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/
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