Thursday 16 February 2017

Bob Bolton is the 2017 recipient of the National Folk Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Click on pictures for full-screen image

Bob Bolton - artist and professional photographer, publisher and editor, archivist and researcher, teacher and mentor, transcriber of traditional tunes, folklorist, bush musician and reciter.

Bob's camera collection
Bob joined the Bush Music Club in the early 60s (1963 or 64 according to Chris Woodland - see 3rd Comment at the end of this article), served on its Committee for 40 years & is a Life Member. His contributions since 1998 on the Mudcat Cafe online discussion group helped spread Australian bush and folk traditions across the world.

Bob at 2014 NFF (Bruce Downes photo)
As editor and archivist Bob helped disseminate Australian traditional folklore through BMC publications – Mulga Wire, Singabout, and many songbook collections – and also by providing photographs, information and research facilities to anyone who asked. He has attended almost every National Folk Festival since 1971 with camera and instruments in hand. His photographic archive of bush music events and of the Australian folk revival of the 70s and 80s was donated to the Australian National Library in 2014.

Hundreds of aspiring performers have benefited from Bob’s weekly participation at BMC’s Monday night workshops.

Concert Party (Sandra Nixon photo)
He played in a number of bush bands and was a founder of Backblocks Bush Band, one of the first groups to play only collected material using only traditional instruments.

Rouseabouts c.1977
Bob Bolton has devoted a lifetime to maintaining folk traditions.

Bolton family photos

Bob & accordion,c.1963,
probably around the time he came to BMC,
approx 18 years old.

Bob at right, probably taken at same time as previous photo.

email from Ralph Pride - John Brackam, Graeme Maynard BMC, Tony, Jim Meredith, Bob Bolton BMC. I think it might have been me behind Tony’s camera

Bob Bolton & John Brackham, before Nov 1965

Bob, St Partick's Day 1969

all illustrations from BMC Archives, family photos courtesy of Bob.

Congratulations to Bob have been received from the following -

R.Dale Dengate
- Congratulations to Bob. Well deserved for a real lifetime of dedication to his art of photography of people in the folk and encouraging the traditional  music of Australia.

Margaret Walters - Very pleased to hear it.

Bob Murray -  he certainly deserves it!

Rick Hull - Congratulations Bob well deserved recognition for a life time supporting Bush Music

Reg Murray - An honour well deserved.

Jack & Kathy Chapman - Congratulations on the Lifetime Award it is well and truly deserved

Gerry Myerson - Good on ya, Bob! Well deserved!

Helen Romeo - It could not have happened to a better deserving "folkie"

Jason & Chloe Roweth - Well done Bob! Thank you to all who lobbied in his behalf!
This is very welcome news!

Bob has been a great help to us... always ready to share his extraordinarily deep acquired knowledge on subjects wide and varied. Whether it be further information on the subjects we sing about, historical detail of bush music - and the BMC in particular, or shooting off on tangents galore... running into Bob - you always walk away much the better, a little wiser. And older - you need some time!

His reviews of our albums over the years have been amongst our favourites - he understands the social, historical, folkloric, and musicological context of the material as well as anyone, and better than most... He not only sees our intent on each album, but can add significantly to our own awareness. I always love to read a review from Bob!

And then - there's the photos! Where would we be without the promotional shots we've used that Bob captured on one of those many many times he came to a gig - and pointed his camera so skilfully in our direction?

The photographic history of folk and bush music in Australia should be considered a true national treasure! The faces of the Australia I love - right there on Bob's photos... singing, playing - sharing a tune, a yarn, and laugh! Bob Bolton - the photographer - has repeatedly "caught our best side" personally - and as a nation.

Rarely has an award been so well deserved! Congratulations Bob - and thank you!

Jason Roweth

Margaret & Bob Fagan - That's great news. Good on you Bob!

Bob Foggin - An award truly deserved. For diligence, support of many, scholarship, and friendship.

Beth Cambridge - In 2003 Chris Green’s dance group from Brisbane was performing at the National Folk Festival at Easter. Chris sent around a CD of the music they needed. I didn’t recognize the tune they wanted for the Brisbane Quadrille Figure 4 so I couldn’t find the sheet music to practice. I played the track on the CD to Bob by phone. He recognized the tune as "Take Me Down the Harbour."  He also provided a score for me from Blackblocks, his group who played traditional music.
Not only was Bob very knowledgeable but he was also very generous with his knowledge.

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  1. Congratulations Bob. Great achievement. your photographic coverage of the Australian folk revival and its continuing struggle to survive is admirable. Your work with the BMC extraordinary.

  2. Well Deserved and long overdue, Congratulation Bob

    Bruce Downes

  3. Congratulations Bob, well earned.
    I remember when Bob's older brother Eric would bring a young Bob along to the BMC's weekly workshops in about 1963 or'4. Who would have thought then that Bob would grow up to be such a very important cog in the BMC's wheel? The club owes so much to Bob: his profound knowledge on many subjects such as the folk movement, reed instruments, various histories (Australian, musical instruments and folk song and folklore histories to name just a few). Of course his wonderfully professional and extensive photo collection is a unique source for present and future generations. Bob's contributions to the Australian folklore movement, plus the dissemination of much material is of considerable national value and the award is a memorable legacy to him and his selfless efforts. Chris Woodland.

  4. Noting that Bob Bolton passed away in the early hours of Friday, 14th April 2023 after a long illness.