The Wonders of Woodford
by Pete James Wreford Dawson
TN161 Feb 24
Travelling 1,666kms from Castlemaine to Woodford, the final 382kms from Goondiwindi was in the eye of a massive storm!
Not a good start for Australia’s premier folk festival, but after setting up camp on Boxing Day, I got used to the humidity and enjoyed the familiar hustle and bustle of the tent city that appears in the beautiful valley of Woodfordia.
First cab off the rank on the 27th was at 9:30am in the Pineapple Lounge, where Peace Run Records Director, Andrea Kirwin, was running the daily Sunny Coast Showcase.
After having seen the 14-year-old Layla Havana duet with the late Uncle Archie Roach during the 2022 National Folk Festival, I was keen to catch her short set.
Starting with an emotional rendition of Gurrumul’s ‘Bapa’ (Father), the lass who was unwell, performed like a seasoned trooper several original songs off her debut EP, Bright New Day.
Bumpy’s sound mixer was ruining her gorgeous, soulful voice at The Grande in the early arvo!
Far too much bass seems standard for engineers these days, so I had to climb the hill to the Baby Grande bar for the best sound of a bad lot, but even a fabudeadly guitar solo was drowned out!
The Waifs were advertised at 3:00pm on the side screens, but it was Felicity Urquart & Josh Cunningham (who is a Waif) that graced the stage.
Felicity was stoked to play her first Woodford and the pair, with a tight rhythm section, entertained with verve and honest passion.
Kids are well catered for at this very safe, family-friendly festival, with a whole section of their own and street performances, including Keith Preston’s Traditional Punch & Judy puppet show.
With his daughter, Shivani on keyboard, Keith had young and old enthralled.
At the Evergreens venue, several talks were programmed, and I was keen to hear Rhoda Roberts interviewing Shellie Morris’about her life as an adopted baby.
As an adult, she went in search of her birth mother in the Northern Territory, only to eventually find her and a whole community of Aunts and Grandmothers at Borroloola, on the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Over the past 25 years, Shellie has worked in remote communities helping preserve languages and culture through contemporary songlines.
The Arrkula Yinbayarra (Together We Sing) performances that Shellie & the Boroloola Songwomen presented were powerful expressions of women’s plight as aboriginals and their positive vision of the future.
The Welcome Ceremony that night at The Grande consisted of speeches from new WFF Director, Amanda Jakes, and various politicians, and a very frail Uncle Noel Blair, the Jinibara Elder.
Amanda presented founding Director, Bill Hauritz, with an honour for all his dedication over three decades.
Then with the statement, “The trees whisper songs in the breeze, singing in harmony across generations; we welcome you back to Jinibara Country through song, dance and fire; to reunite, celebrate and plant new seeds”.
The Jinibara, Yarrabah, Djumburru Nyiwal Djabuguy and Gubbi Gubbi Dance Troupes, along with Shellie & the Borroloola Songwomen, conducted a solemn and spiritual ceremony, making festivalgoers feel part of a sacred community.
One of the best things about Woodford is catching up with old mates not seen for a while, so I was delighted to bump into an ex-Darwinite, Robbie Hoad, who was playing guitar for Scott’s BMX Trick Bike Show at the Cirque.
On the morning of the 28th I ventured up to the Sand Stage where each day the Traditional Healing Women Of Yirrkala, North East Arnhem Land, massaged a gooey, medicinal leaf concoction on people’s heads and bodies.
Having a session, I was concerned that I’d be greasy and fry in the sun like a sausage, but it was soon absorbed into my skin, feeling like a natural moisturiser.
The three dance groups performed each day on the sand, and marquees surrounding the space held fibre weaving workshops, films and cultural talks.
An awkward stage for a concert, Shellie & the Borroloola Songwomen did a fine job in the hot sunshine, their strong voices harmonising with each other and the earth.
Highlight of the night was Yirrmal’s commanding recital of his inspiring songs for his self-titled album; particularly ‘Spirit Of Place’, an anthemic number co-written with Goanna’s Shane Howard.
Friday dawned sunny and it heated up to around 40C degrees, but with stalls featuring misty sprayers one could cool off somewhat.
Food from many countries, hats, funky clothes, jewellery, crystals and more were available, with Oriel and Drew’s Henna Harem designs and The Squeaking Tribe marionettes enthralling youngsters.
