CELTIC BLOODLINES: Norma O'Hara Murphy on stage with the Warwick Thistle Pipe Band at last year's Bony Mountain Music Festival.
CELTIC BLOODLINES: Norma O'Hara Murphy on stage with the Warwick Thistle Pipe Band at last year's Bony Mountain Music Festival. Andris Zalite

Bony festival is lifeblood of community doing it tough

NORMA O'Hara Murphy admits she is "supposed to be retired", but that won't stop her releasing her 15th album, Bloodlines, at her annual Bony Mountain Music Festival this September 20-22.

"In a year like this, I think it will be a real morale-booster because people are doing it tough," the songstress said of the festival she started nine years ago.

Best known for her country music, including duets with Aussie icon Slim Dusty, and netting five Golden Guitar awards, Norma remains "a folkie at heart".

While this year's festival continues to embrace an array of music genres and other performers, it has a distinct Celtic flavour, in keeping with her new album.

It traces her Celtic origins, including a cousin who survived the Titanic on the same lifeboat as "the unsinkable Molly Brown", and comprises her own songs as well as classics like Galway Bay and Loch Lomond.

The feature band is String Loaded, an award-winning family group, which Norma said "features two amazing fiddlers" and presents a blend of Scottish and Irish music.

Also returning are Pixie Jenkins, the Warwick Thistle Pipe Band and the Cape Byron Celtic Dancers.

Hillbilly Goats are the other big draw this year with their blue grass mountain music, alongside an array of country, dance, comedy, poetry and storytelling performers.

Among additions this year is the chance for "walk-ups" to perform on stage each night in the lead-up to the big weekend.

"I give a spot every year to two performers in their 80s, Dubbo Turner and Eunice Payne, who are mates of mine who sing and play," Norma said.

"It's a way of paying tribute to our older generation ... which I am fast becoming part of!

"But the walk-ups give a lot of older people who love music and the bush a wonderful platform to perform and share their talents."

Ukulele guru Mick Angeles also runs a school over the week culminating in a performance by his pupils on Sunday.

Other highlights include league legend Shane Webcke at the annual charity auction, return of the Slim Dusty exhibition, a heritage display including blacksmith forge and broad axe display, a dog show and a festival-ending camp oven cook-out.

Norma said the festival had exceeded all her expectations over the years, not just in its crowd numbers, which are regularly around 2000.

"It started off as just a bit of fun, but it has ended up much more than that; it's a critical community event," she said.

Each year community groups use the festival as a fundraising platform, and businesses - all of whom "pitch in at some point and in some way" - gain from the influx of concert-goers.

The Salvos, Young Care and Blush Cancer Care are the major beneficiaries this year, but rural fire brigades, the CWA, schools and more will also play a part.

"We do rely a lot on the Grey Nomads," Norma said.

"There are people who have been coming back every year since we kicked off in 2011.

"We've got 50 acres, so we have lots of room for everyone and last year we had nearly 400 vans."

Just 20 minutes from Toowoomba, the festival gates are at 1107 Upper Wheat Vale Rd, Bony Mountain, with tickets starting from $30 for a day pass or $50 across the three-day weekend.

For details, go to bonymountainfolkfestival.com or phone Norma on 0490 415699 or (07) 4667 4604.

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