A brief history
The Aboriginal word for the Yackandandah area is of Dhudhuroa origin. To the Dhudhuroa people, Yackandandah means “one boulder on top of another at the junction of two creeks”. This relates to the intersection of Yackandandah and Commissioner’s Creeks, where granite boulders can still be found today.
Hume and Hovell passed through the Yackandandah valleys in 1824, not long before the area was first settled in about 1837. After the gold finds of 1852 the Yackandandah Creek and its tributaries were peppered with alluvial sites. Many tent towns came and went, but the Yackandandah site, among others, flourished. Shops were established, and then services, banks, churches, a post office and transport.
In 1856 the township was surveyed, land sales began in the following year and substantial buildings were constructed. The town retains a wealth of its Victorian architecture, and picturesque tree-lined streets.
Many buildings, sites, trees and the commercial core of town are now listed by the Australian Heritage Commission, Heritage Victoria and the National Trust.
The local rural farming landscapes are another reason to visit the area – some of the farming practices date back many decades. You will see Monet type haystacks believe it or not, and rolling hillsides, olive groves, vineyards, mountains and much more. The North East is a positive cornucopia of views to delight the eye and the senses. The National Trust say about Yackandandah, “The existence of such an intact and well preserved example of a 19th century mining-based township is of great significance and should be protected. The highlights of Yackandandah are its location, nestled in the folds of the surrounding hilly ranges. The compactness of the town layout, clustered in a valley, the character and scale of the historic buildings along the main street which is lined by mature exotic trees”. Alongside Beechworth, Chiltern and Rutherglen, Yackandandah offers a fantastically well preserved historic township, uniquely retained and bursting with character.
What began 22 years ago as a means of raising funds for our local Public School, held on one afternoon in a pub with 12 local performers, has morphed into a 2 1/2 day event, with 7 venues and over 45 performers both local, interstate and overseas. YFF has now become one of the major tourism drawcards to Indigo Shire. Our festival has established a strong reputation for quality entertainment and attracts patrons, plus a regular band of volunteers from around Australia who return year after year. Once upon a time, we had venues at our Sports Park but this became a nightmare to coordinate scheduling-wise so we re-designed the festival to be staged in town. The idea being that all our venues should be walking distance from each other. This has resulted in creating the friendly, village-like atmosphere of YFF you see today. Our main street is closed to vehicular traffic for the duration of the festival, allowing families to wander freely from venue to venue, providing a safe environment for children and adults alike.
One of the cornerstones of our festival is that we always give back to the community in an environmentally beneficial way. In the beginning, we carried out mass tree plantings each year, in conjunction with the local Landcare group, in bushland areas surrounding Yackandandah Sports Park. More recently, YFF has partnered with local sustainable energy group TRY (Totally Renewable Yackandandah), contributing considerable funding to help pay for major PV system installations on many of the public buildings around town. This year, we have assisted TRY in successfully obtaining a Government Grant to fund the installation of YACK1-a huge battery bank not far from the centre of town. It is envisaged that in the not too distant future, Yackandandah will have its very own standalone power grid. These initiatives, have meant that in 2018, Yackandandah Folk Festival became one of Australia’s first totally carbon-neutral events-a fact we are very proud of. Our ongoing policy to insist that food vendors on the Friday and Saturday of the festival, must use only fully recyclable or compostible cutlery and serving ware, is another way we are limiting our carbon footprint. We have also commissioned and installed several water fountains around town. One near the Courthouse, another outside the community centre and one on the Village Green. Designed by a local sculptor, these help to encourage visitors to bring and use their own personal water bottles. Our Green Team sort all rubbish generated by the festival, ensuring that any recyclable material is properly sorted and any compostible material is stored off site and eventually is used on community/local gardens once it has broken down sufficiently. This dedication meant that in 2018, what began as 35 bins full of rubbish destined for landfill, was reduced to only 5 bins full. A major saving for our environment.
The Festival Logo – Phoebus
Kirsten Coates, an early organizer of the festival, sat down with Jacqui Melbourne, a local graphic artist, and they designed the logo together. We wanted a person – preferably asexual that embodied the music and dance element of the first festival. Our dancing person was handed a guitar and a tambourine and a half circle of bunting flags was added flowing behind the figure which we thought gave it the feel of moving forward. Kirsten cut and pasted the hand drawn image, we photocopied it and then turned it into a jpeg file – available for our first letterhead and program.
Sandra Bros made the white tissue paper and cane sculptural representation that hung behind the performers on the main stage at the Public Hall. We called her Bright Phoebus, from a song that we learnt the first year that the Folk Festival Choir performed and somehow, our asexual figure became a she. Bright Phoebus, hung for many years at the main stage but the sculpture came to an untimely end.
Over the years, Phoebus has appeared on the Folk Festival t-shirts with subtle differences – one time she was printed from a lino cut – but the image has stayed fairly constant for promotional material. She eventually lost her bunting and became much more animated and colourful with outstretched limbs and arched back.
In 2014 Phoebus continued her evolution, and the original design was revisited to create the logo that has adorned the program and website ever since.
To commemorate the 20th anniversary of YFF in 2018, local sculptor Ben Gilbert was commissioned to create a statue of Phoebus, which is now permanently displayed inside the Public Hall at the back of the stage.
The Festival started in 1998 and ran continuously through to 2019, with the event cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.
Programs for the previous Festivals will be available below soon.