27 Dec – 1 Jan, 2017 :
The Woodford Folk Festival is an annual music and cultural festival held near the semi-rural town of Woodford, Queensland. It is one of the largest events of its type in Australia, with each year approximately 100,000 patrons attending the festival, along with 2,000+ performers and 400+ events being programmed featuring local, national and international guests.
The festival takes place over six days and nights from the 27th of December to the 1st of January each year. It features a wide range of performance styles, musical genres and nationalities, with artists playing at over 35 different venues within the festival grounds.
Along with musical acts, the festival offers a wide spectrum of entertainment such as Street Performing, Public Speaking, Stand-Up Comedy and a Children’s Festival. The streets are lined with restaurants, cafes, stalls, bars, street theatre and parades, and with the festival supplying both Seasonal and Overnight camping ground to patrons, most attendees stay for the entire week of festivities.
The 3 Minutes Silence is a recurring Woodford tradition, part of the New Year’s Eve celebrations where festivalgoers within the grounds gather for 3 minutes of candle-lit silence to welcome the New Year. A Sunrise Ceremony then takes place on the Woodford hilltop on New Year’s Day. The whole community greets the Sun as they listen to Tibetan chants and guest musicians on the grassy hill. The final evening of the festival culminates in a spectacular New Year’s Day closing ceremony, The Fire Event.
Friday 30th December
Arriving on the 30th Dec for Woodford’s 31st Year, we set up camp at lunchtime and headed into the festival that was already in full swing.
Making a beeline for Bobby Alu and Greg Sheehan at Longlines, we were stopped in our tracks as we heard John Butler’s song ‘Ocean’ coming from the Orchard stage. Having a quick look in we discovered it was 22-year-old singer-songwriter, Tullara. Listening from the outside you would have believed it was Butler himself playing this amazing song. The crowd gave a standing ovation at the end of the song, which was certainly much deserved.
Next it was onto Bobby and Greg at Songlines stage. A very chilled out stage that has a Tea Room adjoined to it where you can sit and have a cuppa with some Aboriginal Elders while enjoying the music or trying your hand in some bush craft. Bobby and Greg did not fail to impress once again, both amazing percussionists and so entertaining.
Before catching another act, we wandered around the festival markets checking out the different stalls and food. It was then onto Bluestown stage to catch the very popular Swamp Thing. The Swamp Thing are a blues rock group from New Zealand and consists of Michael Barker and Grant Haua. These guys certainly know how to rock it out and get you dancing.
Roaming around the festival we noticed that the Garland stage was packed out so went to have a look. There was lady on the stage playing a keyboard, dropping a few F bombs and drinking wine, intrigued we decided to take a seat and listen on.
The act was Amanda Palmer, drinking wine and talking about babies and art. Certainly very different but entertaining. A lady in her 40’s with a newborn baby with lots of stories to tell about her life, Amanda invited some kids (and big kids) up on stage for story time as she read everyone a book, while drinking wine of course.
It was then back to Songlines to see Shellie Morris, a proud Yanyuwa and Wardaman singer – songwriter. Shellie plays a mix of contemporary folk music, contemporary acoustic ballads, and is joined by her sister Mandy and other musicians from the Black Arm Band. As much as we wanted to stay longer it was time to call it a night to get some much-needed rest for the next 2 days.
Saturday 31st December
Lazing around the campsite for most the day, it was nice to just relax and meet fellow campers.
We headed in to catch Indigenous Australian artist Yirrmal, from North-East Arnhem Land at the Larrikin stage. The crowd started off seated but by the second song everyone was on their feet dancing. Playing original songs, Yirrmal also had the crowd singing along to some well-known Youthi Yindi hits. Yirrmal was also joined by many special guests including Bobby Alu on drums and Greg Sheehan on whatever he can make music on.
There is something about Yirrmal that energises the room and when he smiles, it lights up the place. Having seen him perform both solo and with his band over the past 12 months, I can highly recommend to you to make sure you catch his performance when you can.
As the sun started to fade it was time for the walk up to the hilltop to watch the last sunset for 2016. With the Indian Sunset concert playing and 100’s of people facing east, the crowd erupted into cheers and a few tears as the sunset for the last day of the year. This is truly an experience not to be missed; it certainly gives you goose bumps.
Wondering around the festival we just soaked up the vibes, checking out the markets, different stages and street performances until it was time to head to the Amphi stage to see in 2017. Arriving in time for the 3 minutes silence, it is breath taking to see the whole festival in silence and holding candles as we all reflect on the year and all those that have passed. The only thing you may hear in those 3 minutes is the odd sniffle as it certainly is a very emotional feeling but certainly an experience to be part of.
To see in 2017 were Hot Potato Band and what a way to bring it in. The drummer got the massive crowd pumping their arms in the air for every second that passed until the clock struck midnight and the band broke out into ‘Auld Lang Syne’.
Woodford Folk Festival is certainly a festival that we will keep coming back to every year.
Reviewer : Angela Turvey
Photographer : Julie Lowe