Passing the Luna around 11am, I caught the final number of the effervescent Bolivia Marka dance group.
In their garish but sexy costumes, the dancers whirled about the stage to a chilli-hot tune.
At the Sand Stage, a dance troupe didn’t turn up so solo performer, Edgar Hinge, played a traditional Vanuatu bamboo flute and talked of his island culture.
Around 5pm, Andrea Kirwin took the stage at The Grande to perform the song she wrote for all to sing at the closing ceremony, Renewal – A Village Dreams.
Mo’Ju then played a potent set including the poignant 2018 single, ‘Native Tongue’ relating the confusion with identity the singer felt growing up because of mixed ethnicity.
Four albums on since 2012, Mo’Ju regaled the audience with touching songs, especially ‘Change Has to Come’, a theme of many First Nations artists.
After Thursday’s dynamic routine I had to see Yirrmal’s second show, and I certainly was not disappointed.
His band is a collection of well-experienced pros from across the country, with Lawrie Minson’s pedal steel guitar echoing Yirrmal’s plaintive vocal on ‘Dhaliwuy Bay’.
Yirrmal says of the ballad, “It is expressive of my thoughts of my grandmother and grandfather, love and loss, and having space to acknowledge my inner feelings.”
Ben Hakalitz, Yothu Yindi’s drummer, had control of the deadly beat and with bassist, Chris Pearson kept the tunes pumping, creating a dance groove for punters on Yirrmal’s buoyant ‘Get Happy’.
Ashleigh Leef’s sturdy vocals fitted into Yirrmal’s like a glove, while guitarist, Matt Hellak, traded licks with Lawrie and kept the melodies sweet with Andy Shravemade on keyboards.
The Luna was my first call for the 30th where a stellar performance ensued by Leah Flanagan, an old friend from Darwin, whose career I have followed with interest since her 2008 release entitled, Leah Flanagan Band.
Beginning solo with ‘Two Words’ off her 2016 Saudades LP, Leah had to battle with a dragon, as a troupe of Chinese drummers and dancers paraded past, but she handled the situation with humour and aplomb.
The Angel Strings joined her and the honeyed tones of violins and cello complemented Leah’s firm vocal, particularly on ‘Bluebells’, adapted from her latest album, Colour By Number.
Calling by the hippy Pineapple Lounge, I noticed another old mate, Jamie Pattugalan setting up a drumkit.
Hanging about, I saw him joined by bassist, Lito and an animated woman, Alpha, on keys; the trio was ALPHAMAMA.
Anita, or Alpha as she likes to be called, commanded the small stage like a sea captain on her ship, and the sound check had me hankering for more; and what a performer she is!
With verve and expression, Alpha entertained with attitude.
With Jamie’s solid rhythm in sync with Lito’s strolling bass lines, she needed nought else to create a full punchy sound.
The slow jazz number telling the saga of her parents meeting aboard ship when they migrated and her life growing up in a racist society was heart wrenchingly moving.
Alpha made a mantra of the line, “Go back where you came from” and managed to encourage the crowd to sing harmonies on it.
Reduced to a duo after the untimely death of banjo player Koady Chaisson in January 2022, guitarist Jake Charron and fiddler Tim Chaisson, The East Pointers still produced a full sound, combining synth with traditional folk instruments on their original pieces based on Scottish melodies.
At one point the pair was joined by Emma Memma (ex Wiggle) who just danced between the lads, until I twigged that she was signing for the hearing impaired.
David Bradbury and I sat at the Baby Grande chewing over old times while waiting for Kasey Chambers (KC) and her fabulous band to take the stage way below.
Bill Chambers, KC’s father, cranked out some blistering solos on lead guitar, with his grrrl bubbling with enthusiasm as she delivered a vigorous set, including the big hit, ‘Am I Not Pretty Enough?’
The violent passion in KC’s delivery on one song, that I sadly didn’t catch the title of, fired the audience into near-frenzy, as was she leaving, breathless and sobbing.
Inviting her two kids out to accompany her on her finale, KC explained it was, “The one song they didn’t hate all that much!”
David Bradbury’s film, ‘The Road To War’ at the Evergreens was quite a kick in the guts, with the main focus on why it is the height of stupidity for Australia to spend nearly $400 billion on half a dozen nuclear submarines to defend ourselves against the Chinese.
