unique tour here in Australia. “I'm the one that said, 'maybe we should do this' and everyone else are the ones who said, 'yes and let's do it like this',” she laughs.
“I am grateful to be part of it, I love it and I think it's a beautiful tour.
“I brought the idea to Woodford after I visited PEI. I came home and probably for two years while I was working away at my regular Woodford programming; in the background I was piecing together how the touring could work and talking to other festivals.”
Most important for Chloe are the sharing and networking opportunities the festival makes possible between international musicians and our own. “It's been a really nice opportunity to be involved with other festivals and having some more formal sharing opportunities.
“I developed the tour for Woodford but it's definitely taken on a life of its own with all the other people who are involved now.”
The Festival Of Small Halls takes place throughout regional QLD from 15 November to 27 December, including performances at Woodford Folk Festival and Mullum Folk Festival.