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The 28th Yarra Junction Fiddlers Convention

Posted by mauriceJ on Sunday, January 23, 2011

"Yarra Junction Fiddler’s Convention-Yarra Junction Fiddlers’ Convention is a
Bluegrass and Ol’ Timey camp retreat providing musicians and festival goers
an opportunity to catch up with friends, play music and enjoys dances and
performances for three days one weekend each year.  The festival is held at
historic ‘Camp Eureka’ which is now over 60 years old. It is the last surviving
campsite in Australia used by the Eureka Communist League. The Campsite in
the Yarra Ranges was originally a farmhouse of which only the barn remains.
The land was given to the Eureka Communist League in 1945.The general
invitation is to head over to ‘Camp Eureka’ and find yourself a bit of cleared
bush, set up camp and commence to picking. This is a rustic festival
atmosphere for lovers of both music and camping. Yarra Junction Convention
features old-timey, bluegrass concerts, workshops, lots of jamming and

Now, from my point of view - Sit down, get a cuppa, & be prepared for a long
read ...
When I first heard about the Fiddlers Convention, I was quite excited about it
cause I never been to one, & the opportunity to jam and attend fiddle
workshops with others was very appealing to me, as a new fiddler and I
jumped right in and telephoned Ken McMaster to inquire about it. He told me
that the convention activities actually started on the Friday, but I could come
early on Thursday, and the activities finished on Sunday, but pple who
wanted to make a holiday of it didn't have to leave until the Monday, if they
helped clean up after them.
I did not believe that it was so cheap, only $50 total for everything, including
all the workshops for the whole duration, accommodation too, and was a bit
suspicious when he said that if you didn't want to bring camper trailer, they
have on-site bunkhouses that you could share with others, just bring your
own linen, and there was no extra fee for that either. What a deal.
There are no reservations. It is by invitation only. You just turn up, tell them
how you found about the fiddlers convention, pay, and they give you an
admission wristband that you wear for the duration.
It's about 70 minute drive from Frankston, so I decided to take a chance and
stay in one of the bunkhouses instead of a tent or caravan. Was going to write
about my experience there eventually, so this is my chance to do it. Any
feedback or questions you might have will be answered-if you want?

Day One-Thursday...I arrived there about noon. Ken showed me around the
campsite, the Kitchen and other facilities, where I could stay, and I was
surprised to find the vinyl floor of the bunkhouse almost clean enough to eat
off, and it was electric powered, so I could even recharge my mobile phone,
etc. Yay!
You might be please to hear that rumours spread about spiders in the 'dingy
bunkhouses' were a lot of nonsense, probably referring to what it was like
years ago, when Camp Eureka was in its early stages ... But I for one will
continue to spread that rumour to pple who ask me about the fiddlers
convention in the future, if I want to scare them off-he he. After all, only about
200 ish pple attend, and you don't want the numbers to go up too high!
Most pple who go there prefer to stay in their own campervans, cause if you
are in a bunk-house, it is pot luck who else is gonna be there with you, & that
means you cannot choose your own sleeping time of course, unless you
happen to get a smaller 'family bunkhouse', & they generally put all girls in
one bunkhouse, guys in other ones etc.
As the first one to occupy one of the bunkhouses, I claimed the most
favoured bunk bed, tossed my sleeping bag and pillow on it, then ventured
out to explore.
The kitchen was my first stop. Ken introduced me to a fellow called 'Bluey'
who having heard that this was my first time there, said that I would have a
good time there, to just relax and really enjoy the experience, and to see him if
I needed him or had any questions, if I wanted to know anything about camp
Eureka, it's history, etc, & there was a photo book and printouts about the
camp I had a quick read of.
This was the start of a wonderful enjoyable time that I had there. I know pretty
well instantly when I am at a place where I feel comfortable, and I just loved
the rustic charm of the place immediately, reminding me of places I'd been in
Canada & USA over 30 years ago, and went back to the entrance gate and put
in a 'volunteer's membership' application with a $10 dollar donation to the
Camp Eureka collective, asking no questions, cause it was pretty obvious to
me that this Heritage Listed Site was well worth preserving.
Then I went back to my car, got out my fiddle and wandered over to pple's
caravans. The first pple I approached was a couple from Adelaide, who had
just set their caravan up, cosy little set up, she was a banjo/fiddle player and
he, an accordionist, and we shared a lovely conversation and jamming right
away, am looking forward to meeting them again, this year!
Then I helped this fellow called Max set up the rope boundaries for the vehicle
pathways, wandered around, visited other campsites people from all over the
world, and did some more jamming. You just sort of low profile approach, get
a nod to participate with the jam, and start and stop when you like, stick
around move on to another place, have a yarn do what you like without
interfering, great fun. Very non-commercial, all participatory, and
What pleased me also, was the environmental attitude & care that everyone
had. No cigarette buts or messy paper cups, tins, left on the grassy grounds
anywhere. These were people who had been here before, and knew how to
behave, and enjoy themselves at the same time.
I'd stocked up with lots of food in my car, and went back to eat occasionally,
even if I hadn’t there were pple all around who set up their own barbecues
and would offer you a snag if you looked hungry, and the fully equipped
Kitchen was always available if you wanted to cook a small meal, or even a
Gigantic one for a whole family if you needed to.
The 'Kitchen!' Ha! what a place. I could write a book about the great
conversations, jamming to late hours every night-extending to the mornings,
& the fun times I had there.

