Hearty turnout drawn to first shanty festival

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The Albany Shantymen entertain the crowd.
Camera IconThe Albany Shantymen entertain the crowd. Credit: Laurie Benson

Albany was overflowing with camaraderie over Easter as working songs were bellowed through the streets during Australia’s first shanty festival.

Festival organiser Gary Greenwald deemed the three-day Albany International Folk ‘n Shanty Festival a resounding success after people packed local venues for the free gigs.

“I was worried because I was at Six Degrees for one of the first gigs and it was just packed and I had to leave to the opening concert at the Entertainment Centre,” he said.

“I thought that the first venue would have emptied so that everyone could come over there.

“Then I asked someone after and they said it was shoulder-to-shoulder the entire time.

“In other countries, every town has a shanty group and it is a strange thing that this phenomenon has bypassed Australia.”

While attendance numbers for the non-ticketed weekend can only be estimated, Mr Greenwald guessed up to 2000 people attended shows.

The festival was headlined by renowned UK group Kimber’s Men.

They were joined by 13 other groups from near and far.

Mr Greenwald, the founder of Albany Shantymen, said a change of date and branching out from the Albany Arts Festival were some of the changes on the cards for next year. “It would be great if, as part of the City of Albany tourism, we could get the Leeuwin (tallship) down, do a transport package and market it as part of a national folk tour,” he said.

“If you could do that and bring international visitors to Albany, that would be fantastic.

“We need to support it as a city and call it ours, otherwise someone else will snatch it up and we will lose it.”

The Albany Shantymen will perform where they feel most comfortable, in pubs, at the Fairbridge Festival this weekend.

He said it nice to be involved it the upcoming festival, as well as their own, because they can help people create their own groups.

“You don’t have to spend money, you don’t have to be fit, you don’t have to commit the rest of your life.

“The nature of this is community festival, so it gives people the chance to start somewhere and practice in front of a crowd.”

Mr Greenwald is encouraging anyone who attended to give feedback on the Facebook page or to the City of Albany to help grow the festival next year.

“I only want it to make money for the city we live in and the charities — it isn’t about making money, it’s about working together for the community,” he said.

“It will remain a free event and the day it isn’t, it will lose its true meaning.”

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