by Silke Hartung

Q & A: Finn McLennan-Elliott (Auckland Folk Festival 2018)

by Silke Hartung

Q & A: Finn McLennan-Elliott (Auckland Folk Festival 2018)

Finn McLennan-Elliott loves folk music. A few years ago he founded, a blog dedicated to all things folky, he unofficially manages folk band Fables, and in recent years has been involved with organising (and modernising) the Auckland Folk Festival (Jan 26-28 2018, Kumeu, Auckland), which is now in its fifth decade. 

Can you remember the first you went to the Auckland Folk Festival? What was your impression? 

I am still a relatively new Auckland Folk Festival attendee. My first festival was three or four years ago. It’s a tad dramatic, but it was life-changing. I could immediately see the potential for the festival and where it could go. The people that attend annually, the committee that run it and the musicians who support it are so enthusiastic and there’s so much love for the Festival.

I truly believe it is one of the best-kept secrets of music in Aotearoa. I came away so excited and spoke with all the folkies I knew, discussed my ideas and started to tell those who weren’t there that they needed to go!

Over the last three or four years I’ve slowly grown the group around me who attend and it’s become a point on the calendar that we all lock in and spend a weekend together.

auckland folk festival full posterWhen curating the music, what’s the AFF’s approach?

The curation of the festival’s guests is done by the entire committee, but we have a smaller subcommittee offering our suggestions and recommendations. Personally, I look to curate a selection of guests that spans the wide genre of folk music.

We’ve made some changes to our line up in the last few years, the most consequential being that we’ve tripled the number of guests! There’s also an appreciation and movement in NZ for Americana and alternative-folk or country, and we’ve started to look to include this.

I’m always excited to include a rocking party band, whether it be contemporary, Irish, Americana or traditional bluegrass.

The thing I’m most proud of is the introduction of a new stage, the Village Stage, as a way to include new bands and artists and give them a place to play. This offers bands a platform for entry to the festival and a chance to show off what they can do in the hope to get invited back to the main stage!

Who are you most pleased with securing as a performer for the 2018 festival?

The East Pointers! They were a band on my list of potential future guests and then I got the chance to see and meet them at WOMAD. That was their first foray into NZ and they were very excited to come back, so I am very happy to be able to facilitate that.

They’re such awesome guys and are eager to get out surfing and exploring the NZ environment – and their music is phenomenal. They’re going to bring the party and hopefully they’ll see some faces from WOMAD who make the trip out to AFF.

The Folk Festival is always child-friendly, but as a parent, what can you expect?

We’re introducing a Kids Stage this year. We’re still working out the exact details but our aim is to have all our kids entertainment in one place and one stage so that children don’t have to follow the programme around to find their activities.

We have numerous workshops dedicated to kids and a special band this year we’ve invited to perform on the stage – The Hairy Family Jam Band.

The Festival is a great place to bring the family, there is lots of open space, tents are well spread out and everyone is friendly. In recent years large groups of teenagers can be found on site, they are always up late enjoying jams, hanging out in tent lounges and soaking up the atmosphere.

What about the drinking culture around the festival?

AFF has always been BYO and will continue to be so, but we have a great drinking culture within the Festival. Saturday night sees homebrew being offered in the Barn.This culture spreads outwards to everything about the attendees of the festival.

We have security that wander the festival grounds at night, but with all the jams that go on until the wee hours, there’s people coming and going and lots of life happening almost 24 hours a day!

Folk is so much about community and collaboration. Should we be bringing our own guitars?

You should definitely bring your guitars – or banjo, bass, ukulele, fiddle, mandolin, wind instrument or your voice.

Jams happen at all times outside people’s tents or in some of the unused venues. Late night sessions start up anytime after dark and go until the early hours and ANYONE and EVERYONE is always welcome.

Some of the best moments of the festival happen after the concerts when a headline guest is found singing songs with people they’ve just met in someone’s tent. Never go anywhere without your instrument, you don’t want to miss that crucial tune!