It also showed the history of successive governments puppishly jumping, as the USA’s cannon fodder, into every war it has started; and the business of war.
“Once weapons were manufactured to fight wars, now wars are manufactured to sell weapons”, all at the expense of our health, education, housing and the arts!
Sadly, by 10pm, I was distracted by the mad Ukelele Death Squad at the Halcyon and missed the one and only show by a revitalised Regurgitator, and by all accounts it was a beauty.
With a little encouragement from friends, I stayed up beyond this old septuagenarian’s bedtime and caught the vivacious Romany singer, Lolo Lovina at the Bazaar.
Jiving, jumping and joyous, her band had folks dancing, including a couple who took turns balancing a water bottle on their head whilst gyrating!
Later on I spotted a vibrant show in the Luna with Elliot Orr’s Spankinhide pounding out the beat.
Adama Fakoli Doumbouya from the Ivory Coast and Argentinean dancer, Alma, were special guests.
As Elliot wrote afterwards, “The stage shook with a 7-piece shaker section, including my sweetheart Gaby, plus Alister Murray, Jamie Pattugalan, Arturo Wadsworth, Tenzin Wadsworth, Velvet and Roberto Roschel, who also played flugelhorn and trumpet and the lovely Zac Hurren on saxophone.”
Completely drained, I rolled into my swag.
However, I was up and at ‘em New Year’s Eve morning for a second look at Leah Flanagan and her Angel Strings quartet.
Sitting in the front row, I bumped into Jan Sullivan, the former long-time Greenroom supervisor, who now has the leisure to be an audience member.
Leah called out to her, “The heart and soul of Woodford.”
The show was again superb and the back-projected images, based on the Colour By Number album cover design by Curran Brown, with artwork from Nungala Creative and Kamahi King, really accented the moving songs.
Kavisha Mazzella and Maggie Rigby were two sweet songstresses I caught at the always noisy Bob (The Liar)’s Bar, a rotten venue to hear solo singers.
Kavisha should have had a nicer stage to play her well-crafted song stories, although the seasoned pro still got the diehards into a singalong, and at the end of her set, fiddler, Craig Woodward, joined in delightfully.
After decades of festivals, touring and choirs, Kavisha has retained a positive enthusiasm for performing, leaving audiences with a warm glow.
Always with her huge repertoire of original ditties sung in both English and Italian to delve into, my favourites are ‘Philosophy Man’ (a tongue-in-cheek tribute to her hubby, Andy Green) and the crowd pleaser, ‘Sing For No One’.
Sufi poet, Rumi has been an inspiration and Kavisha based the final gentle number on his piece, ‘Out Beyond Ideas of Wrongdoing and Rightdoing’.
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
There is a field… I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
The world is too full to talk about
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
Doesn’t make any sense.”
Her melody put to this poem of his was stunning, although despite the dedicated listeners in the bar really appreciating the sentiments, it went over the heads of the boozers.
“The only way to get through life is to look after each other,” she regaled the audience and told of meeting a Scottish bus driver whose faith in humanity had been restored by meeting the people of Woodford Folk Festival.
I first saw Maggie Rigby with The Maes, a trio from my town, Castlemaine, and it was interesting to see her solo, playing songs from her recent debut EP, ‘Best Love in The Universe’.
From rural heartbreak to the global pandemic, she explored many emotive aspects of her life in recent years.
Farhan Shah & SufiOz played a stirring gig at the Halcyon (although I still refer to it as The Duck) and despite the crowded auditorium, people were soon up and dancing like dervishes.
Adelaide was where I met the santoor player, Keith Preston, in 1988, and with his help put together the original Dya Singh World Music Ensemble.
Along with the rest of SufiOz, he gave proficient support to the forceful vocals of Farhan.
One show that captivated audiences was staged each evening at the Evergreens, involving the Sundanese Ethnotik Gamelan Orkestra & Wayang Kulit with dalang, Augustinus Jogiono.
Efiq Zulfiqar has been musical director of the Orkestra and various other Indonesian musical projects for several decades now.
With his wife, Emma and their children, he has been at the forefront of multicultural programs in Queensland and has often played Woodford.
