Cardrona Folk Festival 2017

Cardrona Valley, Central Otago

20-23 October 2017 (Labour Weekend)










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This year marks our 42nd festival, the longest running festival at the same venue in New Zealand. As usual everything takes place at the historic Cardrona Hall and surrounding reserve, and runs from Friday 20th to Monday 23rd October 2017. This year our guest lineup features the return of one of our most popular UK guests ever, plus 2 other exciting acts from around the South Island.  




ROBIN LAING (Scotland):

Robin was last at our wee festival in 2002 and is still mentioned by regular festival goers as one of the best overseas guests we have ever had. He is recognised as one of the most brilliant singer / songwriters from Scotland and has been a full-time musician since 1996, when he "downshifted" from a professional career. He writes wonderfully sensitive songs about friends and family, fantastic story songs about characters from Scotland’s history and also excruciatingly funny songs too. He has released many successful solo albums to date, the last few being songs and stories about his other passion – malt whisky! In this regard he has another string to his bow and regularly chairs whisky tasting panels for the Scottish Malt Whisky Society in Edinburgh – what a terrible job, but someone has to do it! This combined with his songs about the drams of Caledonia has made him very much in demand around Europe and Scandinavia with his unique musical whisky tastings. Many of you will probably remember from his 2002 visit his internationally acclaimed workshop called the The Angels Share, which explores the purely cultural aspects of whisky through song and verse.  He also has a real interest in the old Scots ballads - the "Muckle Sangs" - and the songs of Robbie Burns - and not just the rude ones!

The last concert on Saturday afternoon will be a whisky concert - so come prepared with a bottle of your favourite malt and join in with the fun.




Sweet Hurricane is comprised of Imogen Coxhead and Denis Gordon, two of Dunedin’s most experienced folk singers and musicians. They got together musically a few years ago and have appeared at the last two or three Cardrona festivals as part of the blackboard concerts. After their stunning performance at the Whare Flat Folk Festival this year, we thought it was high time we featured them as one of our guest concert spots. They have worked out a wonderful repertoire of very eclectic songs of great variety, that range from very funny to extremely beautiful renditions of traditional and contemporary songs.   Some of their material is done acapella, other songs use lovely but simple arrangements on guitar, flute, whistle and dulcimer.



JONATHAN LE COCQ and TESSA WHITE (Christchurch):  

I first saw the exciting Christchurch-based duo Tessa White and Jonathan Le Cocq at the Waimate festival 16 months ago and booked them on the spot for Cardrona. They play a unique blend of music for violin, guitar and mandolin ranging from Irish, Canadian and French traditional music, to intricate country-inflected fingerstyle, to hard-to-classify originals. Jonathan's background in early music, playing lute with the top performance groups in the country, informs his approach to playing traditional music, and combines with Tessa's youthful, virtuosic tune-playing for an evening of original and dynamic music making. As well as a full afternoon concert and a spot on Sunday night, Tessa and Jonathan have agreed to form the core of the band for the Saturday evening ceilidh.

Youtube clip: I Yell at Traffic (Leo Kottke):





Begun over 25 years ago, this has become one of the most popular events at Cardrona and the idea of a bush poetry session has now spread to most other festivals around the country. Each year it is getting longer and better with most of it consisting of hilarious and original material.  




This will take the usual format of a traditional “Big Ugly” band which will be fronted by Tessa and Jonathan, with your host Martin Curtis calling dances.  All other musicians and dance callers are welcome to join in the evening’s fun – in fact it is absolutely essential that you do.   


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As always there will be a couple of blackboard concerts, so that all singers and musicians - and children - can get a chance to let us hear a couple of their songs or tunes.    Our unaccompanied harmony session in the wee church on Sunday morning is always very popular, with contributions welcome from anyone who has a good chorus song we can join in with. There is always plenty of space and time for jamming sessions. Remember to bring earplugs if you don’t want to hear music in the small hours – after all, this is a folk music festival, and there is always time for “Just One More Chorus.”


The cost for a full weekend ticket (Friday to Monday) will be $90, with secondary children at $40 (wee ones are free). Bring everything you need, as all we supply is a flat (and usually dry) paddock, a couple of taps, hopefully fine weather and heaps of music and fun. The new luxury toilets are now working perfectly but the historic long-drops have also been recently renovated for festival-goers who don’t like queuing or suffer from nostalgia (there are pills for that too!)   This is a self-catering festival but meals are available, at a price, up the road at the Cardrona Hotel.  Also we have a newly opened “Cardrona General Store” just up the road, where you can buy milk, bread and groceries.    We regret that we do not have showers, as being a public reserve, we are unable to build anything to cope with this.   The river is not far away!


We regret that we cannot accommodate dogs at the festival – not everyone likes them and our site is too small to find a separate area (unlike festivals such as Tui.)  Please kennel them for the weekend.


The ski chalets next door to the site are no longer available, as they now have permanent residents in them.    Those who want accommodation should contact Ben Brae resort or the Cardrona Hotel.     Please make your own bookings for these.  Other accommodation is available in Wanaka 25 kms away, along with a wide choice of restaurants and cafes.  Best book now though.  


Pre-registration for the festival is not yet necessary, however it is really helpful to us if you could pay in advance.   Our bank account details are as follows:  06 0943 0012701-00


Hope to see you at the festival

Martin & Kay




For further information and bookings contact

Martin & Kay Curtis, 2256 Cardrona Valley Road, RD2, Wanaka 9382

Phone 03 443 8152

Email: martincurtisnz(at) (you need to substitute the @ sign, to discourage spammers!)


Last Updated: 26st August 2017