Article by Martin Buzacott From: The Australian
TWELVE months ago, the annual Woodford Folk Festival was almost wiped off the cultural map during the Queensland floods.
With torrential rain reducing attendance numbers by 20 per cent and sweeping away vital and expensive infrastructure, many thought that after 25 years the end had come for the much-loved but perennially debt-plagued signature event of the Queensland Folk Federation.
The Moreton Bay Regional Council emerged as the white knight, buying the200ha site on a 50-year leaseback deal to the festival, and the utopian, marvellously over-ambitious event between Christmas and New Year was back on for a 26th instalment. This time it incorporated the spin-off indigenous Festival of the Dreaming that had been postponed from its usual Queen's Birthday weekend timeslot because of the rebuilding.
Blessed with glorious weather, the punters returned, and despite pre-festival controversies over sponsorship and programming, many regulars ended up declaring it the best festival ever.
The symbolic earth mother of this rebirth proved to be the ageless polymath Buffy Sainte-Marie. In two blistering sets, the septuagenarian Canadian delivered an astonishing fusion of hard rock, protest folk, country and middle-of-the-road, all set against a compelling backdrop of Manitoban Native American chants.
In all, 65 Canadian artists (24 of them from Newfoundland) performed, with the sister duo Ennis being a standout, their tight vocal harmonies compensating for the intentional corniness of their between-song patter.
The world music component was led by barnstorming performances from Chinese-Mongolian band Hanggai, while Spanish cultures were well represented by the likes of singer-songwriter DePedro, guitarist Gerard Mapstone and singer Tania Balil's Candor Quebrao.
Gotye was an excellent choice as the headline act in the mainstage amphitheatre, providing an electric moment when his cover of Luiz Bonfa's Seville was unexpectedly revealed to be a source for the hit Somebody that I Used to Know.
Elsewhere, there was a head-spinning range of choice across 20 stages, workshops, street theatre, children's events, burlesque, freak shows, cultures and genres, while, as always, the spoken-word component of the festival covered political views that ranged from green to jade, teal and viridian.
In his public report at the close of the event, a relieved festival director Bill Hauritz announced that there would be "at least one more festival". It's a long way from the heady days when "500-year plans" were vaunted, but under the circumstances, the opportunity to do it one more time seems to be a minor miracle.
Woodford Folk Festival. December 27 to January 1.
Video: Take a look at the closing ceremony of Woodford Folk Festival.