After an introductory spiel to explain the storyline of ‘The Death Of Rahwana’, the exotic shadow puppets danced across the screen, with the slap of kendang drum, the whine of rebab violin, syrupy suling flute and the smooth cacophony of the gongs and bronze metallophones, while Augustinus narrated the tale in fervent Sundanese.
The show in full, produced, scored and edited by Efiq Zulfiqar is available online at https://youtu.be/b4gXvafnsLU.
Last but not least, The Renewal – A Village Dreams was the theme of the closing ceremony on the 1st with Performance Director, Analise Long pulling together a massive feat, aided by a dedicated team, including costume designer, Kirsten Fletcher, LED lighting team, bamboo dome builders led by Craig Walsh plus Steven Thomasson (projection) and Andrew Meadows (lighting design).
In the drizzling rain, the stilts that the performers were to wear were abandoned and after the crowd was welcomed with Uncle Rick’s firemaking and didjeridu by Bob Robinson, Tjupurru appeared with his Didjeribone wrapped up in lights, dancing around the domes creating an ethereal atmosphere with its haunting reverberation.
When I asked Tjupurru what he thought of the event, he replied, “The boys did a bloody good job; silent and deadly!”
The boys he referred to were musical directors, Linsey Pollack and Mark Bromilow, who without trying to be the centre of the music, made their presence felt with Linsey explaining, “I knew that I needed to navigate the creative journey ahead with a co-director, someone with whom I could share this with an open, honest and flexible collaborative process… long time friend and colleague Mark Bromilow.”
Finally the crowd sang Andrea Kirwin’s ‘A Village Dreams’ and a battalion of log drummers, including the families of brother and sister, Arieleke Ingram and Ranu James, closed the event in exuberant splendour.
One of the largest folk festivals in the world right on our doorstep
by Annah Evington
Woodford Folk Festival, Qld, is one of Australia’s largest and most iconic events.
It is also one of the largest ‘folk’ festivals in the world and is the largest gathering of artists and musicians in Australia.
The programme encompasses the depth and diversity of Australia’s cultural, artistic and social expression with music, dance, cabaret, circus, comedy, workshops, debate, street theatre, films, forums, visual arts, an entire Children’s Festival and many special presentations, including a spectacular fire event on New Year’s Day.
Woodford Folk Festival is an annual six day and night event running from December 27 through to late on January 1st.
This year, over 400 acts presenting 1,834 shows, will perform across 27 performance spaces to an aggregate attendance of 120,000 people.
The festival attendance level will be capped to ensure patron comfort level.
Woodford Folk Festival is produced by Woodfordia Inc., a not for profit, community association.
Despite its large size, the festival has retained its grassroots, non-commercial feel.
It is popular with all ages, and the festival atmosphere is the most highly rated aspect of the event in visitor surveys.
In addition to all the music and presentations on in the 27 performance spaces, most of which are under cover except for the large Amphitheatre and the expanded outdoor seating at the Grande venue, the festival streets are alive with roving street theatre, parades, art and spontaneous performances day and night.
The festival’s home, Woodfordia, is an hour’s drive northwest of Brisbane on a 500-acre property that has been developed into a cultural parkland dedicated to the arts, humanities and lore.
Woodfordia has infrastructure to accommodate a live-in population of 25,000 people and has been lovingly regenerated with over 100,000 subtropical rainforest trees, orchids, ferns and sedges planted to create habitat for butterflies and wildlife.
The 2022/23 Woodford Folk Festival welcomed a crew of 2,500 volunteers, who contributed around 30 hours each over the course of the festival week.
Also, up to 5 weeks prior to and after the festival are spent on building and packing down the festival village.
55% of the crew returned from previous years.
The majority of the crew were from Queensland, 30% came from interstate and another 70 individuals were from overseas (Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States).
Woodford Folk Festival caters to a wide demographic by exploring the full breadth and depth of cultural, artistic and social diversity Australia has to offer.
With the festival being the largest gathering of artists and musicians in Australia, it encompasses many genres and artforms including The Renewal (previously known as the closing ceremony) with a cast of over 2,000.
The programme features international artists and speakers and some of Australia’s national icons along with artists who are emerging in their craft.
Indeed, Woodford audiences are renowned internationally as being supportive and respectful of artists and the event has been a significant springboard for emerging artists from Australia and overseas.
The programme of events was launched in October with a 126-page full colour publication.
The Woodford Folk Festival is a temporary village with infrastructure to accommodate up to 20,000 patrons per day.
