Mr John Shortis

Worth Fighting For (Australian protesters and their songs)

Man in a suit and tie playing guitar and singing behind two microphones

Protests have frequently been in the news in recent times, including the school children's climate change rallies, protesters gluing themselves to bridges and paintings, the SA government's laws preventing disruption, COVID-19 protests, women's March4Justice, transgender demonstrations that see a politician being expelled from her party, and more. Against this contemporary background John Shortis will research the many oral history recordings, sheet music, manuscripts, newspapers, and pictures, held by the National Library to seek out songs and stories of protests from World War 1 to now.

John Shortis is the writing/researching/keyboard-playing half of Shortis and Simpson, a Canberra-based cabaret duo that specialises in political satire, as well as shows that reflect various aspects of Australian history.  His professional career began over 50 years ago, as a writer of children’s songs and scripts for ABC schools’ music broadcasts. The area of community arts became his focus throughout the eighties and early nineties, and during this time he directed a range of projects that saw him creating original songs with participants and involving them in creating theatrical performances based on those songs.  In 1996 he moved to the Canberra region where the focus of his work switched to political satire with Moya Simpson.  He has received research fellowships from the National Library (1998 Harold White Fellowship), the Australian Prime Ministers Centre, and artsACT (Creative Arts Fellowship), that have culminated in songs, shows and a national touring exhibition.  In 2018 he was awarded an OAM for his services to music.


Ms Martie Lowenstein

2023 Folk Fellow Martie Lowenstein

"What Wendy Found" - The Story of the 1950-60's Australian folk music revival, the 1st National Folk Festival in 1967, and the 1969 outback "Australian Folklore Expedition".

This project utilises a mixture of film and staged presentation to tell a story. It begins with a film documentary compiled from NLA archives covering Wendy Lowenstein’s founding contribution to the folk movement and covers the family’s year-long oral history collecting trip in 1969 – ‘The Australian Folklore Expedition’. This production records and celebrates the early folk revival in Australia including a collection of Australian folk songs from performers from the 1950-60's and archival material in the NLA depicting the First National Folk Festival in 1967. This film production will become part of the NLA archives.

Martie Lowenstein grew up immersed in Australian bush music, has sung in a number of Melbourne choirs and now leads several community singing groups. She is the daughter of Wendy Lowenstein, a pioneering Australian Oral Historian whose collection of interviews of everyday people from 1966 -1997 covers over 800 life stories. Martie also teaches regular courses which cover 200 years of everyday life throughout Australian history, illustrated by Australian folk songs, poems and real-life stories.


Dr Mahesh White-Radhakrishnan 

2022 Folk Fellow Mahesh White-Radhakrishnan

Quadrilles and their tunes are treasure troves of musical memory. Coming from France, and itself growing out of the existing English country dance tradition, the form developed into many variants as formations and steps took on local styles. Quadrille tunes circling round is a creative research project which involves looking at the specific music used for quadrilles in Australia which have historical, thematic or musical links to South Asia and the Indian Ocean and folk processes as the basis to write new songs, music or arrangements on themes of cross-cultural contact and shared history.

Mahesh White-Radhakrishnan is a singer, musician, song-writer, composer, researcher, activist, folkie and founder and leader of the world-folk band Tapestries of Sound. While their training is in South Indian Carnatic "classical" singing, its predominantly aural/oral grounding drew them to other singing and musical traditions and styles including most notably Irish sean-nós and a range of Western folk and contemporary genres which they have also learned and performed.  As a researcher they have most recently been involved in a project since 2017 documenting and studying the vulnerable music traditions of Sri Lanka's Portuguese Burghers, particularly their unique form of quadrille called káfriinha.

View Mahesh's Fellowship presentation, Quadrille tunes circling round.  



Archer playing guitar

Archer’s project, In the Land where the Crow flies backwards: The songs of western NSW, has as its centre point the songs of the infamous troubadour, Mr Dougie Young, but also looks at lesser-known characters from that era of the fifties and sixties and earlier, as well as up until today. The project focuses mainly on Indigenous songwriters, telling their stories through songs and poems, and of course the song of the red-tailed black cockatoo.

Archer is a folk singer, and self-proclaimed 'ill-fated explorer of the interior recesses of the embattled brain-box and beyond'. Best described as an old-style travelling singer/poet, for the better part of the last 20 years, Archer has humped his bluey through every state in Australia, walking, hitchhiking, and catching trains, sleeping on the riverbanks and in the parks, singing in the streets, to performing in music halls of some renown. Searching for songs, old songs, forgotten songs and songs of his own making. Archer's genuine love of the folkloric traditions of Australia's remote and regional songwriters inspires him to highlight not only his own talent but the talents of often forgotten songwriters. In his spare time Archer enjoys singing with residents in nursing homes and with the birds in the sky.

