Friday, January 13, 2006

The Illustrated Woodford Files (1): an introduction

As promised, here is a collection of photos taken over the week that was the Woodford Folk Festival (26 Dec - 2 Jan). Click on the title if you want to look at the official website, but it hasn't mounted anything recent yet (everyone involved is probably still lying prone, gasping). It's still a good way to see what I'm talking about. However, it's not really right to call Woodford a folk festival, methinks. There's very little trad folk. It's just a motley collection of performers who don't quite fit into conventional genres. And a lot of weird and alternate people wandering around feeling smug that they managed to get tickets through the website this year. All the ferals have been shunted out by their inability to get online. Seriously. There was a distinct lack of smelly colour this year.

I'll cobble just a bit of the website here, for those who want directions:
Where is Woodford?
Woodford is a small town about 27 km from the Caboolture turnoff on the Bruce Highway, about an hour north of Brisbane. To get to the festival, simply follow the road all the way through Caboolture, Wamuran, D'Aguilar through the town of Woodford. About 2 kms out of Woodford, turn right at the Beerwah – Kilcoy Road. Turn left into Woodrow Road and follow the signs to the festival.

When we arrived, at about 6.15am on Boxing Day, there was a queue of cars, buses, minibuses, caravans, combis and other assorted vans stretched out for a couple of kilometres. Even when the gates were meant to open the line stayed still, as the ticketing process had been changed and no-one was familiar with the new workings. So it was a long hot wait for entry. Once in, there are a lot of cars to park, tents to go up, and tarpaulins to be raised before the music can start.
I have to admit, I didn't take my camera around a lot. It was just too hot to carry lots of stuff around, and I never think about taking photos when I'm busy. So what I'm posting here is a motley assortment of shots taken over the week, many of them during a brilliant concert at the hilltop stage, called the Indian Summer Sunset Concert. I've never gone to the hilltop before, mainly because it's always too hot to climb the hill. I won't make that mistake again. It's superb.

This is a view of the festival site from the path as I was walking up the hill. It's only a weeny bit of the area. The tent in the foreground is The Palace, which holds all the circus acts; the one at the very back is the second-biggest venue, the Big Top. Everything in between is a food or clothing stall, or a bar or smaller venue.

A bit further along the trail, and this shows more of the festival site nestled in the little valley. The tents up on the hill are in the newest camping area, affectionately nicknamed 'Cloud 9'. I didn't get up there, but it looks like a very hot place to camp, with no trees yet. It's a Performers and Volunteers camping area. The plebs camp to the left of this photo, spreading out a long way.

Jumping around for a minute, this is the largest Woodford venue: the Ampitheatre. I am sitting very close to the front -- the grassy slope goes a looooonnngggg way back behind me, and can hold thousands of people. What you see in this photo is the preparations for the final night's Fire Ceremony, with the choir (traditionally dressed in white) amassing on the right.

Anyway, back to this Indian sunset concert. Bliss! Jenny Thomas, Khalil Gudaz and Dya Singh playing many varieties of Indian music as the sun went down. I just lay on the grass reading Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones while they played until it got too dark, and then I counted the stars. We started like this:
and ended like this:

And the view on the way back down the hill (pretty much the same as the first view up the hill) was like this:
And as you walk down the path you can feel the heat of the masses rising from the valley. Night time is when Woodford really comes alive, as the heat of the day hopefully passes and the street theatre revs up. Here's a couple of pretty average street scenes, both taken from my brother-in-law's stall:

The problem is that I can never stay up really late, because the frigging sun wakes you in the tent at about 5am, and it's impossible to go back to sleep because of the heat. So by 11pm I'm dead on my feet, and all the good cabaret and circus stuff was happening around midnight. But more on that later.

Woodford organisers have fun making the site, which makes for a fun atmosphere. All those buildings and tents are completely removed every year so that the site can regenerate. As they build it again, they make up fun names for the roads through the camping sites and for their volunteer teams. I never think to take photos of the signs, because they're EVERYWHERE. Our tent was on SheWearsMyRing Road. I did manage to capture this sign, up in the Performer's Green Room tent:

Speaking of animals, pets aren't allowed at the festival, otherwise we would have brought the cats. They're such rockin' little dudes, they would have loved a bit of Raag up there on the hill. So how come this woman was allowed to bring her bird in? It sat with her quite happily through the loudest concerts and crowds.
Not fair. Next year I take the cats. They'll hide in my luggage on the way in...

Stay tuned. Must do some work. next time I'll show you some of the acts.

POSTSCRIPT: After chatting to Zoe this morning (at the farmer's market, eating sticky black rice pudding and choosing the most gorgeous colours of gladioli), I realise that I posted crowd scenes which aren't average at all -- those two photos were taken on New Year's Eve, when Woodford fills to capacity with Brisbane and Sunshine Coast day-ticketers. Hardly room to breathe, and we're all a lot happier the next day after they go home. The streets feel relatively deserted on New Year's Day, even though there are still thousands of us there, waiting for the New-Year's-Night Fire Ceremony.

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