Irish Session’s Coming of Age

On Sunday 19th August 2012, the famous Bennett Session celebrates its 21st birthday.

Started by Shayne and Roz Kerr in August 1991, the monthly session held at the Bennett Hotel in Hamilton  shares Traditional Irish and folk music with musicians and non-musicians who love to listen.  Here is a history of the session submitted by Roz:

We held our first session on Sunday 25th August 1991 at the General Roberts Hotel, New Lambton. Other local sessions had faded away after some usicians moved from Newcastle. So we decided to start our own. Roz rode her bike around New Lambton and Lambton one Sunday afternoon to check out possible venues for a music session and found the General Roberts was willing to give us a go. Shayne produced a poster and distributed it to likely participants. Many musicians turned up and we enjoyed a great musical and social afternoon. So we had another one the following month and just kept on going.

We moved to the Duke of Wellington Hotel in New Lambton on Sunday 9th July 1995 because the General Roberts decided to establish an Italian restaurant in our session space. They must have thought there was more money in Italian food than Irish music punters. On 16th July 2000we had to move the session again as the Duke was closing for major renovations. Chris Cady suggested the Bennett Hotel in Hamilton. Fortunately we are still playing at the Bennett in 2012, a friendly pub for acoustic music, thanks to the great support of the proprietors John and Betty McCoy. We have survived about three renovations here.


There is a pool of about 30 musicians who attend our regular monthly session. At any one time we have 10 or more turning up. Most live in the Newcastle-Lake Macquarie area. Occasionally Irish musicians from the Central Coast come and join us. Musicians range in age from pre-teens to over 70 years old. Instruments played include fiddle, mandolin, tenor banjo, whistle, melodeon, accordion, concertina, bodhran, spoons, guitar and bouzouki.

Although we concentrate on playing traditional Irish music, we also play Scottish, English, old time American and Aussie bush tunes. Between sets of tunes, singers have an opportunity to perform a song or two, whom we normally accompany. Many people come to listen to the session, socialise and have a few drinks. They come from the Newcastle-Lake Macquarie area and even from Maitland and Singleton. At the Bennett we used to have a suitable floor space for dancing and members of the Newcastle Irish Set Dancers came to dance some sets to our music.

We play unamplified and do not receive any remuneration, which is how we like it.

Roz Kerr / 13 August, 2012