[Live Review] Woodford Folk Festival

Woodford folk festival has erupted onto the large patch of land for thirty years now, bringing to life a tent city, a host of market stalls and some of the quirkiest and most fascinating acts from all over the world.

This year is no exception with big names like Josh Pyke, Katie Noonan and Michael Franti. The heavens opened up all day and right into the evening, the rain not a deterrent for everyone.

The sun made an attempt to come out on the second day, yet cloud cover remained. For Josh Pyke it was a blessing as the Grande stage was packed in tight for his set. The singer couldn’t help but snap a few photos of the crowd himself, a sure sign that he is a popular act.

It is almost a full house at the Garland stage when Ex- Prime Minister Bob Hawke takes to the stage for his annual and eighth public address. The topic this year is current and international events and Bob chooses the time to talk about his views on bridging the gap with Indigenous affairs, he calls on the Australian people to not punish all Muslims for the radical actions of the few and discusses making the country a Republic at the end of the reigning Monarch’s tenure. It’s a moving , poignant speech punctuated by loud applause and a standing ovation.

Queensland’s darling and First Lady of Woodford Katie Noonan gives a evocative and angelic performance later in the evening at the Garland stage, drawing a large crowd to hear the songstress tell her stories though music. Each song a page in the story of her life, her Vanguard helping to showcase her new album ‘Transmutant’.

Over in the Ampi relative newcomer Courtney Barnett rocks the packed theatre for her live set.  She has the crowd whipped up into a frenzy to being the evenings festivities to a close.

When not listening to music there is plenty of things to do to keep you occupied throughout the day and into the evening. When the sun goes down the atmosphere of the small Woodfordia community comes alive with street performers, puppeteers and the like to keep you entertained. Crowds gather around a one man band as he sings old time tunes, instruments clattering and clanging. Or there is Alice in Wonderland in multiple, reciting poetry in unison to keep you entertained.

As night turns into day the weather manages to hold for the community of Woodfordia. No matter what your interest or taste in music there is plenty scheduled for the day, including a forum on saving the Kimberly, hosted by journalist George Negus.

The six days of the festival will leave you exhausted, but in the end it is worth every moment of it. Making new friends in line ups for food, chatting to strangers whilst sitting down for a break, there really is a friendly sense of community in the Woodfordia village.

Finally the event that everyone is here to see comes along and it is New Years Eve. Party mode kicks into hyper drive as bands like Dubmarine and Moana and the Tribe welcome in the new year. At 11:30 pm the bell tolls for the traditional three minuets of silence. It’s a time to reflect and a time to look forward as all souls gather under the Woodford stars for the event, small birthday candles held closely to usher in the new and farewell the old.  At midnight Boo Seeka does his countdown on the Grande stage to a roaring host of fans.  Later in the evening Tijuana Cartel have young and old dancing until the early hours of the morning.

The final day of Woodford is a much more subdued day with a lot of sore heads and tired faces. As the festival draws to a close, the Tibetan Monks gather at Folkloria to symbolically dismantle the beautiful Mandala they have been working on over the week. As the dust from the Mandala returns to the water it is a touching and moving ceremony to lead into the spectacular fire event.

The Australian Voices gather robed in white to herald the opening of the fire event as lanterns wade through in a sea of light and colour. Ethereal music plays, as creatures jump, spin and cavort beneath the Milky Way. Large giants roam the landscape as an  Aboriginal man lights the first fire of the ceremony, holding it triumphantly above his head. The music of Katie Noonan in a song written especially to mark the 30th birthday of Woodford echoes in the Amphitheatre adding to the atmosphere. In the far corner a large tree stands like a sentinel, a few green leaves dangling awaiting its fate.

As golden creatures dance, fire is twirled and the message trees are carried out to sit beneath the large tree that will later be a sacrifice to the old year. There is something going on in almost every corner of the arena – dancing and movement all punctuated with song and fire.  Eventually the crescendo begins as the large tree begins to come to life, fireworks twirling on her branches. Pretty soon the mighty tree is alight and burning brightly like a beacon to usher in the new year; hand written messages of peoples hopes and dreams burning along with it.

As the mighty tree quickly becomes a shell of smouldering wood and embers, Woodfood is over for another year. Lets hope there are thirty more years of festival fun, friendships and music to be had.






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