Tales from the Woodford Folk Festival
At the Corroboree Grounds, or gathering place, Aboriginal tribes from across Australia told their stories in a Talking Circle and performed traditional dances and songs.
January 1 -- So here we are in a new year!  It's the final day of the folk festival here at Woodford, and though the past few days have been great (no rain!), I feel like there's lots still left to see and hear.

Despite the best of intentions, I had missed the sunrise concert, where people join a group of Tibetan monks at the top of a hill next to the festival campground to welcome the first sunrise of the new year with chanting, bells, drumming and all kinds of good thoughts for happiness and world peace.

I knew it might be kind of dodgey as we stumbled back down to the campground a little after three in the morning.  Another New Year's Eve!  A crescent moon hung just above the planet Venus in the eastern sky.  It was beautiful and still.  A half hour earlier we'd been at a backstage party where I found myself sitting next to the guy who played the Celtic flute music for the soundtrack of Lord of the Rings.

It was a very different New Year's Eve.

The concerts had gone on at several stages until about 2 am, but the big deal earlier in the evening had been the Abbasingalong, an enthusiastic tribute to the Swedish pop band of the late 70's.  Now I'd seen Muriel's Wedding, and always thought of it as a quirkie little Aussie film.  I had no idea it represented mainstream culture in this part of the world.  But then, I guess I'd never been a big Abba fan.

At 11:30 there was a really nice touch as everything stopped, all the concerts paused as we all lit candles and observed three minutes of silence for absent friends and world peace.  It was a tranquil and beautiful moment as thousands of people all over the festival site stood with their candles in the dark.  When the Woodford bell sounded at the end of the three minutes, our candles were still burning so Jim and Pam and Carol and I stuck our candles in a log by the path and walked on.  When I looked back I saw that about 15 other people had done the same.


When Carol and I had arrived in Brisbane back before Christmas, one of her first questions to our hosts Pam and Jim was: "Whatever happened to the band Men at Work?"  They didn't know.

Eleven days later as we got to the Woodford Folk Festival, Pam and Jim toured us through the site, showed us the various stages and performance areas, the cafes, the washrooms and the trees they had helped to plant, and then it was time to check out the music.

As it turned out, the first stage we sat down at was just then featuring a concert by Colin Hay, former lead singer and composer of many of the tunes for that old Aussie band Men at Work.  And of course he played some of the old hits.  This was serendipity!


The folk festival was about much more than music, and incorporated dance, story-telling and poetry, street theatre, visual arts, film and folklore.  Performances and perades would seem to break out spontaneously in the crowd, involving a wild variety of colourful characters.  You never knew what to expect.
  

       
At the Abbasingalong on New Year's Eve, hundreds of the faithful paid homage to an Australian cultural phenomenon, honouring their favourite Swedish pop stars.
Gary and Carol and Pam and Jim at the Woodford Folk Festival
This was the entrance to the festival site from the campgroud.  We made the trek up and over that hill about four times a day.  That's me with Carol and our old friends Pam and Jim, Saskatchewan expatatriates now living in Brisbane, Australia.
Fire event on the final night of the Woodford Folk Festival
The Woodford festival always closes with a fire event, a huge kind of folkloric opera with themes of good and evil, a chorus of hundreds and massive pyrotechnics.