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Ami Williamson, daughter of folk legend John Williamson, was one of the drawcards at the inaugural Folk by the Sea Festival at the weekend.

Williamson is a veteran of the folk festival circuit, having started out in one of her famous father’s audiences.

“I remember sitting in the crowd with cut sandwiches with my mum, wearing ponchos, watching dad in a massive, massive crowd,” she said. “It’s no coincidence that I’m not into dance and metal – folk is in the family.”

Williamson, self-taught on guitar and piano but formally trained in classical music and opera, entertained at the Kiama festival with a combination of older material and songs likely to be included on her upcoming album.

She described the atmosphere at the three-day festival organised by the Illawarra Folk Club as “friendly and open with a harmonious vibe”.

Illawarra Folk Club president Russell Hannah said warm weather, great talent and appreciative audiences made the inaugural event a great success. He said the event, which featured folk, world, Celtic, bluegrass, roots and gypsy music, attracted hundreds of folk lovers from the Illawarra and South Coast, and beyond.

“It has proved itself to be very successful with very good crowds and beautiful acts and we uncovered some great talent including the Rusty Datsuns and the Rusty Spring Syncopators,” Mr Hannah said. “Other highlights included Ted Egan, from Alice Springs, Enda Kenney, from Melbourne and local Irish band Riogh, whose concert was absolutely packed out.”

The festival started on Friday night with a bush dance, before the main acts played at five venues at the Kiama Showground Pavilion on Saturday.

A free folk concert in Kiama’s Hindmarsh Park yesterday was a great finale to the festival, with mostly Illawarra acts like Wongawilli bush band, Crooked River Bluegrass and Wollongong Welsh Choir entertaining.

Mr Hannah said the festival would now be an annual event, replacing the Folk in the Foothills event held in Jamberoo.

“The Illawarra Folk Festival has been running successfully for 29 years and we’ve always had a presence down south – for the last nine years out of Jamberoo with Folk in the Foothills,” he said. “We lost the Jamberoo venue but still wanted to keep a presence down here and Kiama council and local MP Gareth Ward were very supportive so we have been able to kick off this event.

“Kiama certainly has the ambience to run festivals and this has just been such a great first year, with all 600 weekend tickets sold and folk-lovers coming from near and far.”


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