FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS
Woodford Folk Festival 2017/18 Closing Ceremony Fire Event
This year, Woodfordia’s Amphitheatre has been transformed into a colossal theatre set for the Closing Ceremony Fire Event.
Helpmann-nominated designer Aaron Barton took some time off redesigning Brisbane’s iconic Tivoli venue to lead a team of volunteer carpenters in crafting a fifty metre wide facade around the amphi stage to create Iron Town.
The bonfire takes the form of a Bell Arch, a bold yet delicate structure supporting a gigantic bronze-like bell that bears the mysterious word ‘Unless’, which some Dr Seuss readers may recognise.
In the green hills beside a booming Iron Town, Astrid tends to her herd of endangered Auryx – gentle creatures with magic in their horns and music in their hearts.
The Iron Town thunders on, belching its fumes to turn rusty wheels that never rest, until watchful human eyes discover new value in the Auryx.
Despite the warning tolls of the bell, human greed is never quenched – leaving Astrid the only thing standing between the Auryx and extinction.
Throughout history, bells play a symbolic role in both celebration and warning – communicating joy, loss and sometimes fear.
The bells of conquered cities were melted into cannons, and in peacetime the cannons cast into bells.
Our bell serves the same purpose, a celebration of compassion, but also a warning that if we don’t take a step back to look at our own impact on the world we live in, we will go too far.
Robin Gibbons’ stunning design, which looked easy on paper, saw the Bonfire Builders taking a crash course in trigonometry to calculate the bizarre angles. Once erected, the structure had a 1cm discrepancy – quite impressive for a structure that sits 12 metres tall built by a dedicated team of volunteers in just three weeks.
Ceremonies have always held a special significance for Woodfordians as a place for annual traditions, rituals and customs.
The Closing Ceremony Fire Event is built from the ground up onsite using mostly reclaimed building waste and up-cycled materials over four weeks by a dedicated team of 160 people, consisting of professional artists and dedicated volunteers from across the world in a truly gargantuan feat of artistry, hard work, resourcefulness and more than a bit of sweat.
The music is composed specifically for the event by a team of composers, songwriters and sound designers, and performed with guest artists and Woodfordia’s own orchestra and choir; 400 festival patrons learn the score each morning of the festival to play it live together – for the first and only time – on New Year’s Day.
Annually, the themes of the show draw inspiration and connections to the poster artwork designed by Gavin Ryan.
It is truly a collaborative project coming from the heart of Woodfordia.
The first Fire Event was held in 1989, with six performers and a band.
Directed by Neil Cameron, the first Fire Event nurtured a talented and loyal team of artists, theatre makers and volunteers who returned year after year to build large-scale lanterns, props and of course the signature bonfire sculpture.
In 2003, a musician, long-term Fire Event artist and a dear friend of the festival, Paul Lawler, took the reins as Director and ushered the Fire Event through another decade of amazing shows.
In 2012 – 2013 we welcomed Director Joey Ruigrok van der Werven into the Woodfordia family, bringing Joey’s experience and influences of spectacles from across Europe.
Alex Podger is the current Fire Event Director – after growing up participating in the project from the age of four months with his mother Lily, who still designs the fire images and effects.
With a background in film, pyrotechnics and stage design, Alex works with an extraordinary team to bring to life important stories for our time through images, music and theatre.