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.

Are you longing to hit the road and immerse yourself in all the fun of a ukulele festival? Pending restrictions loosening, and our Queensland borders opening and travel becoming an option, here’s the latest news from upcoming festivals regarding their status.

Central Coast Ukulele & Folk Festival: The Entrance NSW 28-30 August 2020

We still have plans to go ahead with our festival however we are awaiting government decisions on clubs and pubs and public gatherings.
Hopefully we will know by the end of June. With luck, and barring a “second wave”, we will be able to pull the festival off.

Bony Mountain Folk Festival: Southern Queensland 18-20 September 2020.

Yes all on track for another great festival. I am going to liaise with local council to be sure we are all in the same zone! As we have fifty acres here I cannot see that social distancing is going to be an issue but we need to be sure! Stay tuned to Web Site for updates, but I cannot imagine a scenario where we would be not able to run!

Bony Mountain Festival is in Queensland, so a good option if interstate borders are still closed, only two hours from Brisbane via Warwick. Book camp sites now.

NEWKULELE: Newcastle NSW 16-18 October 2020.

On Sunday 28 July, Sam Reich, Secretary of the Newkulele Festival Committee, emailed their mailing list to announce that Newkulele 2020 will be postponed due to COVID-19. Sam went on to say that in the interim, they are planning some smaller scale activities involving their local Newcastle ukulele community, including a fundraiser for our designated charity Pink Meets Teal and other outdoor events. Subscribe to the Newkulele newsletter to find out about Newcastle’s “Mini-Newkuleles” in the coming months.

Check regularly for updates on the festival websites and sign up for their newsletters. Keep your eye on the latest news from the Australian, Queensland and New South Wales Governments. In the meantime check out the online festivals and jams and keep on strumming!

NOTE: On 18 May 2020, Queensland’s declared public health emergency for COVID-19 was extended for a further 90 days, to 11:59 pm on Monday 17 August 2020Latest from Australian Government and Queensland Government

What a pleasure to be asked to share a little of Craig & Sarah’s not-so-mini ukefests with fellow BUMS!!


Craig Chee and Sarah Maisel, are known to many as the ukulele world’s most loved couple. Who would have thought a jazz singer and cellist would  combine to make such applauded ukulele music? Craig is a Hawaiian from Oahu, and Sarah a mainlander from Alabama.

I felt privileged to meet them in the Kanile’a ‘Ukulele’s showroom. “We are so excited! Craig and Sarah are dropping by,” shared Kristen and Joe Souza, Kanile’a owners. Then in response to my puzzled look, “They’re amazing world class performers.”

Introductions done, Joe asked for a song —it’s pretty much mandatory if you drop into the showroom … even I was asked — and so they did!

There was little doubt that the couple planned something more than being a performing duo. They were visiting to design their custom Kanile’a ukulele.

Why a mini-fest?

Craig & Sarah decided that they wanted to give back to the worldwide ukulele community that has given them so much. What started as a small idea blossomed into an international, multi-part virtual festival. A shout-out to members of the ukulele community across the world provided a festival billing that has never before been achieved. It quickly necessitated two separate events.

Who was “at” the event, and how did it work?

The list is too long for here, but you can access each of the programs for the two mini-fests online. It is an absolute who’s who of ukulele players across the world.

One special performance that you will not see elsewhere was the Souza family of five. They performed as a family in Madeira last year where Kanile’a was invited for the 140th anniversary of the introduction of the braguinha (or machete) to Hawaii and the birth of the ukulele. Check out their story.

It was a YouTube Live performance. Simple to watch! Over 23,000 enthusiasts viewed the seven-hour 41-minute Not-so-mini Ukefest #1 AND the 9-hour Minifest #2 events. Craig and Sarah produced, directed and delivered the entire 17 hours from their living room with glimpses of their new arrival, Cameron, and support from the many sponsors. This was a super-person task and they are certainly that!!

The events were broadcast live from the West Coast of the USA. So many people across the world were up early or very late to be part of the live event, including the artists!!! Cameron was an angel!

How much did it cost?

There was no charge to (virtually) attend the not-so-mini ukefests. For a nominal charge of $5 (but you could give more) you receive documents for each festival, and most importantly there were virtual tip jars (accepting “not-so-virtual” money … via PayPal mostly). These artists are without income due to lock downs, so the tips are invaluable. In closing Minifest #2, on behalf of the artists, Craig conveyed their thanks for the community support.

What was the program?

Not-so-mini Ukefest #1 on the 11 April featured performances,free lessons, demonstrations, play-along songs, Q&A sessions and prizes.

