FOR one week every year, one magical week between Christmas and New Year, in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland behind the tiny township of Woodford, exists the People’s Republic of Woodford. The Woodford Festival. If you’re looking for an antidote to a frenetic year, a chance to recharge your batteries, to find a destination that for one week only represents the way the world should be, head to “Woodfordia” where reality is suspended, if only for the briefest of times.
On this beautiful 200 hectare environmental parkland, which has withstood the scourge of floods and scorching summers, people are nicer to each other, they dance, laugh and sing. Talk to complete strangers. Engage in debates about the universe, global warming, coal seam gas, fracking, and euthanasia. Dance under huge tents, play the bongos, dine on exotic cuisine, strum guitars, learn how to paint, draw and craft things. They hug trees, hug each other. Trek to the top of the hill and honour the last sunset of the year and the first sunrise of the next. Sit under the Southern Cross and in a huge bush ampitheatre indulge in that unmistakable Australian sound emanating from new bands. Discover foreign groups. Honour the Indigenous custodians of the land in Jinibara Country on which they sit. Chat around the campsite.
If the Woodford Folk Festival isn’t Utopia, then it’s about as close to Nirvana as you will find. What other place on the planet do you line up to fill your recycled bottle with rainwater to discover the person in front has already paid for it? This is a destination where paying it forward looms large. Egos are suspended. Bonhomie reigns. The Global Goddess has been attending Woodford for about a decade, at first apprehensive that it was a bit of a hippie festival with which she would have no connection. Back in the early days I didn’t camp but drove home to Brisbane every night to the comfort of a warm shower and a soft bed. As the years wore on, I started out in a basic tent pitched in the campsite of my friends. I slept like the dead, to the sounds of distant beating drums. I awoke each morning to the cacophony of the Aussie bush.
These days, we’ve upgraded, our site becoming more sophisticated as we sleep in a campervan, our friends in a Kombi, a tarp strung between the two, mapping out our home for the week. There’s Moet in the esky and aged cheese and strawberries in the fridge. We eat fancy pancakes for breakfast. Brew real coffee. And sit down and pour over the program and plan the day ahead. This year’s program, just released late last week, promises to be a corker. Highlights of this year’s festival include singers Beth Orton, Tim Finn and Clare Bowditch; Environmentalist Professor Ian Lowe; former politician Bob Hawke and, yet-to-be-confirmed Malcolm Turnbull; comedian Denise Scott; writer Blanch D’Alpuget.
And there’s some acts always worth revisiting among the diverse performance venues on the site. The Global Goddess likes to spend her time in the Blue Lotus tent listening to talks on spirituality. Sometimes I sit on the hill and watch stunning Spaniards introduce me to fast and frenetic music with a tinge of Hawaii Five’O. Other days, it’s in Bills Bar you’ll find me, people watching as much as music listening, having a cold beer before heading down the hill to the Blues Tent. A couple of belly laughs in the Comedy Tent is also a nice way to end the evening and as I stumble back to camp to the glow of paper lanterns, I’m likely to stop several times, for a tea and a carob ball in the Chai Tent, a cold drink in the Pineapple Lounge, a bit of jazz, a circus act, some Indian or Tibetan music along the way.
Last year’s festival saw 2,200 artists and musicians perform across 25 venues to an audience of 113,000 people over that wonderful week. A steady program of tree planting over the years, in which attendees can “adopt” a tree, has resulted in the 101,000th tree planted in Woodfordia soil this year. Some years there’s dust. Others, it rains and there’s mud. Bring your gum boots. Embrace nature and creativity. Random acts of music. Robust acts of kindness. That’s my idea of Utopia. What’s yours?
For more information on the Woodford Festival please visit http://www.woodfordfolkfestival.com
Finding Courage and Compassion on the Coast
IT’S a Wizard of Oz kind of weekend, where I discover courage and compassion in the most unlikely of characters…the Gold Coast. Beneath the naughty neon lights, the throaty hum of the ocean and the throbbing drum of nightclubs for which Surfers Paradise is famous, lays a rip curl of creativity which is building into the mother of all swells.
