A stellar range of overseas and New Zealand performers are set to make the 2020 Auckland Folk Festival the biggest and most exciting in its 47 year history. Held every Auckland anniversary weekend in January, the festival attracts thousands of music lovers from all over New Zealand, many of them musicians themselves.

The festival has become something of an institution in Auckland but a growth spurt in recent years is seeing a new generation of folk fans discover the natural sounds of acoustic instruments and the diverse roots and contrasting styles of modern folk music.

Fans will revel in the range of music and dance on offer, with genres like traditional folk, Celtic, Americana and bluegrass on the bill along with ethnic and cultural events, kids programmes, blackboard concerts, food stalls, and pop-up performances on a village green stage.

All told, around 150 performers will arrive at the Kumeu showgrounds from USA, Canada, Ireland, UK, and across New Zealand, joining a showcase of Auckland’s own diverse multicultural music and dance on display throughout the weekend.

Headlining the bill for the overseas acts is the two time Grammy Award winner Tim O’Brien, a folk legend in America, who comes to the festival with partner Jan Fabricius (USA).

Top overseas bands include Quebecois five-piece folk band Rosier (Canada), lively Celtic band Keeva (Ireland/NZ), the unique Pauline Scanlon Band (Ireland), and powerhouse English folk band Faustus (UK). Twenty years after his last appearance at the Auckland festival one of the great Irish folk singers, Andy Irvine will be back. The full line-up, released today, is listed below, on the festival website, Facebook and other channels.

In keeping with its family approach, the 2020 festival features an expanded kids programme, with several of the most accomplished kids acts in New Zealand today, and workshops and activities that will include things like instrument making and music performance.

“There is so much going on over the three days of the festival that many families choose to camp right at the festival, so they don’t miss anything,” says Artistic Director Finn McLennan-Elliott. “Kumeu is so convenient to Auckland that many others come for the day to see particular artists.

“The music is incredibly diverse, spanning traditional folk genres through to new indie and alternative folk from right here in New Zealand. Our folk-dance programme is another huge draw card,” he says.

All through the festival, the dance floor in the hall is packed and newbies are helped through the various dances by the musicians, often finding themselves becoming enthusiasts at subsequent festivals.

For festival President, Nigel Robertson, the many stage performances are only one aspect of the festival. “There are quiet camping areas, but the real magic often happens as groups of musicians, many who have especially arranged to camp together every year, jam around the camp sites,” he says.

He too emphasises the friendly atmosphere of the festival, pointing to family camping, kids’ activities, market and food stalls, and the sensible use of BYO-only alcohol on site.

Most importantly for those familiar with the Auckland weather, he says all the venues are sheltered by marquees or inside buildings, so a summer Auckland shower or two never deters anyone.


Festival line up:

Tim O’Brien & Jan Fabricius (USA), Rosier (CAN), Andy Irvine (IRE), Keeva (IRE/NZ), Pauline Scanlon Band (IRE), Faustus (UK), Scott Cook (CAN), Gordie Tentrees (CAN), Tattletale Saints (USA/NZ). Ebony Lamb (NZ), You, Me, Everybody (NZ), Ethno Aotearoa (NZ), Mark Laurent (NZ), AK Samba (NZ), Grawlixes (NZ), Foxtrots (NZ), Cricket Farm (NZ), Celtic Ferret (NZ), Claudia Robin Gunn (NZ), Little Ripples(NZ), Rhubarb (NZ).

Festival lineup poster