27 Performance Venues (8 within the Children’s Festival) run concurrently, and The Village Green offers a shady resting spot.
The festival grounds include 12 bars and introducing a brand-new dry bar this year, 60 selected cafes and restaurants, 50 craft and merchandise stalls, 14 health and wellbeing stalls, an on-site paramedic and first response centre, a General store and treed camping grounds for campers.
Woodfordia parklands also include the beautiful Lake Gkula, which opened officially in 2019.
This beautiful swimming lake is purpose-built and based on a natural filtration system.
For a complete list of booked acts, see the festival website.
Woodford Folk Festival 22-23 – Spoken Word
Review by Jason Roweth
TN154 Feb 23
It was a great joy to see spoken word on the stage once again at Woodford Folk Festival!
Amidst the six-day folk-arts feast, the Spoken Word programme was extensive, unique, and unforgettable.
Each day started with a two-hour Poets Breakfast, with big crowds building each day, creating a home away from home for spoken word in the spacious and sparky Bluestown venue.
The Breakfasts had a different co-host every morning, with a strong drive towards diversity of voice and language, a robust and welcoming microphone for walk-up poets, and fine feature poets every day.
We heard extraordinary work from the hearts, minds and voices of Irish Joe Lynch, David Hallett, Linda Jay, Angela Peita (and Abbey Church), Luke Robinson, Skillz FJ, Loki Liddle, Peter Willey, Jan ‘Yarn’ Wositzky and Campbell the Swaggie.
As both coordinator and host, my focus always remains on the walk-ups, and especially in encouraging first-time reciters, and each day we saw a list of walk-ups longer than could be squeezed in.
There were a remarkable forty-four first timers!
So many standing ovations!
The six-day festival offers a unique extended opportunity for budding poets to work actively on their art, with a variety of feature poets modelling their particular style of poetry each morning, followed by a mid-morning workshop shortly after the Breakfast.
I lost count of the walk-up poets performing newly written poems.
Twelve hours of Poets Breakfasts and six hours of workshopping resulted in an overwhelming quality and diversity of work.
You can imagine how hard it was to judge the walk-up of the year!
The judges are always hoping for that one stand-out performance, and thankfully we heard something truly rare and powerful on the second last day.
Congratulations to Woodford Folk Festival Poets Breakfast ‘Walk-up of the Year’ Gabe – Gabrielle Journey.
The announcement was made at the final Poets Breakfast, the ‘First of the First’ morning, where New Year’s Day saw feature poets and walk-ups offering final thoughts to carry out of the festival, actively engaging in the festival theme of “Imagining a Beautiful Future”.
The Spoken Word programme on New Year’s Eve was particularly memorable.
As the festival atmosphere launched into the evening with enormous energy, we heard three successive shows in the buzz of the Coopers Bar Folk Club, a concert from Irish Joe Lynch, David Hallett’s book launch for ‘Out of the Blue’, and a toast to the great storytellers with ‘Raise a Glass’ with Joe, David, and Chloe and Jason Roweth.
The return of Woodford Folk Festival, for me The Greatest Show on Earth, as a hub for creativity of all kinds is something to celebrate.
I’ll be reflecting for a long time on the diversity, quality, and sheer number of voices heard, performances given and poems said.
Enough to keep me inspired well into the new year, and on to Woodford 23-24.
First Nations’ performers featured at Woodfordia
by Peter James Dawson
TN154 Feb 23
After not being able to attend the Woodford Folk Festival, Qld, for several years, I was interested to see how well the First Nations mob fared, now that the fabudeadly Rhoda Roberts is no longer programming them.
The Murri venue used to be somewhat in the sidelines but the Jinibara mob had a more central position, with a sandy dance area, elders’ tearoom, workshop tent and the truth telling theatrette, which showed the seven-part film series, First Australians.
The various musicians and bands were programmed at venues around the festival.
Emma Donovan has been a busy lass in recent years with her band, The Putbacks, having released two albums with the jazz-rock ensemble that has kept her fans happy through the covid years.
Crossover, released in 2020, and Under These Streets (2021) are full of power-packed tracks that Emma has been able to play live around festivals and venues this year.
She played the large Amphigrande on two days, plus a couple of gigs with various friends at the Stardust Theatre in the Children’s festival.