My weekend starts with a yoga session in front of Kurrawa Beach, in the park named after swimwear supremo Paula Stafford, whose two-piece bathing costumes put bikinis and the Gold Coast on the global catwalk. I’m in a public park, with my legs in the air, spread wide apart, simultaneously contemplating my form and hoping the swirling seagulls don’t poo on me. It’s a day of downward dogs and inward reflection.
Our yoga teacher for the morning is Laura Humphreys from Threedom Wellness, who gently urges us to accept the notion that yoga is a balance between courage and compassion. And you can forget about bringing your ego to class.
“Backbends are about the future. Forward bends are about looking inwards. We often don’t like to look inwards, it scares most of us,” she says. Interestingly, Laura has to force my body into a forward bend, which becomes easier with each deep yoga breath. Some days, you’ve just gotta breathe.
There’s just enough time for a short break at Broadbeach’s eclectic Elm for a dirty chai – a coffee and chai – before the next wave deposits us at Burleigh and Roar Food. Business Partners Darren Jones and Suki Kasinathan are passionate about sustainable eating, and in two hours will teach you how to prepare 10 raw food recipes. It’s here I learn that cauliflower is “sensitive” – the kind of vege you might avoid if you were dating it, but a perfect substitute for couscous. Want a new twist on pasta? Why not try zucchini spirals? Or a raw food apple pie – cheeky crusts need not apply.
“Each of your vegetables has a personality. When you are eating raw you really connect to the food. Each individual apple will have a different sweetness,” Suki says.
“For me it is a journey and I don’t know where it is going to end but it feels really good.”
The plates you eat on during this class are made from a bi-product of sugar cane, as are the forks and even the recipes are printed on ethical paper made from wheat and soy rice.
The current sweeps me to Budd’s Beach and onto a kayaking journey with Steve Vah from Australian Kayaking Adventures where we cut through the water with our paddles and through the bullshit of life with talk of love and passion. Steve is married to a Colombian and he knows a thing of two about fiery females with big hearts. Our journey along the Gold Coast canal takes us past Bar Helm Bistro @Surfers, where later that night I’ll indulge in Helm’s Smoking Texas Mary cocktail take on a Bloody Mary and reluctantly concede that my friends made a wise choice in the Parmesan Crusted Snapper Fillet with lemon butter.
I’m on the Gold Coast for Australia’s premier blogging training event – ProBlogger – and it’s here that courage and compassion raise their handsome heads again. In his opening address, ProBlogger architect Darren Rows proffers an insight into facing your fears.
“Fear is a signal that something important is about to happen. It’s a good thing. Ask yourself – what’s the worst thing that can happen, how would you recover if it happened, and what’s the best thing that could happen? The reality is somewhere in between,” he says.
“Even wobbly courage is courage. Figure out what the fear actually is. Don’t play the comparison game, comparisons are not fair. People show the best of what they do, where you know everything about yourself, even the bad stuff.
“Compare yourself to yourself. You are unique. Use that to your competitive advantage. No one has your story.”
Guest speaker Trey Ratclif, a photographer who is blind in one eye, is 42 and only picked up a camera 7 years ago. His self-taught imagery is legendry around the world. The kind of excellent work that attracts jealous detractors.
“It is arguably better to have a weird brain than a normal brain. People on the edge of the bell curve do interesting things with their lives. Let the rocks people throw at you just fall,” he says.
“There’s a few people out there who are evil and feed a white core of hate inside of me. I fight back with awesome.
“A blog is probably the greatest self-discovery tool of our age. You find out new things and truths within yourself. When you are telling your stories you are living in the now.”
Actor Samuel Johnson, who is riding around Australia on a unicycle to raise money for breast cancer research in honour of his sister Connie who is battling the disease, makes a surprise guest appearance at the conference. You need courage and compassion to make an epic journey around a monster-sized country like ours. And a heart of gold. And that’s where the crux of this story on courage and compassion lies for me. As a blogger, I think you must write with heart, humour or humility. Like you should live your life. And, if you’re really lucky, you might find all three.
The Global Goddess explored The Gold Coast as a guest of Tourism and Events Queensland. For more information on a Gold Coast holiday go to http://www.queenslandholidays.com.au.
For more information on how to become an awesome blogger, or next year’s ProBlogger event, go to http://www.problogger.net or http://www.twitter.com/problogger
To donate to Samuel Johnson’s ride for breast cancer, please go to http://www.loveyoursister.org