Still Day One, Thursday evening. Must have been about 1:00AM, while
wandering about the campsite, I heard this faint wailing musical sound in the
air and was wondering where it came from, it seemed to be coming from
somewhere other than the actual 'compound', not the huge performance
stage, or any of the workshop huts or campfires, or the kitchen, but
enaminating strangely enough...from the dark in the woods, and seemed to
hang in and drift through the air, as you walked about. Unbelievable hypnotic,
trance-like fiddle tunes.
I asked someone where what it was, and was told, "oh, that would be the
fiddlers in the woods"- just follow the noise and you will find them!
No other prompt was needed. I could see it was dark, and thought might be
dangerous to trek through, so I locked my fiddle in my car & proceeded thru
the dark to find this place.
Along the dark pathways, I figured I would follow the river, and the noise till I
found them.
Fortunately, I am sure footed, & I can see in the dark like a cat, & found them
about 15 minutes later. The sounds & the site, you would not believe it unless
you were there to see it, some people who I have told about it since think I am
making it up, but if you been to Eureka before, you know it's true.
There is was, a circle of near 20-30 pple of all ages and musical skills, around
a campfire, mostly fiddle players, one or 2 mandolins, I think, playing the
same hypnotic tunes over and over again droning on four hours on end,
Cajun style tunes by the light of fire alone, stopping momentarily, changing
the tunes, absolutely brilliant.
I thought -this sort of thing happens in villagers or a Kibbutz in Israeli
communes in Europe or somewhere else, not Australia, how good is this!
I spent the night there between the Kitchen, and the woods with the fiddlers
and that was day one, totally interesting and enjoyable.

Day Two-Friday. The official 'Settling in day', where most pple arrive, set up
camp, in preparation for the official 'opening' of the fiddlers convention to
start on Saturday, when the workshops and concert performances/dancing
/etc happen.
More jamming, meeting pple, great conversations, etc.

