By Essie Valmadre
A little over two months ago, Woodfordia was filled with folks big and small for three days of tunes, tasty treats and tinkering at the 2019 Planting Festival. Friday night’s Welcome Ceremony brought smiles to all faces and tears to more than a few eyes. Wrapped in their winter woollies and each other, Woodfordians gathered together around The Pond for Rick Roser’s traditional Aboriginal fire lighting ceremony and a moving performance from the Jinibara Emerging Dance Troupe. A few poignant words from traditional custodian, Uncle Noel, and President, Rose Broe, marked the beginning of what was to be a truly extraordinary festival.
The lovingly curated programme was bursting with creative opportunity and offered up a lengthy list of talks, workshops and musical talents. In one corner of Woodfordia, patrons learned how to play the ukulele, while another group crafted their very own silver rings. Jinibara elder, Uncle Noel, taught an eager bunch the indigenous tradition of spear throwing, while the beautiful Sasha Mazzeu got everyone’s hips swingin’ in Brazilian Dance Class. All the while, down on the other side of The Pond, the littler Plantarians were busy building what they later dubbed, A Village Called Chicken. Armed with hammers, nails and, yes, even power tools, The Planting kids turned a pile of old timber into their own little festival playground.
The littlies weren’t the only ones getting their hands dirty though. Work boots on and coffees on board, the big kids were out amongst the Woodfordian greenery, pruning bamboo, planting cycads, learning the art of tree shaping and building frog ponds. This is, after all, the essence of The Planting. The festival grew out of a need to revegetate what was once a desolate dairy farm. Since 1997, a passionate and dedicated group of volunteers has been visiting Woodfordia on the last Sunday of each month. There is no job too big or too small for the Woodford TreeHuggers. They weed, plant, pick up rubbish and do whatever might be needed to keep the festival site a happy, healthy home for all who dwell there, be they two-legged, furry or feathered.
When the day’s workshops were done and the sun slipped below the horizon, The Planting took on its own special golden glow. While some snuggled up to a loved-one round a fire, others spun round with a new friend on a bustling dancefloor. Food was plentiful, varied and delicious, ensuring all tummies were full. We saw old favourites Spaghetti Junction and Pink Lotus, and were joined by new foodie friends Cowabunga Coffee and Turkish Street Foods. Archie Roach wooed us all with tales of his childhood in between lyrical brilliance and unfaultable guitar. Mario: Queen of the Circus changed the game entirely, blending comedy, circus tricks and motivational speeches in a positively hilarious and thought-provoking show. There certainly was no shortage of sights to behold.
The tents are long packed away, the lights are back in their boxes and the goannas saunter boldly across Woodfordia’s grounds once again. The 2019 Planting Festival is a shared, warm memory; a collective bewitching that has left patrons young and old with a fervour in their belly and a stirring in the soul. May that feeling carry us happily towards the end of the year, when we shall reunite for more merry-making, feasting and sharing of love and knowledge at Woodford Folk Festival 2019/20.