A black-and-white butterfly flits past, flapping its giant wings; the woman dressed as the butterfly is wearing a straw hat and carrying an umbrella. In fact, almost everyone is carrying an umbrella or wearing a hat of some sort. There are giant Balinese umbrellas festooned with tassels, colourful paper umbrellas and embroidered umbrellas studded with sequins. The few minutes it takes me to walk between the Concert Stage and Folklorica tent at Woodford Folk Festival has my mind spinning. I‘m lost in a phantasmagoria of psychedelic t-shirts, flowery kaftans, flowing sun dresses and an eye-popping display of costumes at Woodford Folk Festival.
It is also one of the hottest days of the year and my brain feels like it’s slowly melting.
I stop to talk to the band of pirates stationed on a pirate ship, which is lodged beneath a shady tree at a busy junction on the festival grounds.
Claiming to have been caught in a time travelling vortex, the pirates are an entertaining diversion from the heat.
Woodford Folk Festival
The Woodford Folk Festival is a six-day event held in December and January each year. It’s a time and place where music, fashion and food are compacted into six days of fun not far from Brisbane. It’s one of the best Queensland festivals and has international appeal.
Find out how much fun it is here
The programme at Woodford Folk Festival is mind boggling, with more than 2000 performers and 438 events featuring local, national and international guests.
There are concerts, dances, street theatre, writers’ panels, film festival, comedy sessions, acoustic jams, social dialogue and debate, folk medicine, a children’s festival, an environmental programme of talks, debates and films, art and craft workshops, circus performances and workshops, cabarets, parades and special events including a spectacular fire event.
There’s so much on at once it’s hard to know where to go and what to see.
On day three, I’m dazzled by the multicultural dances on the stage in the Folklorica tent. Graceful dancers in swirling red dresses grace the stage with the Oye Ritmo Spanish Dance followed by a foot-tapping performance by the Bolivia Marka Dance Group that has the crowd jumping out of their seats.
Even with soaring temperatures (reportedly up to 40 degrees Celcius), the Dance Hall is packed with sweaty bodies.
At the Let’s Dance Bollywood Dance Workshop with Dance Masala, the crowd gyrates to the upbeat tempo of Bollywood music blasting from the speakers.
It’s a ready-made crowd of extras. The only thing missing is the movie crew.
There are a number of circus events and activities on offer, including acrobatic, clown and juggling workshops. The Palace is the venue for the list of circus acts, which range from traditional circus entertainment, such as The Pitts Family Circus, to avant-garde and fringe shows.
Of course, there’s music day and night. It’s a chance to discover bands and musicians you may never have heard of, such as Ben Caplan & The Casual Smokers (above).
Musicians travel from all over the world to perform at Woodford. The 2013/14 roll call includes musicians from England, Canada, Jamaica, France, Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand and Australia, such as Beth Orton, Half Moon Run, Matt Corby, The Basics, Tim Finn, Julian Marley,Busby Marou, Buffalo Tales, Clare Bowditch, Chance Waters, Thelma Plum, Shelley Morris and the Borroloola Women, Blue King Brown, Brendan Maclean, GANGgajang, Jordie Lane, Rose Cousins, Babylon Circus, Breabach, Rachel Sermanni, The Twoks, Peatbog Faeries, Harry Manx, Mo Kenny, The Sojourners, The Break, Andy Irvine, Dubmarine, CR Avery, The Bombay Royale, Kim Wempe, Siobhan Owen.
And when a popular singer like Beccy Cole is on stage, it’s standing room only so grab a seat early.
What to eat
The festival streets are lined with restaurants, cafes, stalls, bars, street theatre and parades.
Food choices range from freshly rolled Turkish Gozleme pastries to slices of organic sweet and desiree potatoes on a skewer. There are 51 eateries so there’s no problem finding somewhere to eat.
How about the shopping?
The shopping is fabulous. Think Eumundi Markets. Only it’s a smaller version with high quality products. The umbrella stall is doing a roaring trade.
I’m tempted to take home a hand-made puppet.
Or bag a pair of psychedelic pants but I’m not sure where I’d wear them.
The pirates are right. In the end, I feel like I’m lost in a time warp. So pleasantly and happily lost that I think I might find my way back there next year.