Listen to Archer's Fellowship presentation, In the Land where the Crow flies backwards.


Luke Byrnes

Luke Byrnes playing guitar.

Inspired by the unique socio-cultural identity and folk traditions of his home in the Northern Rivers region of NSW, Luke Byrnes’ project involves searching through the National Library of Australia’s oral history and folklore archives to find songs, yarns, poetry, dance and folk stories collected from the area over the last 80 years. Using the collections of folklorists Chris Sullivan, Marjorie Oaks and others, Luke will take us through the rich folk traditions of the many groups of the Bundjalung nation, the first waves of colonisation by squatters and cedar-getters in exploitation of property and timber, the legacy of the Terania Creek Protests and the ongoing struggles to protect the region’s land and water from fracking. 
Luke Byrnes is a multi-instrumental performer, composer, teacher and activist from Lismore NSW. Performing, writing and teaching music in Melbourne for the past 8 years across a range of genres, he has developed a thirst for exploring and sharing Old-time, Bluegrass, Irish and Australian traditional music. Luke has a passion for reinterpreting traditional folk material and composing original pieces across genres – playing and writing music with the The Devil Goat Family String Band, Black Finch and The Earthworker Bushdance Band.

View Luke's Fellowship presentation, Folk Music and Folklore of the NSW Northern Rivers.


Shane Lestideau

Shane Lestideu with the Evergreen Ensemble

Shane Lestideau’s project aims to explore Scottish-Australian musical traditions after the first waves of immigration to Australia in the early 19th Century. To examine the tunes that rang out through those early settlements - which contained traces of Italian and continental European influences brought to Scotland by travelling musicians from all over the region - Shane will study the surviving notated material in the National Library of Australia’s collections and perform these songs with her ensemble on period-appropriate instruments. This project will vividly bring an under-examined part of Australia’s multicultural development to life through story and song.  

Shane is a musician and music researcher with a wealth of experience from studying and performing all over the world. Trained in both classical and baroque music, as well as traditional Irish and Scottish music, Shane has performed onstage and recorded with top musicians all over Europe and Australia. Shane directs Evergreen Ensemble which is specialised in folk-baroque crossover programs and the music of eighteenth-century Scotland. The ensemble performs regularly at the Melbourne Recital Centre and tours across Australia.
View Shane's Fellowship presentation, The New Albion Music Project.


Dr Salvatore Rossano

Dr Salvatore Rossano

Salvatore’s National Library Folk Fellowship project ‘Italian Folk Songs in the National Library of Australia’ is identifying and analysing Italian folk music recordings in the Oral History & Folklore Collection, with a particular focus on the Peter Ellis, Rob Willis, Peter Parkhill, and Australian Children’s Folklore collections.  This research will inspire new arrangements of the songs and will result in a performance at the National Folk Festival in April 2018.  A book and accompanying CD will follow, incorporating chapters on Italian migration history and the Italo-Australian ethnomusicological landscape.  Other chapters will include transcribed song lyrics and music notation, and lists of National Library holdings of Italian folk music and traditional stories.

Melbourne-based Salvatore is an experienced ethnomusicologist, musician and performer, who holds a Masters Degree in Hispanic Music and a PhD in Ethnomusicology (University of Valladolid, Spain).  He is an Adjunct Research Fellow at Monash University, and active in the Australian music scene, performing and touring with his band Santa Taranta.

Listen to Salvatore's Fellowship presentation, Sonu: Italian Songs from the National Library.


Jessie Lloyd

Jessie Lloyd

Jessie Lloyd’s National Folk Fellowship project Mission Songs builds on her initiative to research and present a collection of Indigenous songs from Christian missions, Aboriginal reserves and the fringes of townships where Indigenous people were relocated.  Using the Library’s folklore recordings, Jessie is researching how Indigenous people, living in remote and often inaccessible regions of Australia, survived and adapted to a changing world. Jessie’s Fellowship will lead to a performance of mission songs at the 2017 National Folk Festival, with her vocal quartet, and a published songbook to ensure these traditions live on. 

Jessie is an established Indigenous singer-songwriter, composer, cultural practitioner and emerging creative producer. She was the Artistic Director of the Share the Spirit Festival 2010-14 and is musical director of several Indigenous choirs.  

Listen to Jessie's Fellowship presentation, Mission Songs Project : Indigenous folk songs from the missions.