Not-so-mini Mini Ukefest #1 program

The billing for Mini Ukefest #2 identified 15 performances, six play-alongs and ten workshops.

Mini Ukefest #2 program

Any highlights?

There were very special performances that you might not see elsewhere – The Souza Family, and husband and wife Bruddah Sam (Spunks) and Lina Girl (Langi) in a rare performance as a duo. Kristen Souza explained and taught some traditional Hawaiian Hula (that’s probably another first) and there were some names you will likely be familiar with, like: Aldrine Guerrero, Cynthia Lin, James Hill, Victoria Vox, Herb Ohta Jr, Kalei Gamiao, and Brittni Paiva.

What about the documents?

Exceptional!!!  46 and 44 pages of absolute ukulele gold containing support material for workshops and for play-along jam songs. Many easy chords, and some challenging. Many basic ukulele charts, some lead sheets, and some with notation and tablature. Songs varied from 3-chord “Lava” to 9-chord (with a few diminished) “Summertime”.

Bryan Tolentino explained the Hawaiian Vamps, Neal Chin added colour, Daniel Ward showed how to Rhumba and Sarah released her inner jazz sharing some chord variations to embellish your jamming. Craig delivered a lesson on “Muting and Scratching” (which he has since prepared as a longer session available via an “Artistworks” subscription). Diane Nalini introduced vocal Scatting and Lil Rev shared secrets of the triple Strum

How did it end?

Uku Lenny took it out with a play-along uke, saxophone and looper. It was a blast!!

I missed it!

You can catch up online. Watch the entirety of both minifests, and obtain the supporting documentation from

Will there be more Minifests?

Sarah said possibly, but a little more ‘mini’ in size!

I really wanted to help. How?

Yes, to help support artists during covid downtime, you can buy merch or hit the tip jar. Simply, go to Craig & Sarah’s virtual merch site. They’ll pass it along. Check out their CDs available for download. Many are originals deserving of mainstream recognition. You’ll enjoy them.

(PS You can also check all the artist profiles from this one page!)

And lessons from specific artists?

Watch the Minifest video. Many of the artists advise how to contact them. You can also subscribe to the Artistworks website for lessons direct from Craig or Sarah.

The last word?

As well as being awesome people, with their not-so-mini ukefests, Craig and Sarah have set the bar high for future virtual and face-to-face ukulele festivals.

On behalf of the many virtual attendees I say to Craig and Sarah; “Mahalo Nui Loa” for the Aloha you have brought to the world’s ukulele community.

Jim Bills

 The Blue Mountains Ukulele Group held its 11th annual festival at Katoomba in the second week of February.  BUMS members Lesley Allan, Salli Chmura, Leanne Horne and Geoff Dancer were there to join the love of ukulele.

It started on Friday night with a dinner and performances by MARLOWE – a uke soloist from Minnesota.  See her mashing it up at Followed by  Simple Souls – described as Hawaii’s hottest female acoustic duo.

Ukulele Republic of Canberra, performing in wet attire. Blue Mt Uke Festival, 2020. Photo courtesy: Lesley Allan.

Thousands attended the festival and braved the persistent rain though the show did go on, except for the Big Jam on Saturday night.

There were up to eight stages in operation over the whole weekend with 25 minute performances and quick turn arounds.  It was a challenge to know who to see next and how to get there without getting too wet on the way.  Impressive acts from Queensland were Miss Elm (Erin Harrington), a BUMS member on her east coast tour and Accidentally on Purpose – three teenagers from Maleny.

Other top performers were the Outlaws Big Ukulele Band – a unique ensemble led by Ian Porter and the energetic Lightly Strung Orchestra from Sydney’s Northern Beaches.  See them at

Sunday was a good participative day at the Carrington Hotel with a series of performances interspersed with a strum-along from the Blue MUGS songbook.

Thanks to Lesley Allen for her report on the festival.  Never one to miss an educational opportunity for ukuleles, the BUMS group took a trip down to Blaxland to take in a pop-up workshop run by the Wild Women of Anywhere Beach (Cathy Welsford and Angie Smith).  This was an orchestration workshop culminating in a performance of a Russian song ‘Ochi Tchor ni ya’.  (Editor’s note:  I hope it was easier to play than to say).

Wild Women of Anywhere Beach & with Dennis on bass. Blue Mt Uke Festival, 2020. Photo courtesy: Lesley Allan.

Did you know that about 40% of the musos at 26th annual Imbil Acoustic Music Festival were ukulele players?  If we get a few more people going next year, we can launch a take-over bid and rename it the Imbil Ukulele and Acoustic Festival (only joking!).

