THE almost full moon is playing hide and seek under a tattered crochet rug of cloud and I am crouched around Clyde’s Pond, admiring acrobats. Hours earlier, I’d missed the annual ritual of climbing to the Hilltop at the Woodford Folk Festival to applaud the last sunset of 2017. The weather had other plans, you see. But the fierce thunderstorm predicted for the site, in the belly of the Sunshine Coast hinterland, barely raised its voice, as I sought shelter in the Coopers Bar, cradling a cold beer, and singing with the motley musicians gathered in a circle. Turns out Grandma’s Feather Bed was not a shabby Plan B at all.
New Year’s Eve 2017 and the rain retreats as quickly as it’s gathered, cleansing the site, showering our souls. If ever there is a place to spend that no-man’s land which is the week between Christmas and New Year’s, this is it. A time for replenishment and renewal. And here’s the 10 things I took away from this year’s event.
1. Go with the flow
I deliberately go to the Woodford Folk Festival with very few plans (aside from climbing to the Hilltop for the last sunset of 2017…and look how that worked out). Because, life, as we know it, has other ideas. And besides, with so much of life scheduled, where I can, I try to toss away the calendar. If I’m working from home in Brisbane, sure, I have an idea of what I’d like to achieve that day, but things get in the way. And if I’m travelling, I’m even more open to the universe. And that’s the lesson. Go with the flow and you will be richly rewarded.
2. Silence is golden
My second favourite tradition of the Woodford Folk Festival, and one where no weather can interfere, is the three-minutes of silence the entire site respects at precisely 11.30pm on New Year’s Eve. For three eerie and earthy minutes, all the bands ground to a halt, and 35,000 visitors on site pause to remember those they’ve loved and lost that year, while holding a lit candle. In a world in which we are inundated with noise, there’s a maudlin magic to this moment. Try and snatch a few seconds of silence every day.
3. Talk to strangers
Remember when you were a kid, and you were ferociously warned against talking to strangers, and for good reason? Well, you’re an adult now. Woodford has this precious power that upon entering the festival, you become a better version of yourself. Kinder, softer, more gentle with yourself and those around you. And all of a sudden, you find yourself chatting to complete strangers. Revelling in a shared experience. Maybe take some of this back out onto the city streets. You might be surprised at its effects.
4. Nourish yourself
Not only did I indulge in some fabulous food at the festival: think slow-cooked lamb and the best Yemeni chicken wrap I’ve ever eaten (OK, so I’ve never eaten anything from Yemen, which made this even more special) – but Woodford is all about nourishing the mind, body and soul. Take the time to have more massages, do some yoga, join a meditation group, take an art class, try something different. Love thyself and treat yourself like you want others to treat you.
5. Give peace a chance
There was a really interesting installation at this year’s festival, a replica of the Montreal bed in which John Lennon and Yoko Ono staged their “love-in” for peace. Visitors could dress up in some cool gear and plonk onto this bed, to have their photo taken. There was also a flash mob for peace, and plenty of signs promoting peace. After all, if we don’t give peace a chance, what chance have we got? Embrace peace, whether it’s big or small. You don’t have to fight every battle.
6. Nothing is ever what it appears
Random acts? They’ve got them in droves at the Woodford Folk Festival. One minute you’ll be walking down a weirdly-named ally (there’s plenty of these here too), the next, you’ll stumble across some punchy performers. When is a pineapple not a pineapple? When it’s a bar, of course. Keep your eyes and your mind open to life, and the good stuff seeps in.
7. It’s OK to play
Give yourself permission to play. Dress up in a costume, assume an alter ego, let your imagination run as wild as a brumby over an open field. You’ll find plenty of play at Woodford. Step out of your version of you and wrap yourself around a wilder adaptation. Go to a local park and jump on the swings. Dance around the house. Sing in the shower. Catch waves at the beach. Plunge deep into yourself and pluck out that child that once played.
8. Connect more
Sure, we live in the most technological era in history, but how much do we really connect with those around us? How close are you really to your 500 Facebook friends? Check in on your mates. Go crazy, pick up the phone and ask them out for dinner or a drink. Two things I loved at Woodford – this gigantic post box where visitors were encouraged to pen a letter to someone on site, and it would be delivered; and the phone a granny booth, where, for various hours each day, you could catch a chat with grandma.
9. Recycle more
The fine folk of the Woodford Folk Festival have been leading the way with recycling for years and each festival, it just gets better and better. (That’s another thing I love about Woodford, you can go every year, and there’s always something different). I adored the giant bamboo structure in the guts of the ground; had a few lazy drinks in the Vinyl Lounge (think your grandmother’s living room); and adored the giant sculptures made from recycled materials.
10. Smile more
I can’t count the number of complete strangers who caught my eye with a smile at the Woodford Folk Festival. And yes, it’s infectious. The next minute, I’m smiling at complete strangers, and then they’re smiling at complete strangers. You get my drift. And do plan a trip to Woodford this year. You’ll smile so much, your cheeks will ache.
The Global Goddess was a guest of the Woodford Folk Festival. To find out more about the 2018 festival, or other events on the site during the year including The Planting Festival, from May 4 to 6, go to https://woodfordfolkfestival.com
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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