Seeing her face close up on the big screens at the Amphigrande gave punters a feeling for her expressive performance.
Liz Stringer led a tribute show to the unsung heroes, the Pigram Brothers, along with Emma, Deline Briscoe, Neil Murray and Marlon & Rulla.
Bj Djinidjini Murphy, who sang a welcome to the crowd, introduced a moving memorial concert to Uncle Archie Roach and Aunty Ruby Hunter.
It also featured a tearful Emma, as she and many of the musicians that Archie had mentored interpreted songs the couple had made anthems of survival.
The Woodford Folk Festival highlight for me was Yirrmal’s powerful performance on Thursday night at the Amphigrande.
Playing songs from his soon-to-be-released debut album, the young Yolngu songman had the audience in the palm of his hand right from the off.
Prowling the stage like a hunting dingo, his voice a sonorous howl, Yirrmal sang of love of country and of family, as his Yirrkala community is his life!
Dami Im guested on a couple of numbers, including ‘Promised Land’ and ‘Which Way’, her strong, soulful voice soaring to the heavens as it spiralled around Yirrmal’s earthy tones.
Bluesfest boss, Peter Noble, wrote, “I was fortunate enough to experience Yirrmal; this was simply a brilliant performance by one of Australia’s greatest singers, songwriters, dancers and entertainers.
“Yirrmal’s gift is for the world!”
Yirrmal is a young dynamic singer from Yirrkala in Eastern Arnhem Land who has recently recorded his self-titled debut album in Tamworth, produced by INXS keyboardist, Andrew Farriss.
‘Dhaliwuy Bay’, ‘Promised Land’ (featuring Dami Im) and ‘Shining Light’ are three singles released last year, with ‘Love Sweet Love’, will be released soon and will be performed at the Byron Bay Bluesfest.
He previously sang on ‘Marryuna’, a collaboration with 2022 ARIA award winner, Baker Boy.
Airileke has put together an eclectic mob of aboriginal, West Papuan, PNG and Torres Strait Islander performers called Sorong Samarai, to make the public aware of the genocide going on in West Papua, an Indonesian colony.
The band had nailed it at WOMADelaide 2022 and did so again with two big colourful performances at the Amphigrande.
Also high on my list of highlights was the unbelievable concert by the vivacious Spinifex Gum.
The vocal harmonies of the grrrls were augmented by choreographed dance moves and back-projected video and images.
This was particularly poignant during the emotive song, ‘Ms Dhu’, which tells the sad story of a black death in custody and featured Felix Riebl (The Cat Empire) on lead vocal.
The choir has an album coming out early next year, according to the all-female group’s mentor, Felix.
Neil Murray, the founder of the Warumpi Band, performed his intriguing storytelling songs of people and country.
A man on constant move, he travels right across the land from aboriginal communities to city venues, is the founder of the Gunditjmara Eel Festival at Lake Bolac and was an integral part of this year’s National Folk Festival in Canberra.
Deline Briscoe describes herself as, “A strong Yalanji woman of song from the Daintree Region of Far North Queensland.”
Her roots planted deep in Yalanji culture and Gospel vocals, Deline combined the two worlds in her soulful rendition of songs from her 2018 album, Wawu.
At her show in the Halcyon, she was joined by percussionist, Greg Sheehan, and her nine year-old daughter, Merindi, who sang her own tribute to a treasured dog that had died.
Electric Fields, an electronic music duo made up of vocalist Zaachariaha Fielding and keyboard player and producer, Michael Ross, combined modern electric-soul music with Aboriginal culture and sang in Pitjantjatjara, Yankunytjatjara and English.
Yarrabah and Jinibara are two cultural dance groups that were integral to the Opening Ceremony and performed at the Jinibara Centre and on the Village Green, while Jem Cassar-Daley carried on the family tradition in the country music vein as her dad is the Tamworth hero, Troy Cassar-Daley.
Sam Buckingham shares her Woodford experience
TN154 Feb 23
Jefferson Lee caught up with Sam Buckingham at Woodford 2022/23
Sam Buckingham is a Folk and Americana singer songwriter based in Sleepy Hollow, north of Byron Bay.
Jefferson: Can you tell me more about your Woodford experience?
Sam: Apart from the awesome shows and the people I met as I walked through the festival, I really loved how it felt like I was in a space with tens of thousands of equals.