Day Three-Saturday...
Workshops on that day.....[free] Double Bass, Mouth harp, Round Peak
Fiddle, Flat-pick Guitar, Bluegrass Fiddle, Autoharp, Dobro, Irish Fiddle,
Round Peak Old-timey Banjo, Chords & Harmony for Fiddle, Mandolin,
Beginners how to jam, & also Concert-Main Hall, Road Bowls -Kids & Adults,
Old Timey Dance, & then Nick Dears Late Night Band Concert
And after that, whatever you wanted to do...
About Day Three...Everything in full swing. I attended three fiddle workshops,
wanted to be at all places, at all times, and just about did too. Amazing fun. I
venture to say that most pple had been regularly coming there every year,
from different parts of the world, lots of families, children and family pets too,
the dogs well behaved, reflecting their owners free spirited relaxed attitudes.
I noticed that 'Bluey' who practically did everything there, in the Kitchen along
with Carlo, Ken, Allie and others, had set up a tree-house for his children to
stay in while they were there.
Reminded me of the tree-house I built years ago for my kids when they were
small too. What a good man. I instantly liked him and everything he did there.
Day Four Sunday-Just as good as Saturday, maybe even better!
Events -10:00AM Big Gospel Sing-along-Main Hall Outside. I chose to play
along the side lines while they were singing. Gospel music sung
harmoniously is great fun, and fiddling along on the violin is even more fun.
You don’t have to believe in God to enjoy, it sounds soo good!
 I normally keep away from churchy stuff, but could not resist listening to the
absolutely beautiful singing that took place, & could not resist getting out my
fiddle and playing along in the background as I did on Saturday when the had
the old timey dancing at the main hall. This convention is all about
participating and I so much enjoyed doing that!
11:30AM Gypsy Fiddle Workshop-Kitchen. The best workshop for me. The
gypsy fiddler who ran this workshop was a world class talent, drop dead
gorgeous in looks, sound and personality in full European gypsy costume.
She taught us some Klezmer tunes that I am still working on today to get
11:30AM Beginners old-time Banjo , 12:30 Australian Old Time fiddle , 12:30-
Bluegrass Banjo,Ukelele, Noon Concert-Main Hall
 About the Concert. The finale, for those leaving on Sunday, consisted of
world class performers like Andrew Clermont, with an Indian dancer on stage,
she did such a beautiful dance I was almost in tears. There was lot of others,
great talents, great entertainment.
Apparently every year, you never know who is going to be on Concert,
depending on who is at Eureka, but you are never disappointed. There is
always great performers and it was great.
The last act, was a mountain group who I'd met before previously in the
Kitchen and I knew they would be very entertaining. 'Bluey was on the fiddle
with them, and Evan, who I knew from the Frankston Peninsula Folk club also
was on stage with them.
They would play their music, stop suddenly, tell a funny story, then break into
music again, it was hilarious. At one stage, the lead stopped talking and
asked for a drink, glass of wine, anything cause he was thirsty. No one
offered him one-the stage being quite big, and they might have thought he
was just kidding as part of the act-it was funny the way he did it.
Having met them the night before, I knew he was serious, so I dashed to my
cabin and got a half bottle of Jonny Walker that I had and some plastic cups
on to the stage, which they passed around, and then they played even better
after that!
Sunday after the concert...More jamming in the Kitchen, at campsites, and
fiddlers in the woods, all night long till daylight.I looked in the woods for teddy
bears, but couldn't find them!

Day Five-Monday
Monday-el finito about noon. Since I was staying on till Monday, I was
prepared to help 'clean up' round the campsite, as expected, but guess what?
When I asked, Bluey said 'look around-there was nothing to clean up!
Pple just naturally tidied up after themselves so there was very little to do. He
did say that you would be surprised what people leave behind sometimes. I
must catch up with him and ask him what he meant by that!
Annyway...that's the fiddler's Convention, right up my alley. It is in my
permanent go to every year calendar now.


7 comments on “The 28th Yarra Junction Fiddlers Convention”

bj Says:
Monday, January 24, 2011 @7:12:55 AM

Too bad Australia is on the other side of the world, sounds like my sort of event!

If you haven't met her, my dear friend Terri aka fiddlejammer, will be there. She fiddles a treat!

FiddleJammer Says:
Monday, January 24, 2011 @7:37:51 AM

See ya there, Mate! Blackwood in February is just as good.

mauriceJ Says:
Tuesday, January 25, 2011 @6:21:42 AM

I mightsee you there if I go to Blackwood.-Cheers, Maurice Judge

FiddleJammer Says:
Tuesday, January 25, 2011 @9:44:19 AM

"If" ???


Oh, yes, lots of people have, like, the rest of their real life to carry on. It's not all music festivals, I realize.

mauriceJ Says:
Tuesday, January 25, 2011 @4:49:54 PM

Ha ha-The standing joke over here Frankston way is if you know someone who has kids, or works 5 days a week is to tease them and say "That's disgusting!-How DARE YOU put your family life or work BEFORE MUSIC!!"

FiddleJammer Says:
Thursday, January 27, 2011 @12:06:08 AM

Way to go!

mauriceJ Says:
Thursday, September 25, 2014 @5:04:10 AM

Hey Terri...Are you coming to Blackwood or Yarra in Australia this time around - or have you still got that 'real job' now, ha ha!

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