It’s that time of the year for many and for us and here at the Festival Planning HQ for the Woodford Folk Festival, it’s no different. We’ve had friends call it ‘burnout season’, ‘the last push’, when the year ramps up and becomes so busy it’s almost a blur. Everything seems to be in the business of finishing, acknowledging, cataloguing, then celebrating- which requires some fairly advanced logistic planning. If you are the person who has to make it happen for your people, November and December simply seems like a long hard slog before there can truly be enjoyment and relaxing. The ‘pennies in the pudding’ seem like an age away.
It’s around this time of year that we engage in a little staff ritual at the Woodford office. Throughout the year, we receive the most incredible personal stories from festival patrons who take the time to write in and tell us about their experiences. We dig the out copies of letters, we read them again, and share our favourites.
There are so many ways to experience Woodford that each letter is a treasure of insight into our patrons’ experiences. The stories can be nostalgic, poignant, euphoric, filled with luck and coincidence and sometimes so exotic, our lives feel completely ordinary after reading them. Our favourite letters though are those that share some simple truths about humanity. The absolute best is when the Festival takes a human experience and elevates it beyond everyone’s expectation.
Some of our favourite letters are from:
– A plus- sized woman who, for the first time in her adult memory experienced a New Year’s Eve in public acceptance and safety, enjoying herself without drunks heckling her on the street.
– A family with teenagers who enjoyed their first holiday together at Woodford since the kids were in primary school. The experience was a turning point and created such a strong bond, that the family have been meeting at the Festival each year for the past 5 years when the kids are on uni break and are planning to continue the tradition.
– A patron who, with a disability, enjoyed a full- festival experience alongside their carer, met friends and won a poetry competition.
There are many letters involving patrons arriving at Woodford on their own, having experienced recent heartbreak or life-changes, only to find friends and have a ‘turning-point’ experience. We know those stories well- some of them are our own.
This small ritual of re-reading and sharing our patrons’ letters now feels like an annual comfort. We recall our favourites and remind each other of how we felt when we first read them. As we edge toward Festival construction time, it helps us remember what we are trying to build – A Festival where everyone has a place regardless of our origins. It’s going to be an incredible Woodford this year- big enough and warmly welcoming for families to re-connect and folks to find their groove. We know that the letters will come in after the Festival and that we’ll hear new stories that surprise, delight and bring us to tears. So back to finding those pennies in the pudding- we are totally ready for the extra effort. That the last push is really worth doing as beautifully as we possibly can.
P.S Did you know:
There is a place at Woodford called the Lettering House. You can pen letters, poems, postcards and notes to a loved one, a stranger, or for nobody to see and for a small fee, be mailed outside of the Festival. It’s a lovely way to connect with your imaginative self, and with those around you. Seek it out in Artisania, every day at Woodford. To find our more about the programme or to purchase tickets go to the Woodford Folk Festival website.