It feels like there’s no hierarchy at Woodford.
We’re all the same, there to enjoy music, art, connection and to come together and share ideas on how to help make the world a better place.
J: I’d like some background on how you became involved in the folk scene and scored the coveted prize of being chosen for the Small Halls tour.
S: I think I accidentally became involved in the folk scene.
My music fits in because it’s so story based, and I often play with an acoustic guitar … so I’ve naturally gravitated towards the same kinds of musicians and they’ve naturally gravitated towards me.
Folk is such a broad and inclusive term and I’m thankful for that because otherwise, I’m not quite sure where my music would fit in.
I met someone from the Small Halls team a long time ago and we stayed in touch.
Just before I released the new album they got in touch to see if I’d be interested in doing a tour.
We went back and forth for a while trying to figure out which tour would be the best fit and I’m so glad I ended up on the 2022 Summer tour.
It felt like divine timing both for my career and for me personally.
I’m so grateful for what Small Halls have created.
J: You seem, judging by the comments above, to be an introspective performer, structuring your songs around personal experience, yet having a wider appeal to your listeners?
S: Yeah – I’m always trying to tell my story in the most specific and real way possible, while also telling it in a way that respects the fact that it probably reflects a lot of other people’s stories too.
I feel like that’s my job as an artist and songwriter, to share myself in a way that helps others know they’re not alone in their experiences.
J: Basically, I’d like to know how Woodford fitted into your overall tour.
What are the songs you performed at Woodford about and why you chose them, e.g. were they all just chronologically taken from your album?
S: I played songs from my new album ‘Dear John’ at Woodford.
I toured that album throughout 2022 and have been told that the ‘Dear John’ live show and the stories that come with it are really uplifting, powerful and important.
I have other albums with songs I love to play, and I have new songs I haven’t released yet that I’d like to share, but I feel like the album still deserves more time in the spotlight.
J: What were the songs performed? Are they all around the same themes?
S: Dear John is an album about healing, learning, and rising up to become the woman I want to be.
J: What’s the story behind Dear John?
S: I wrote the album after the dramatic ending of a toxic relationship.
The title track is a letter I wrote (and didn’t send), to my ex, to outline a list of his abusive behaviours.
The album itself isn’t really about him though, it’s about my decision to rise up from this horrible experience, un-learn all the bs I’d learnt about my “role” as a woman, and make decisions that would serve me as I rebuilt my life.
It’s a deeply personal story, but it’s the story of so many women around the world.
I wrote it for me and I wrote it for them.
J: Why did you say you enjoyed being co programmed with Inn Echo in Small Halls?
S: Not only are they brilliant musicians, they are also such wonderful people.
We became great friends and it was such a joy to spend time with them over the seven weeks and become a touring family.
It can be really lonely touring as a solo artist and they made being on the road feel like home.
J: Do you have any influences or favs in the folk music scene? Why?
S: I have so many!
I think I’m influenced by everything I hear, in one way or the other.
But my new favourite is Keyim Ba, whom I discovered at Woodford.
West African music that is so filled with joy, you can’t help but move your body and remember all the things that make life beautiful.
Woodford “The best we can be”
Published in TN152 November 2022
Picking up the threads of its three-year vision of Imagining a Beautiful Future, Woodford Folk Festival will again be offering one of the largest gathering of artists and performers of its kind in Australia and providing what Deputy Festival Director, Amanda Jackes, hopes will be “a deeply immersive experience that supports the very best of who we can be”.
After nearly three long years of waiting and wondering, the festival programme was launched on Saturday evening, October 22, and the 300 organisers, volunteers and friends of the festival gathered to celebrate could not have been happier to be declaring the event up and running again.
“The sheer joy of returning the festival after this challenging time, of reconnecting with our community and celebrating with inspiring artists and presenters can be felt through the whole of the organising team.
“We are so excited about being back,” said Jackes.
The programme is huge.
The festival features 1,900 artists programmed in 400 acts across 27 venues, presenting 1,834 shows over six days and nights, from December 27 to January1 inclusive.
Woodfordia, the 500-acre parklands home of the event, located an hour and half north of Brisbane and 40 minutes west of Caloundra, will be playing host to an estimated aggregate festival audience of 115,000 people.
