Conversation with Mairi Campbell, folk musician and festival performer

Mairi Campbell

One of the Audacious Women collective met Mairi Campbell, to talk through plans for the Festival Celebration Party, taking place at Augustine’s Church at 7.30pm on Saturday 25th February. We are delighted that Mairi will be headlining this event, which will blend from her unique solo performance into an evening of dancing, talking and drinking in celebration of the whole festival.


What are your influences, and your musical roots?


My influences have been very much traditional music for the last 20-30 years. Before that, classical music was my training and I suppose – I’m in my 50s and my kids have grown up – and I’ve now just hit this sort of third part of my artistic life. It’s been with the aid of a woman called Kath Berlinson who is a bit of a creative midwife. She runs something called the authentic artists. I decided to jump on because I’d seen a friend who was a musician make a theatre show and wondered how she had got there.


At that time there was stuff coming up for me, about my roots, and what I had been born into in Scotland. I wanted to go into my own history. I had a dream one night and it said “Dig where you stand. Deal with what you happen to have been born into.” So at that point I thought ok, I’ll name it just what it is, and then make shows from it.


I wanted to make 3 shows. We made the first one about my mother’s line, trying to name the stuff that happened. We made stories and words from it. Then we did that for my father’s line, and we named the life of my grandfather, and then that kind of cleared the path for me to make Pulse. It’s a one-woman theatre show and so that is what I’m currently involved with. Its very exciting. It's been really great to pull all the story together and the physicality.


For me, at the moment, it’s a really fascinating time, because all the things I loved when I was young are coming back. And I’m just recognizing those old things that I used to love doing like moving and dancing and being funny. Things that had got sunk under the busyness of life.


What does daring and audacious mean for you?

Writing for me is terrifying – just so scary! It is an edge, such an edge. But, I am determined to write this year. I want to put pen to paper. I have written words in songs but they come out fairly abstract. I would love to write lyrics.


I did think this year, “what would I like to learn this year?” I really want to jump into song writing in a bigger way - so I’ll set up a song-writing course and I’ll do the vocal thing and then I’ll get somebody to come along and do the songwriting. So Cera Impala is coming in September to Lismore. That was one of the things that I feel has been quite audacious – actually deciding to make something happen; not because I think it ought to happen, but because I want to do it.


What can people expect from you for the festival performance?

For this event, what I’m doing at the moment is learning quite a lot of cover songs. There is nothing better than everyone singing along to songs we all know and love. [Here Mairi picked up her Viola and began singing some snippets from her book of Beatles song] So I’ll bring along some songs like that and then other ones that I’m just working on. This one is about audaciousness. This is a song for the festival.  



So those are little songs I like to write that have got relatively simple parts that people can pick up quickly – that’s my current interest. Sing along with a song, with words that feel good and uplifting and give us energy for the days ahead.




Want to hear more from Mairi Campbell? There are tickets available for the end-of-festival party. Whether you intend to spend a week immersed in our programme, or want to spend one evening enjoying fine music in fine company, this is the event not to be missed.