River Folk Festival returns to fill the start of summer with songs

The Maes are one of the headline acts at the 2023 River Folk Festival in Warburton. Picture: SUPPLIED

By Callum Ludwig

The fourth edition of the River Folk Festival is set to fill Warburton with songs on summer nights this year.

This year’s event will be held from Friday 1 to Sunday 3 December with much-loved artists from overseas, interstate and close to home descending on the town.

Event Director Sam Watson said the festival has a pretty beautiful lineup for Warburton this year and he is looking forward to some summer weather too.

“It’s such a creative community out here and having a mark in the calendar of a big celebration we can go to right on our doorstep in this beautiful part of the world, it just feels like you’re better able to enjoy what the festival has to offer,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to having patrons and artists able to jump in the river if it’s warm enough.”

The 2023 River Folk Festival is headlined by award-winning Melburnians The Maes, internationally-renowned Solomon Islands singer Charles Maimarosia and John Flanagan who has gained plaudits for his Australian-style folk sound, like Australia’s own version of Americana.

Mr Watson said the idea of the festival, and particularly its new date, is to energise the town and have it full and exciting.

“We’ll be on the same weekend, starting on Friday, as the annual Warburton Christmas Twilight Market, as well as the Valley Market Warburton, which is the Sunday,” he said.

“It will be nice to have people enjoying the markets, the really fine outdoor weather, and the river which was one of the big positives in moving the date for this year,”

“It’s approaching the school holidays and Christmas time when a good warm weekend in Warburton gets pretty packed at the best of times.”

The festival is not limited to just folk, as jazz, roots and country music will all feature as Gusto Gusto, The Good Behaviours, Mickey & Michelle, Great Aunt, Jo Davie, Emily-Rose Sarkova, Saije, Apolline and Isabel Rumble complete the lineup.

Mr Watson said the return of the festival after Covid last year made for a wonderful event.

“We had arranged artists for the 2020 festival which was the first one cancelled but remained in conversation with them continually through each postponement and cancellation of the festival due to the pandemic until finally in 2022, we were actually able to realise that lineup and those artists got their chance to perform at the festival which was great to see,” he said.

“Attendance was the highest we’d had so far and I think one of the really beautiful things was aside from the spectacular weather that weekend, everyone at that time was really wanting to shake off the effects of what lockdowns did for the live events industry,”

“That was a real welcome aspect for a lot of people to just experience the freedom of how an event was, prior to all of the restrictions and we are hopeful that this year will be another step forward.”

With the Healesville Music Festival announcing it would no longer be running in the future earlier this year, the continued presence of the River Folk Festival remains important to the local music scene in the years to come.

Mr Watson said they absolutely intend for it to continue and to continue growing.

“We have plans, ideas and visions of how it will be in five years’ time and in 10 years’ time so there’s a longevity behind the trajectory that we’re on and the goal always was to start at a certain size and grow in a way that integrates with the town to the point where the entire town becomes the festival for the weekend,” he said.

“There are so many venues and so many artists performing in the Melbourne music scene and it’s quite saturated, so having an alternative that’s still within reach for Melbourne patrons, and also in such a gorgeous part of the world as the Yarra Valley, is very important.”