Festival Programme Manager, Courtney Wild, invited festivalgoers “to dive into a feast of music new and old, a flurry of dance, the rolling madness of comedy and the curious and often absurd world of the festival cabaret.
“People will find bizarre and brilliant interactive games, films, a vast array of opportunities for exploration and deepening understanding of new music and multi-genre cultural experiences and, we hope, will be constantly distracted by strange and colourful goings-on on the festival village streets.”
Woodford is well known for its honouring of the spoken word, for its in-depth and sometimes provocative speakers’ forums, and for the diverse and immensely popular range of music and artisan workshops.
Festival Director, Bill Hauritz, said “while Woodford Folk Festival is steeped in ceremony and celebrates our nation’s folk heritage and the artists that have shaped the cultural landscape, the event has always aimed to be a place of discovery and a champion of the new and the unusual.
“Our world changes every year, and our festival needs to change every year if we are to be current.
“For all of us, this event brings three years of change in one.
“We mustn’t try to be what we were.
“Rather, have our artists and scholars gift us relevance in the here and the now”.
Much loved Australian actor Magda Szubanski in cahoots with Fiona Scott Norman will be hosting a morning show each day of the festival with interviews and often comic commentaries of the news of the day.
Folksy session lovers will find their new venue, The Craic, down beside the cooling waters of the beautiful onsite natural swimming oasis Lake Gkula, close to the Festival General Store.
Visual artist Craig Walsh and musical director Linsey Pollack will be launching their new theatrical collaboration at the festival, which according to Bill Hauritz, is stunning.
Mycorrhizia, a journey into the deep-rooted wonder of the Wood Wide Web, will be on at The Pond in the evenings.
The Woodfordia hills have also rung with the sounds and voices of many Australian performance legends over the years.
Programmers announced that John Butler, Boy & Bear, Liz Stringer, Eric Bogle, Greg Sheehan, The Black Sorrows, Lior & Domini, Urthboy, Neil Murray, William Barton, Tenzin Choegyal, Dya Singh and Fred Smith are returning.
“25 years ago it was a dream come true to play Woodford.
“Today, nothing’s changed other than I love it more!
“Woodford is one of the best music festivals in this solar system,” says John Butler.
The Children’s Festival has been a treasured part of the festival experience and a place of play, learning and adventure for many young Woodfordians over the past 35 years.
The Circus Lair, Stardust Theatre and the Puppet Joint are back, along with Adventure Playground at the Far-Out.
Principal Organiser Becky Wandell says “we pour so much love into our programming for this precious part of the festival.
“We are very happy to be welcoming Emma Donovan to the Children’s Festival.
“She will be joined by Jinibara Traditional Custodian and natural storyteller Uncle Noel Blair, Mic Conway, dirtgirl and so many of our beloved Children’s Festival performers and presenters again this year.
“The Circus programme will bring a splendid whirlwind of artists presenting the astounding and the silly and, as night comes upon the festival streets, the circus will morph into the curious and the often outrageous as the cabaret denizens of the evening strut, swirl, charm and mortify the night owls of the event” said Circus Programmer, Chelsea McGovern.
Comedy is always around the corner at Woodford with a host of comics and provocateurs hitting and slouching upon the stages and festival programmers urge patrons to follow the laughter at the Late Night Ever Grins at the new Evergreen venue.
Woodfordia General Manager and Deputy Director of the Woodford Folk Festival gave a hearty thanks to the hardworking Woodfordia site team for the enormous amount of work that they are completing, bringing Woodfordia back to its full glory and preparing for all seasons.
“Woodfordia is looking beautiful, and we are now prepared for all weather outcomes.
“We have done a lot of work on site drainage over the years, so we know that we can cope well with rain, and Lake Gkula, our beautiful natural swimming lake, lets us offer respite from the heat too.
“We are in a very good position to deal with all sorts of changes in the weather,” said Jackes.
Woodford regulars will notice a few changes to the festival site this year, the most notable being the addition of a new amphitheatre at the Grande venue.
“The Grande is one of the event’s largest venues and the new Amphigrande means that we are even better able to cater for the big gigs there” Jackes announced.
“Thanks to the great support of the Queensland Government and Moreton Bay Regional Council, we have another more accessible big venue,” said Jackes.
Buy tickets to this year’s Woodford Folk Festival here: https://woodfordfolkfestival.com/tickets/