Chris Sullivan 

Chris has used the Folk Fellowship to examine surviving examples of concertina music with an aim to develop performance expressive of both repertoire and playing style. Chris will develop a performance that will feature some of the interesting tunes he uncovers in the National Library’s collections played in a variety of styles. His themed, illustrated presentation will evoke the social and cultural context recreating the unique sounds of the concertina music, solo and in historically accurate combinations with other instruments. 

Listen to Chris's Fellowship presentation, The good old concertina : Australia's national instrument.


Miriam Jones

Miriam is investigating the history of bluegrass and old-time music as it has been played in Australia since the beginning of the 20th century. As an outcome of Miriam’s Fellowship, she will be presenting a paper this year’s National Folklore Conference, producing an audio CD and performing at the 2015 National Folk Festival.  

Listen to Miriam's Fellowship presentation, Bluegrass and old time music : across Australian folk and country.


Jan Wositzky

Jan is well known as a founder, front man and resident yarn-spinner of the legendary Bushwackers Band (1971-1981).  A strong theme of Jan's work over the past three decades has been black and white Australia.  What plunged Jan into this world was the life story of WE (Bill) Harney (1895-1962), Jan's favourite historical character, whom he began researching in 1987.  

The National Folk Fellowship has given him the opportunity to complete the research and create a stage play.  Scripted from Harney's books, radio broadcasts and papers and songs held in the National Library, Bilarni tells the tale of an 'uneducated' Northern Territory bushman - the greatest yarn-spinner of them all, a soldier who returned from World War I to live amongst Aborigines as a lover, husband and father who lost it all, a cattle-duffer who became a Protector of Aborigines, a beach-comber who was a writer, poet, advisor to film makers, scientists, anthropologists, mentor to Jack Thompson and Ted Egan, and whose epic life culminated as the inaugural ranger at Ulutu in 1957, living there alone in a tent.  

Listen to Jan's Fellowship presentation, Bilarni.


Cath Ovenden

One of the leading exponents of Australian traditional fiddle music, Cath has been leaning from the original performers and tradition bearers since the early 1980s when she "cut her bow" under the guidance of Bingara fiddler Charlie Batchelor.  The subject of Cath's Fellowship was the fiddle music of Joe Yates (1895-1987), bush worker, poet and prolific fiddler from the Sofala/Hill End area.  Joe handed over an enormous collection of material from 1983 to 1985.  He was 89 years old when first recorded.  Cath played music with Joe in 1985 along with a few other individuals who were lucky enough to learn directly from him.  

Though Cath was already familiar with the playing of Joe Yates, the Fellowship offered her the opportunity to re-examine the breadth of Joe's extraordinary playing.  Joe Yates was a creative musician and in addition to playing the tunes of his father and greandfather, he contributed to the tradition by writing his own tunes as well.  Cath and colleagues released their CD "The Fiddle Music of Joe Yates" at the 2013 National Folk Festival.   

Listen to Cath's Fellowship presentation.


Emma Nixon and Chris Stone

Emma, Chris and friends are recording some of the music they’ve uncovered in the Library’s studios and will produce a CD of tunes, much of which is previously unreleased tunes, demonstrating Australian Scottish fiddle performance repertoire in the early 20th century, and fiddle practice in the present.  The CD includes a booklet with background information to the recording project and photographs from the Library's collection.

For their National Folk Fellowship performance they will perform a mix of relatively well-known tunes from the Scottish repertoire of the early 20th century and earlier tunes from previously unknown collections. The combination of these rare and exciting pieces with the experience and skill of these two fine players promises a compelling and important performance.

Listen to Emma and  Chris' Fellowship presentation, The Scottish Fiddle.


Toby Martin

Toby Martin combines a scholarly interest in Australian country and folk music with writing, playing and performing.  He recently completed  a PhD in the history of Australian Country Music at the University of Sydney.  Toby has also been lead singer and songwriter for the successful indie-rock band Youth Group. Over 10 years, the band toured the world and  released four albums, attaining a number one single ‘Forever Young’ and an ARIA award for Breakthrough Artist in 2006.  Toby has also established himself as a solo performer, recently completing a new solo album. 

In his Folk Fellowship he is focusing on the Indigenous tradition of country music in western NSW. The starting point for his project was a 1960s drinking song by Dougie Young, the country singer from Wilcannia, called ‘Cut a Rug’ that sings of the Indigenous experience.  Field recordings of this song – along with many others of Indigenous people singing country and folk songs from places connected by the Darling and Lachlan rivers such as Bourke, Condobolin and Brewarinna – are in the National Library of Australia's Oral History and Folklore collection.

