By Michael Stewart 

    The Newport Fiddle and Folk Club is a thriving community group that provides a place for people – of all ages and abilities – to come and play music together. The club, formed in 2004 by Club President Michael Stewart, began with just one session each month. This ‘Folk Circle’ involved people sitting in a circle and sharing a tune, a song, a poem or a story. It was very low key, and if other people knew the song, it would become a ‘join-in’. This session started with only 5 people on the first night, but as the word spread it grew (15) and grew (25) and grew (45!). The obvious question was how big will this session become?

    In 2005 the club formed a committee to organise its activities. One of the committee’s first achievements was to receive a grant to establish the Newport Bush Orchestra. This group welcomed everybody (a theme of the club) and under the guidance of veteran Fiddler Greg O’Leary, the NBO, as it is now called, developed a repertoire of Australian fiddle and dance tunes. The Bush Orchestra has had about 66 players come through its ranks, performed at the Annual Newport Lakes Bush Dance (2007–2022) missing only 2021 due to Covid19. The NBO have performed at folk festivals, community gatherings, parties and, in October they played at the Williamstown Rotunda. The guiding philosophy is – everyone is welcome, learn the tunes (and your instrument) on the job, and have lots of fun! 

    Since the NBO, the club has created a Choir, a Celtic Session, an Old Timey Session, an Open Stage, a Classical Strings Group, a Blues Group (Tues Blues), a Storytellers Session, a Beginner Playalong Group (3 chords, everyone plays together), and a monthly Open Stage (perform 3 songs, sit back and enjoy the rest). All of these activities are listed on the club’s website: There is a description of what to expect, and a calendar telling you when it’s on, and the cost involved (ranging from $5 to $12). 

    In addition to all of this music and activity, the folk club has been a catalyst for many friendships to emerge, and almost as many musical groups have evolved from these. The Ukulele Dolls and the Newport Gypsy Djangos are two examples – both groups have been together for many years now, and both perform regularly on the streets of Newport as well as at other gatherings. 

    The club is now a significant and vibrant community group. With over 200 financial members and strong connections with other local community groups (Scouts, Bowls, Library, RSL, the Substation) the club has been able to stage major events including Carols at the Substation, Newport Lakes Bush Dance and the Newport Folk Festival. Hobsons Bay City Council have also supported the club since its inception and their support has led to the ongoing creativity and activity by the club members. 

    So – if you would like to be a part of this fantastic, welcoming community club, check out the website and see what might be to your taste. You don’t have to be a musician (you can simply enjoy) but if you have the skills to play, or the yearning to play with others, this might be the place for you. As the website invitation says, ‘Come and Play’. 


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