“We’re 40, but we’re forever young; that’s how I’ll always feel about it,” Jamie said.
The first festival, held in 1977, was simple; staged on the back of a truck in Port Fairy because that’s where Jamie’s grandmother lived.
“In the beginning it was so small. Port Fairy is a grassroots town and it’s natural that the festival grew with it. Now we get around 15,000 people attending each year.
Reflecting on his experiences as Australia’s longest-running festival director, Jamie said as a GP by trade and a healer by nature, he sees music events as a therapeutic art.
“Celebrating and making music together is in our DNA. It’s what Indigenous communities have always done, it’s what the birds sitting in the trees do – it makes us happy and brings us together.
“That was the initial motivation for the festival and the result has been mind-blowing.
“People come from all over to sit in a tent together and share a moment. Being a part of that can invigorate your whole life.”
Jamie recalls one such experience that he said will stay with him forever.
Archie Roach’s wife, Ruby Hunter, passed away the same week he was due to perform at Port Fairy in 2010.
Roach, who is also performing this year, flew directly from her funeral in South Australia to the festival and sat on stage in a state of despair.
“He was mentally and physically exhausted and we didn’t know what would happen,” Jamie said.
“He started chatting about what he was going through then eventually said ‘I’d better play some songs’.
“The silence and support from the crowd was deafening, and as the set went on you could see him coming back to life, he completely regained his strength.
“I can’t help but get emotional talking about it; it was the most powerful thing I’ve ever seen.”
After the festival next weekend, Jamie will pass the baton to Caroline Moore.
The Port Fairy Folk Festival is on March 11-14.
For more information and to purchase tickets, head to portfairyfolkfestival.com.