Billed (by the organisers) as the premier Celtic festival in the Southern Hemisphere, the National Celtic Festival at Portarlington is indeed shaping up to be a grand time for its 12th year. Music, dance, workshops, and markets - all held in the beautiful coastal locality around 100 kilometres from Melbourne.
This music festival is distinctive because it is held in winter, where most organisers wait for finer weather. But cool weather, combined with the coastal location, seems perfect as a moody, atmospheric setting for a Celtic music festival, reflecting the countries of origin.
Running over the Queen's Birthday long weekend of 6-9 June, the festival has significant support from Scottish and Irish contacts, as you can see in the official documentary. It's also impossible not to tap your feet once the doco jumps into previewing some of the music on offer.
A new aspect of this close relationship with other countries is the cultural exchange program with Scotland, which is designed to foster skills in traditional Celtic music and culture among young musicians. At the festival, there will be a performance by young Australian and Scottish musicians, the culmination of workshops over preceding months.
In addition, in the week leading up the festival, locals will be entertained by a specially selected group of musicians who will perform a "Ceilidh Trail", as travelling musicians. These talented people will also perform over the festival weekend.
If you're not a musician but fancy yourself as a wordsmith, you might feel inclined to sign up for the Limerick Competition. According to the organisers, 'the winner receives a weekend ticket to the next year's Festival and an induction to the National Celtic Festival Limerick Hall of Fame! Runners up will receive some classy Festival merchandise.' How could any poet worth their salt pass that up. 'There was a young lady from Cork / Whose boy was a bit of a dork / She gave him the flick / bought a festival tick / and danced till she could no more walk'. Hmm, I might be in with a chance!
Sadly, the program is still not available online, with less than a month to go for the festival. However, you can whet your appetite with a look at the artists who will be performing.
You could conceivably drive down from Melbourne each day of the festival, but if you prefer to stay locally (probably recommended if you are planning to frequent the Wine Bar or the Celtic Club), there are a few options in the Bellarine area. Festival organisers recommend you contact the local Bellarine Tourist Information service online or call the Bellarine Visitor Information on 1800 755 611.