Woodford’s renewed approach to ritual

Woodford Folk Festival’s closing ceremony returned to its ritual roots – but this time, without the use of fire.
‘The Renewal: A Village Dreams’. Photo: Courtesy of Woodford Folk Festival and Lachlan Douglas. A group of performers wearing white cluster around a woven dome, holding poles of light above them.

Woodford Folk Festival is distinct in its event-wide emphasis on ritual, ceremony and lore. Each year, festival-goers attend an Opening Ceremony incorporating a Welcome to Country by the Jinibara Traditional Custodians, participate in a three-minute candlelit silence on New Year’s Eve and then cluster upon a hilltop for a dawn ceremony as the sun emerges on New Year’s Day.

Historically, the Festival has culminated on New Year’s Day with a flagship event after sunset called the Fire Event, which is the largest annual outdoor theatre project in Australia. From 2013 until recently it was devised by Closing Ceremony Artistic Director, Alex Podger, and featured large-scale narrative spectacles that sparked awe with puppets, performers and props filling every inch of the amphitheatre. Incorporating the creative use of fire throughout, the event typically culminated in the ceremonial burning of a tall effigy, complete with fireworks and pyrotechnics, to start the new year with a powerful catharsis.

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Marisa Georgiou is an artist, writer and social worker who has a history of working in arts and cultural community development, mainly in Meanjin/Brisbane. Their current practice is concerned with how to artfully navigate contemporary oppressions which affect our social and material landscapes. They draw broadly from aesthetic theory, transformative social change, and therapeutic or spiritual modalities. In 2021, they undertook a research placement with the Social Justice and Activist Research Centre at QUT, investigating the aesthetics of capitalist phenomena, immaterial labour and the production structures of the arts industry. They are a founding and current member of the ARI currently known as Brisbane Visual Arts Advocacy (BVAA); an initiative which advocates for an artist-centred industry.