There is a festival in Queensland called the Woodford Folk Festival. I travelled into the land of Woodford for the first time ever last year. To a place of magic and mirth and revelry.
This was a week of pure escape for me. Of music, poetry, talks, circus, dance, craft, yoga, street performers, lantern parades, ceremony and food from all corners of the globe. Of blues and roots and soul. Early morning yoga. Cold showers at lunch time. Afternoon naps. Late night music. Falling into my tent tired and content.
We had a book when I was little. It was written by Enid Blyton and it was called The Folk of the Faraway Tree. In this story there are wonderful characters like Moon Face, Miss Muffet’s Spider, Dame Washalot and Saucepan Man.But the real magic of this story is that if you walk through The Enchanted Wood you will come to The Faraway Tree. If you climb this enormous tree you will find a land at the top. But not just any land. It could be The Land of the Giants, The Land of Dame Snap, The Land of Tea Parties, The Land of Secrets, The Land of Treats or The Land of Enchantments. Being all grown up now, it’s hard to find these moments of imagination and escape, but the Land of Woodfordis mine.
One fine morning at Woodfordia, I wandered up to yet another stage tent to see what was happening inside. I squeezed my way in through the tent door to see a woman on stage standing close to a man. The man was a writer, but he couldn’t speak because of a disability and the woman stood there with him and read his words. Through this woman, he spoke of the way that people look at him like he is stupid and useless. He spoke of how people think he has nothing to contribute because he can’t speak. These words hit me like a truck and I remember scratching at the corner of my eye. Pretending it was an itch and not the tears that threatened to roll down my face. I stood transfixed and listened to these rarely spoken words of one who cannot speak.
I learnt later that this man was from The Brotherhood of the Wordless. The men and women in this group have disabilities that prevent them from speaking. But first and foremost, they are writers. With the help of scribes, they share their stories through slowly pointing to letters on a keyboard. These otherwise wordless people are given a voice to tell their stories and a chance to connect with the world outside of their mind.
Next week, I’ll be packing my camping gear and making the trek north to Woodford again. The program is full to the brim. I’m looking forward to being immersed in the music. Like the sweet gospel, soul and funk of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, the tropical island breeze of Bustamento, the earthy driven folk of Siskin River and the fire in the belly of the John Butler Trio. I’m looking forward to the yoga and the mind-expanding talks and the time out. I’m looking forward to the unexpected surprises and finding my new favourite band.
Like last year, I might come across a show like The Brotherhood of the Wordless just by chance. And I will learn from it. And it will stay fixed in my mind for the rest of the year. And on New Year’s Eve, I will stand completely still for three minutes looking into my candle flame while silence falls over the thousands of festival goers. And I will think of the year just passed and I will make a resolution for the year ahead.
And when it’s time to climb back down The Faraway Tree, I will go home and sleep for two days straight. When I wake, it will seem like some crazy dream. With only a battered old program to show for it. But with the knowledge that there is, indeed, real make believe.
Images courtesy of Woodford Folk Festival