The 2017 Festival has a great programme of workshops to help introduce you to new instruments (and old), techniques, styles of music, poetry and dance.

Hurdy gurdy with Guilhem Desq

In this workshop you will learn about the history of the hurdy gurdy, a 1000 years old instrument that was used in many different music styles through different ages. You will also understand how it exactly works in detail, from the wheel to all the different strings. Guilhem will also share how he built his instrument and will demonstrate with a few improvisations how he keeps exploring it to create his music.

There will also be a chance to play and to discuss technique for hurdy gurdy players.

Songwriting workshop with Helen Dorothy

Words + Music = Song…  If only it was that simple!

Come and get some tips on how Helen Dorothy approaches the song-writing process. With help from PLot and Neil Billington, she’ll share ideas for getting creative with text and tunes!

Whether you are composing music for lyrics already written, writing words to go with an existing piece of music or musical riff, or tackling both words and music from scratch, this workshop may help inspire the beginner as well as the habitual song-writing addict.

Women and Bluegrass – yesterday, today, and tomorrow! with Hot Diggity

The women of Hot Diggity talk about the history of women in Bluegrass, starting with Sally Ann Forrester in 1945, and hitting some of the many highlights since then. We’ll also have a discussion of the Bluegrass genre, songwriting and structure, with emphasis on writing Bluegrass songs from a woman’s perspective. The last half of the workshop we’ll talk about the bluegrass jam session: it doesn’t have to be scary and exclusive! We’ll introduce techniques for building improvised solos on string instruments, and general etiquette and participation in jam sessions.

The Slow Session with Andy Linton and Ted Cizadlo

Andy Linton and Ted Cizadlo started a slow session in Wellington just after the 2015 Wellington Folk Festival. We started the session because we were aware of a number of folks in the Wellington area who enjoyed Irish music, and would like to play in a session, but either didn’t know enough tunes, or were new to the scene and needed a more relaxed environment to get started. Once started we noticed that some folks were using the session as an “on ramp” to fast session playing, while others simply enjoyed playing tunes at a relaxed pace. We believe the best way to learn tunes for session play is to learn them by ear. The usual way to learn tunes by ear is for someone to play the tune slowly, playing parts of the tune over and over as you play along. We developed a website to help people learn the tunes. That website ( is designed to provide all of the tools necessary to learn tunes by ear from MP3 recordings of session tunes. Sheet music is also provided for the tunes for folks who prefer to learn by reading music. We created this website for the slow session at Wellyfest. If you want to look at the tunes before the slow session, please check out this site and have a listen and a practice.

Introduction to Cajun Fiddle with Richard Klein

Learn the rudiments of Cajun fiddle style with emphasis on bowing techniques, double stops, embellishments and the practise of ‘seconding’ to another fiddle to create that unique Cajun sound.

Explore different bowing techniques to apply to different types of songs; explore different rhythmic styles or “grooves”; learn to harmonise with yourself and how to approach songs rather than “tunes”.

Beginner’s bodhran with John Leo Carter

Ever wondered how to play the bodhran – or wanted to improve your playing?  John will guide you through holding the drum and the stick, learning the basic strokes to accompany traditional Irish music and then to more sophisticated patterns and “fills”.

Contemporary acoustic guitar techniques with Alexey Medvedev

Many musicians understand this as a mixture of various fingerstyle techniques and a percussive component.  Alexey will cover the right and left hand moves, including tapping, and the role of the percussive element in the composition; the fretboard topography, chord structure, chord extensions, chord inversions, chord ornamentation, and also about combining chords and melody, arranging and rearranging melodies.

Improving your singing with Vikki Clayton and Gilly Darbey

Improve your singing technique. We all think folk singing is all about just singing. But maybe you owe it to your listeners to make it the best you can.?  Some simple steps to improve your “technique”.

Festival Choir with Reverie

Have a go at harmony with Reverie! We will learn and arrange two traditional songs for the festival choir performance on Sunday evening. There will be a part to suit everyone, regardless of vocal range or experience. Come to work on your vocal confidence, pick up some tips about performing in groups, and to experience a new way of presenting old music.

Clawhammer banjo with Richie and Rosie

Richie will discuss basic technique and teach tunes from his own unique style. He will also discuss how to best compliment the fiddler and show various tunings and chord patterns to accompany both modern and traditional melodies.

Ballads, bullshit and Bolivian Bowlers with Gary Elford

A look at the process from writing to performance of Bush Ballads. Covered in this 55 minute workshop are Gary’s processes from inspiration to performance. This workshop should help budding poets and performers from the first tentative lines to developing your pieces for public performance…

Those of you intending to put a poem into Sunday’s poetry slam might like to come along and get some hints for polishing your piece.

House truck design and construction with Peter Scott

Covering trucks, design, materials , lifestyle and living with alternative energy, this workshop includes a tour of Peter’s own newly completed house truck. It would be a good introduction for those interested in house trucks.

Social Dancing – Old-School with Chilli Jam

Our great great grandmothers and grandfathers certainly knew how to have a good time. After riding through the bush all day, they’d be ready to dance all night. Assisted by members of Chilli Jam, Jonathan Berkahn will teach you some of the dances they would have known – quadrilles, schottisches, and other delights: “The quadrille … admits of pleasant conversation, frequent interchange of partners, and is adapted to every age. The young or old, the ponderous pater familias, or his sylph-like daughter, may with equal propriety take part in its easy and elegant figures. Even an occasional blunder is of less consequence in this dance than in many others; for each personage is in some degree free as to his own movements, not being compelled by the continual embrace of his partner to dance either better or worse than he may find convenient.” (“Ballroom Dancing without a Master”, 1872)

Set Dancing with Noel Armstrong

Irish Set Dance originated from French Quadrilles having been introduced to Ireland by Soldiers returning from the various Continental Wars.   The earliest Set Dance being recorded in Dublin in about 1812.   The formations of the Quadrille dances were retained and dances to the local dance meters.  Through time tunes characteristic of the local area predominated such that dance to reels were frequently found in Clare and polkas in Kerry and Cork.

This year Noel will tutor the lively Castle Set which is well known in the Sliabh Lucra area on the border of County’s Cork and Kerry.

Balkan Dance with Cashy Yates

Want to dance to gypsy rhythms?  Want to get those seven-eight grooves, and tunes with something in the beat that you can’t quite catch?  Players from Mahana and Chili Jam will combine with Cashy Yates at this workshop to set you up so you can dance endless simple, unchoreographed Balkan dances.

Salsa dance with Fuego Latino

Salsa is a popular form of social dance that originated in the Caribbean. The movements of salsa have origins in Cuban Son, cha-cha-cha, mambo and Puerto Rican bomba and plena and other dance forms. The dance, along with the salsa music, originated in the mid-1970s in New York.  Learn the basic moves suitable for both dancing in pairs and by yourself.

Morris dance with White Rose Morris

In this workshop, we will be exploring the different styles from a variety of morris traditions. Teaching a garland dance from the North West of England, a Molly dance from the Fens and a stick dance from the Welsh borders.

South Island Favourites – dance workshop with Gary Elford

A look at a few set dances that are popular at South Island Barn-dances Including some written by South Island callers, including the late Phil Garland (better known for collecting, writing and performing traditional New Zealand folksongs) as well as fun, popular dances that are suitable for all ages.