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"Playing traditional acoustic music
in and around Darwin Australia
for more than thirty years."
Top End Folk Club Incorporated
PO Box 41551
Casuarina Northern Territory Australia 0811
ABN 20 835 317 702

Days of Old Darwin

A 2002 Festival of Darwin Event

The Top End Folk Club had a unique opportunity to document the music, songs and dances of Old Darwin Town. TEFC Members (thanks Kay) set up the technology and scanned hundreds of photographs which survived cyclone Tracy. The Aunties would not be separated from their photos, so we scanned them under their watchful eyes.

Other Festival crew set up food and entertainment on the day, the Pigram Brothers were in town from Broome and seemed to be related to most of the Aunties and between them and the Mills Family it turned into a huge sing song. The photographs collected on that day were used as a slideshow background to the main stage for the main event of the 2002 Festival of Darwin.

The ownership and control of these photographs rests with the individuals who own the originals; I keep the copies I have in trust for that group. Please email me if you wish to arrange a private viewing of the Days of Old Darwin photo collection.

We collected the photographs in a single day; Jeff Caulfield patiently collected the music over many months. His papers below discuss his side of that process. I am grateful to Jeff Corfield for making his papers available. This is what he has to say about 'em:

The first was written for Music Forum magazine shortly after (the 2002 Festival of Darwin) and the second was a paper I presented to the 2005 Folklore Conference which preceded the 2005 National Festival which featured collectors that year. The second one draws heavily on the first and was accompanied by a power point slide show featuring both early Darwin string bands photos plus photos from the Festival of Darwin event. ... You might also wish to direct people to the 2 video documentaries which were made of this event - one by ABC (aired in 2003) and one commisioned by Festival of Darwin."

String Bands & Shake Hands

The Days of Old Darwin Town

Jeff Corfield

In the last week of August I was privileged to be part of a very special Festival of Darwin - one that celebrated and paid tribute to a unique multi-cultural community and its wonderful music and dance heritage. This year's festival didn't feature big name southern stars. It featured ordinary "old" Darwin folk, telling their own story, through the music and dance of a by-gone era - and Darwin loved it!

The rich music and dance heritage of Darwin's mixed-race community should be a national treasure, yet it remained largely unknown, even among the broader Darwin population. Its unique tapestry, woven from indigenous, Asian, Torres Strait, Polynesian, Melanesian and European threads, is as much Australian as the more Anglo Celtic dominated folk and community music heritage of southern Australia. Yet, while public awareness of "top end" culture, from TI to Broome, has increased, thanks to artists such as Christine Anu, Seaman Dan and the Pigrim Brothers, Darwin's own contribution has remained largely un-sung - until now.

Click here to download the whole article.
(Days_of_Old_Darwin_Town-Music_forum_article_Jeff_Corfield.pdf 118kb)

Keep Him My Heart

Returning Music and Sense of Place to Communities

A paper presented to
2005 Folklore Conference, Canberra, March 2005
Jeff Corfield

"Polkas, hulas, shakehands, quicksteps - they played them all, the string bands of old Darwin, and tomorrow night, round sunset, on a stage high above the Arafura Sea, a journey through time will be accomplished, and their sweet, sad music will live again... But how to bring the past back, and not make its return seem mere nostalgia?

The theme of this year's Festival is not just a piece of archival scavenging, but something very like a north Australian Buena Vista Social Club - a tale of revival, life, of tunes enduring and rebirth"   So wrote Nicholas Rothwell in the Australian of August 23, 2002. He was talking about the 2002 Festival of Darwin, which had taken as its main focus the wonderful music and culture of Darwin's pre-war string band and Sunshine club era.

They called their event String Bands and Shakehands - the Days of Old Darwin...

Click here to download the whole article.
(Keep_Him_My_Heart-a_Darwin_experience_Jeff_Caulfield.pdf 151kb)