The early years of our festival captured an ethos. Back then, we felt the expressions of our cultures could be deeper than the shallowness that our nation’s celebrations and festivals portrayed. As organisers, we really didn’t know what we were doing but took risks and went exploring … at times with both feet in the dark. It felt like we were chipping away at a rough piece of granite in search of the beautiful sculpture that had always existed within. While our festival has grown and changed dramatically, that underpinning ethos has strengthened. Still, our exploration continues.
While we’ve had to learn systems management, logistics, marketing and money handling skills, what emerged in the early days was that we felt our ethos contributed to the folk movement we served. If we could give our festival a depth, expose just a portion of that sculpture, then our patrons could jump on board, then we’d somehow succeed.
We’ve tried to define our work not by what we can’t do and whom we excluded, but rather what we could do and whom we could embrace. We couldn’t cherry pick our humanity. To explore our celebrations and express that humanity would require kindness and tolerance, and the first exercise in this task was to apply that kind of compassion to ourselves.
There have been many errors. Our flaws surfaced, so we learned to rely on our fellow organisers’ strengths. We discovered that our weaknesses could become assets, because they were an opportunity to seek advice, to involve and empower people beside us. Our talented artists and knowledge-seeking presenters became collaborators. Along the way, you, our wonderful patrons, became allies. It seems that now, we’re all chipping away at that piece of granite. That you have jumped on board has been our victory – and our victory is your victory. It feels powerful; everyone in the same boat rowing in the same direction.
Our contributions were rewarded. We’ve all become owners, and our shared ethos makes us better people and makes for a festival that’s becoming an organic factory for making lives more worth living. The prize is not just a pretty place, but a cooperative state of joyous mindful being.
It’s on behalf of the organisers, old and new, our committee and staff, artists and presenters, the wonderful volunteers, the merchants, the cooks, the sponsors and contractors – contributors all, that I welcome you to our Woodford Folk Festival, our 32nd in all and the 25th at Woodfordia. Bring your sculpting tools.