Folk On The Road – Endless Sky: A Personal, Musical Love Letter To Mparntwe

Alice Springs - First visit in March-April 2021
Anzac Hill at Alice Springs. From the author’s first visit in March-April 2021. Before I knew the word ‘Mparntwe’, definitely before I knew how to pronounce it. Thanks, Xavia for the video instruction during Endless Sky, recorded by 8CCC Community Radio et al on 21 August 2021 at Araluen Arts Centre, Mparntwe, transmitted on 13 September 2021 – see article for link.

This article also appeared in an edited format in the October 2021 edition no. 144 of Trad & Now magazine – available in good newsagents and some sketchy ones too. Or by subscription at www.tradandnow.com.

This article was principally written on the lands of the Central Arrernte people in Mparntwe (Alice Springs). I’m creating this online version on the lands of Western Arrernte people and doing the most recent of many edits in Walyalup (Fremantle) on the lands of the Whadjuk people. I pay respect to the traditional custodians of these lands: past, present, emerging, and those to come. The author of this rambling tome was born on Ngunnawal land.

Endless Sky – A Personal, Musical Love Letter to Mparntwe

by Bill Quinn

Darwin Festival 2021 went ahead from Thursday 4 to Sunday 22 August 2021, and as the song says, it was against all odds.

Well, not all odds, but many.

In these pages [of Trad & Now magazine] we’ve discussed the challenges (and strangely the opportunities) that Covid19 or corona virus or SARS2 has presented to the worlds of music, arts, entertainment, and hospitality.

For now, I have to tip all of my hats in the direction of Harbour View Plaza in McMinn Street, Darwin and say the sincerest and deepest of thanks to everyone at Darwin Festival who made DF21 happen. That it happened at all is remarkable. That it blossomed forth in such sparkling, memorable fashion is an incredible accomplishment.

If you were attending the festival from out of town, or were new to the festival, it may have appeared a seamlessly professional and comprehensive series of so many events covering all the aspects of the yarts imaginable. Apart from three days off for Darwin’s Lockdown Light III (17-19 August 2021), the show went on, and every spot on the program that I can recall was filled with sparkling talent.

Yeah, sadly many southern artists could not make it to the Top End to join in the joy and fun. That was a shame.

Festival CEO James Gough and Artistic Director Felix Preval, and the scores of production, box office, talent-wrangling, stallholder-herding, sales, corporate liaison, sponsor-schmoozers, and volunteer coordinator Mathilde Mercadier – all of them ducked, weaved, bobbed, re-organised, rescheduled, reordered, and (strike me down, I’m going to use the P word) yes, they pivoted. (There goes a dollar in the buzzword jar.)

Together they created an amazing event, a jewel in a groaning, heaving, bloated, glorious calendar of Darwin and Top End events.

Darwin Festival 2021. Image by Bill Quinn.
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Barry Skipsey – Singer, Songwriter, Photographer

Image courtesy of Barry Skipsey

Overheard On The Road
Observations, interviews, and stories from the backroads, main roads, and city streets of Terra Australis and the world
– This article appeared in Trad & Now magazine in early 2021.

Barry Skipsey – Photographer, Singer-songwriter, Northern Territorian
by Bill Quinn with Madison Collier

In June 2021, the Central Australian Folk Society (CAFS) and Top End Folk Club (TEFC) held their slightly delayed 50th Top Half Folk Festival at Mary River, NT.

You can read all about it in Trad & Now edition 143, September 2021. Mentioned in dispatches is Barry Skipsey, a man of many talents, with a story to tell that’s in many ways a common tale: come to Australia’s Northern Territory for a few weeks; stay for decades.

But in the most important way, it’s unique to Barry Skipsey.

A man who just yesterday (as I type in late 2021) appeared on stage in Alice Springs with no less than Scotty Balfour, Ross Muir, and David Evans in the ‘Living Histories’ show: stories and songs from the legendary band Bloodwood, plus their solo adventures outside the band.

On a Sunday afternoon in June, The Shavings had finished their singing workshop and the afternoon concert was kicking in, we had a chat with Barry, dressed in his territory rig and leaning against his territory rig. (First rig is a clothes reference, the second is a mighty automobile that ploughs the Stuart Highway and beyond).

Image courtesy of Barry Skipsey

Bill Quinn: Barry, you’ve been doing folk for about 145 years?

Barry Skipsey: (Laughs) Seems like it. I’m only 64 but yeah, we’ve all got aches and pains. I’ve got a couple of brand new knees in recent years.

BQ: But you’re not originally from the Northern Territory?

BS:  No, I was actually born on King Island. I’m a Tasmanian, technically.

I left there when I was about six years old. My father was over there building soldier settler homes. My brother and I were born there, and I left there when I was six. And I often say that we came to Australia. We came to Melbourne.

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