A couple of weeks ago Lotty and I spent a strange week working as volunteers at the Woodford Folk Festival, the largest such festival in Australia. We were two vollies (as they are called here in Australia), among about 3000 others all of whom work their little butts off to make this festival happen.
To be honest, neither Lotty nor I have any great interest in folk music, but many of our friends have worked in this festival for years and had told us it was great fun, and anyhow, it seemed to us to be an essential part of our education in living in Oz, so we signed up as soon as it was possible – about 6 months before the actual festival occurs.
One signs on via the web, and all manner of information is required from prospective vollies, among which is the burning question of what sort of work does one wish to do in the festival. This is accompanied by an imposing list of possible areas of work – publicity, stage hand, selling stuff and so on – we had no idea what we might best do, so we simply selected the “do anything” button, and sat back to wait and see what would happen next.
What happened next was an extremely enthusiastic email from a bloke called Alan who would be our chief for the festival, as we had been placed in one of his teams and would be glorying in the title of S-Bend Warriors. This meant that we would be one of many teams of Inter-galactic S-Bend Warriors who would be charged with cleaning and provisioning a load of showers/lavatories in one of the many camping areas in the festival.
Curiously, as Lotty had given her profession as Teacher on her application, she was made into a supervisor on the grounds that her experience as a teacher made her ideal as a leader of a small team of lavatory cleaners. And I, as an ex roadie etc was seen to be an ideal follower, and was thus placed in her team, along with two other young women.
So, on Boxing day we arrived at the festival site (the actual festival began the day after Boxing day), signed in, were given wrist bands that denoted our status and directed to where we could pitch our tent.
This turned out to be on a considerable slope, so we spent our nights sliding gently downhill to the end of our tent, not ideal, and falling over when trying to get our trousers on or off.
It was also just on the top of hill above one of the two noisiest stages in the entire festival, so our nights were rendered hideous by extremely loud music that went on until about 2 or 3 am every night – especially the bass, which was so loud it literally shook our bowels and intestines. As we had to get up at about 5 am in order to do the first cleaning run of the day, our nights were not really very restful – which gave us increasing problems as the week wore on.
Sometimes the music that kept us awake was good, but other times it was bloody awful… Ah well.
Anyhow, every day, the four of us trudged off to clean and provision our allotted dunnies. This took about 2 or 3 hours every morning, and was repeated three times over the day,the last being at about 11 pm in the evening.
In fact the work was not as unpleasant as I had expected, as the bogs were reasonably clean by and large, and the campers were truly grateful to us for keeping their bogs clean and usable. Though it was a curious feeling for me going into the women’s bogs I have to admit – and it was funny watching how the men reacted to the three women in our group going into the men’s – the noise of zips being done up hurriedly was funny.
So that was our work day, the rest of the time we were free to enjoy the festival, which we did of course.
Weird time warp:
It was a very strange feeling for me as the place was rotten with 18 year old hippies, a sort of time warp feeling, taking me back to my time at the Roundhouse Theatre in London all those years ago. Seeing all those folk wandering around in their (expensive) Indian fabrics and fantastical outfits was pleasing, if silly.
And of course, being a folk festival rather than a rock festival, everyone was super friendly, smiling at each other as they wandered around the place. This aspect was enjoyable, it is always pleasing to have people smile at one and greet one – reminded me strongly of the French rural village I lived in for about 10 years, where everyone greeted one as they met in the streets… Nice to have one’s existence recognised like that.
And also, being a folk festival, there was no end of street theatre all over the place, huge monsters wandering around, musicians strolling around strumming away, mimes, and so on, all good fun stuff.
And food! Every sort of ethnic food you could imagine, and mostly really rather delicious too.
However, by the end of the week, Lotty and I were totally exhausted and more than ready to head for home and peace………
All in all, a great experience, very glad we did it, but once is enough I feel…….