We (and a few other BUMS) spent the first weekend of November at Boorumba Deer Park at Imbil — a sleepy little hollow about 15 km off the highway south of Gympie.  It’s a couple of hours drive from Brisbane and accommodation is in huts, caravans and (mostly) tents.  This year there were over 100 people at the festival which costs just $20 for the weekend. A marquee and shed form the main concert and workshop area.

Packed into The Shed. Photo courtesy of Jane Erkens.

The festival program started Friday night with an open mic session.  Saturday was full of workshops, a ukulele jam which we led and a grand concert in the evening.  Perhaps 40% of the people there were guitar players and the remaining 20% played banjo, fiddles, whistles and so on.

Wildwood Flower show the diversity of instruments at the Saturday night concert in The Shed. Photo courtesy of Geoff Dancer.

Perhaps, the most impressive aspect of the festival was the “love”. There was a beautiful atmosphere with people moving about each other’s campsites enjoying and sharing music and playing various instruments.  Everyone was welcome to join in and contribute.

Camping ground jam, Imbil, November 2019. Photo courtesy of Geoff Dancer.

We certainly plan to be back next year, and it would be good to see a few more BUMS there.

Angela & Dave McGrath

Uke’n have more fun making music in January 2020 when Heritage Estate Wines in Stanthorpe hosts a Uke and Folk Fest.

This will be a first for this venue — usually local jazz musicians perform on Sunday afternoons.

Along with a jam, workshops and open mic, the festival will have local performers and  visiting musos to entertain you.

While it sounds a bit “same as usual”, this festival has an added bonus of  a beautiful heritage venue that produces lovely wines and delicious food.

Heritage Wines is located at Cottonvale. There’s accommodation nearby if needed, and local camping and caravanning within walking distance of the venue.

More information is available on the festival’s Facebook page.

Well, the 26th Imbil Acoustic Music Festival is shaping up to be a very cool place to be 1-3 November. The program is out on the Festival’s Facebook page and BUMS very own ANGELA and David McGrath will be leading the afternoon jam.

Armed with some great songs — oldies, newies and something for all levels Ang and Dave will lead uke players on a musical journey.

So, pack your swag, and grab your mate, or come on your own. There’s plenty to entertain. Imbil Acoustic Music Festival will be terrific fun!

The Central Coast Ukulele Folk Festival 2019 was held at the DIGGERS RSL CLUB, the Entrance, in New South Wales on Friday 23 September 2019 to Sunday 25 September.

The venue enabled all the festival activities to be held under one roof with the reasonably priced part of the Diggers complex the IBIS hotel providing good accommodation for out of town festival attendees.

Several merchant stalls catered for music instruments and accessories. A coffee shop restaurant provided food though out the festival.

Friday night’s Dinner Concert was fully attended. All were able to enjoy a well-presented, ukulele, folk and ukulele & folk bands with a two-course dinner. A money tree of Scratch-its raffle provided much interest and was well supported.

The Saturday program ran from 10 am to midnight in the Liquid Lounge. A marathon of twenty- three performances was presented. The excellent Wayne “Ossie” Osbourne kept the program on time, and was even able to advertise our Brisbane SPRUKE 2019 Festival to the audience several times during the day.

A major highlight was a BIG JAM session with songs from the Festival Song Book which was good value at $2.00.

During Saturday, eight performances and four open mic sessions were held on the Café Stage.

The Sunday Program ran from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm with 13 performances presented. Nine workshops were provided during the Festival at a good value cost of $20 each payable at the door.

Central Coast’s 2019 Festival was a very well organised, and conducted in an excellent venue for all attendees to enjoy. A highlight of the festival was the performance of the Central Coast Ukulele Group’s mass ensemble, which has been invited to perform at the 50th annual ukulele festival at Waikiki.

By Col Grant

Central Coast Ukulele Group performs for a packed audience at CCUFF, 2019. Photo courtesy of festival organiser, Liz Kitney.

To see photos of the highlights, visit the Third Corner festival photo gallery.

Ukulele teachers and leaders, you oughta thank AUTLA … they’ve put together an awesome, affordable, fun-filled ukulele immersion program. It’s the best value for money professional development for music teachers that you’ll get all year.

DATE: Friday, 13 September 2019

TIME: Professional Development from 9:00am to 4:15pm; AGM from 4:30pm-4:45pm

VENUE: SunPAC, Sunnybank Performing Arts Centre, 470 McCullough St, Sunnybank, QLD, 4109

COST: Non-members: $50; AUTLA members: Receive a 20% discount: $40