For his National Folk Fellowship performances, Toby Martin has created a new band The Rug Cutters, which includes Dougie Young’s grandson Jimmy James and country music legend Roger Knox. They re-imagine these songs as electrified country: the way in which the songs may have been recorded had the artists gone on to establish careers in white Australia.

Listen to Toby's Fellowship presentation, The Land Where the Crow Flies Backwards, Indigenous Country Singers from Western New South Wales.


Christina Mimmocchi

Christina Mimmocchi, singer, arts manager, arranger and community choir leader, is the 2010 National Folk Fellow. She has arranged for and toured with the trios Touchwood and Blindman’s Holiday, including for Musica Viva both in Australia and overseas. She is the director of the Sydney Women’s Vocal Orchestra, a choir which celebrates the music of the women of Palembang POW camp (as seen and heard in the movie “Paradise Road”) and is  the director of the Leonard Cohen devotees’ group ‘Choir on a Wire’.  She regularly organises musical events and concerts and managed the acoustic music venue in Sydney, Eastside Arts, until its demise. Mentors of major influence have been the composer-producer Greg White, who is currently Head of Composition at the Australian Institute of Music, and noted folk collector Rob Willis. Christina’s musical interests include traditional and contemporary folk music, community music, contemporary jazz and the great songwriters.

Christina’s Fellowship will enable her to explore, select and arrange Australian folk songs from diverse sources for community choirs to use and enjoy. She will lead a community choir performance at the Festival. Participants will rehearse in the three days over the Festival, and the performance will be recorded. A book containing the musical arrangements and background information on each song and practice sound files, recorded in the Oral History Studios at the Library, is available via the National Folk Festival website. 

Listen to Christina's Fellowship presentation, If I give you a golden comb.


Dr Jennifer Gall

The 2009 National Folk Fellow, Dr Jennifer Gall, has been turning the masculine version of Australian folklore on its head. Women’s work and women’s art is often so well integrated into the processes of daily life, that it is invisible to observers or those who document history. Using the vast quantity of archival sound recordings held at the National Library of Australia, “Picking up the Threads: Australian women’s folk music” examines the social networks and relations at work in the evolution and transmission of Australian folk music.

Listen to Jenny's Fellowship presentation, Picking up the threads.


Dr Ronald McCoy

Doctor, academic and Scottish music expert, Dr Ronald McCoy, is the 2008 National Folk Fellow. Through his work on the Emily Lyle Collection in the National Library, he has explored the contribution of the Scots and Gaels to Australian folk culture. He will reinterpret those songs, stories and tunes by recreating a Scottish ceilidh with the help of a harpist, a piper and the Melbourne Scottish Fiddle Club in the Fellowship concert at the 2008 National Folk Festival.


Ian Blake

The 2007 National Folk Fellow, Ian Blake, is a performer, composer, sound engineer and sound artist. Ian will create a suite of musical and sound works combining live and electro-acoustic music drawing on children¡¯s songs and games found in the Library's folklore recordings. This new work will premiere at the 2007 National Folk Festival.

Listen to Ian's Fellowship presentation.


Ben Stephenson and Adrian Barker

The focus of Ben and Adrian's research was Australian dance music of Irish origin held in the National Library Folklore Collection. During their time in the Library Ben and Adrian also researched across the collections, locating recordings that have assisted them to "identify patterns of change and development of styles of playing and the means by which the tunes are learnt and passed on". One of the results of their research is a 13 track CD and booklet Undertones: Irish music from Australia.


Graham Dodsworth

Graham discovered many songs that had "slipped through the net of attention" given to other well known traditional Australian songs. From the 30-40 he identified as being "rough diamonds", Graham recorded 12 songs and performed these at the 2005 Festival Concert under the title Trawling for Rough Diamonds. His songs will eventually be made available through MusicAustralia (www.musicaustralia.org.au), along with his annotations of their origin and significance.

Read more about Graham's Fellowship in his article Trawling the Library for Rough Diamonds

Listen to Graham's Fellowship studio recordings.

2004 Inaugural Folk Fellows

Dave De Santi and Jane Brownlee

Jane and Dave researched across the vast number of unpublished recordings in the Folklore collection, in particular the collections of Chris Sullivan, Norm O'Connor, John Meredith, Rob Willis, Alan Scott and the Wattle Records collection. Dave and Jane found many tunes and songs that were completely new to them. They transcribed enough tunes for 18 CDs, from which they selected 51 for the double CD Australian Traditional Dance Tunes and are currently publishing an associated tune book.

Read more about Dave and Jane's Fellowship in Jane Brownlee's article Song Treasures in the National Library of Australia