Bony Mountain’s 10th Birthday

It’s the Bony Mountain Folk Festival’s 10th birthday. Find out from Norma O’Hara Murphy what the best little Aussie music festival in the bush offers.


Norma O’Hara Murphy

What was motivation?

Well, my lifelong ambition was to run a festival that was a reflection of all my ideals for the Australian festival scene. Throughout my career, I’ve performed at and attended all of our biggest & best festivals — Woodford (& Maleny) Folk Festival, Port Fairy, The National Folk Festival, Tamworth, The Gympie Muster  and many others. As an artist who toured our great land, performed at Sydney Opera House, on the River Stage at World Expo, and at many International Festivals, I do consider I should know what people want. It always seems crazy to me that we import artists from USA and other places when we have wonderful talent here. And people love to see what Australia has to offer.

So it became my idea to create something uniquely Australian to celebrate our bush music and our musical roots, to celebrate our Irish/Scottish/Celtic heritage, and embrace the wonderful pipe bands, Celtic dance, bush balladeers, bush bands, and some of the wonderful talented, original artists, songwriters and bands that we now have in Australia. Of course some of our artists play other music — but they are Aussies — that is the difference to me.

Our First Festival in 2011

Was pretty scary — had no idea who would come — if anyone would — it was an unknown. But we went in with guns blazing.  We went with Chad Morgan, and myself as the main artists and a few of our best balladeers. Terry Gordon, a veteran performer, was our MC. He was a great help, as well as an accomplished artist. We had a big program of the ever popular walk-ups with Rocket & Ally. At that time our Ukulele School was not there yet. It started approx 2013. I think we had a couple of bands like the Redland Bluegrass Boys, and some amazing volunteers. All came out of the woodwork to assist.  It all just fell into place. Our crowd was approx 200 campers, and the usual crowd of day trippers. The stage was tiny and there were no buildings other than The Shack. So the festival site has developed and grown over the last ten years!

How has it changed?

We must be doing something right. Bony Mountain has reached its 10th birthday. Not so much changed, but I like to think it has evolved. We have tried to give the crowd the best we can muster — but true to my original goals — we celebrate everything Australian like our Celtic roots. And we pay tribute to those people we deem worthy — our Radio Legends Award, our Bony Mountain Legends award for artists (a clay Condamine cow bell). This has now become a much treasured item. We award our local legends as well. Perhaps we have begun to lean more towards Celtic music. But we celebrate the life and legacy of Slim Dusty every year. And also we recognise Bluegrass, Blues-roots, some great songwriters, comedy, country, pipe bands, Highland  & Celtic dance as well as bush poetry. So still a very diverse range of music which our Bony Mountain crowd love. I think it is only natural we have become more professional with our stage production, and our sound and lighting crew. We’re renowned for having a top class sound here, and we deliver on that every year. Our crowd expect a certain standard now, and our Big Stage is now very big indeed with an extended dance floor to cater for large performance groups. But we continue to strive to improve, and to soar to even bigger heights for every festival. We are only as good as the people who surround us, and I have been very fortunate to have a top team here right from the beginning!

What is Ukulele related? 

As I explained our Ukulele School has evolved into a very popular and anticipated part of the Festival. It’s a credit to the dedication of Mick Angeles who really found his niche teaching ukulele to so many.

Cath McCourt & Mick Angeles on stage with their ukulele students

Over the years our local music shops in Warwick have sold out of ukuleles, and the school has expanded from approximately six students in the first year to nearly 30 students last year. I would love to see more ukulele bands attending and performing. It’s such a happy and versatile instrument! We plan to build a Ukulele Shack this year!

What are the challenges?

Well, apart from the drought, the floods, Covid 19, and the constant struggle with funding, support and just surviving,  it has been one hell-of-a challenge! But I enjoy it. What keeps me going personally, is the fact that Bony Mountain has become part of the community — part of the Southern Downs event landscape — part of the local scene. It is a much anticipated event every year. So I would not consider not running the event. To stop this event would be to leave a huge gap in the community. Our biggest challenge now is all our original volunteers are getting older, and I am hoping we can pull in a whole new group of enthusiastic younger supporters over the next few years. I’d love to get them all involved in the festival so we can really look forward to a whole new team to take over-driving Bony Mountain well into the future. I do not want to see us go commercial, or get too big. But if we can maintain our unique situation without allowing the event to get too big or too crowded. Just continue to be the best little festival in the bush!

Join us for the Bony Mountains 10th annual festival. FESTIVAL DATES are 18, 19 & 20 SEPTEMBER 2020.

Anyone keen to become part of our Bony Mountain family, please ring Norma on 074667 4604, or go to the website for more information and booking details.