Woodford, The Planting Festival – A Festival With A Difference

For several years Lotty and I have worked as volunteers at the Woodford Planting Festival, which is a much quieter event than the Woodford Folk Festival.  100 volunteers instead of about 3000!

We have also worked on the Folk Festival – as Intergalactic S-Bend Warriors, which you can read all about in this post:  Woodford Folk Festival

We have worked this one as stage managers and each year we worked the same theatre/tent which meant that effectively we were in control of our “theatres” for the duration of our shifts each day.   Given that our shifts were about 8 hours long this was quite a load to bear.

In my case it was the biggest tent/theatre in the festival, and my duties consisted of, among other things, ensuring that the speakers/performers were on stage on time, and rather harder, off stage on time too.

Occasionally I had to go on stage and introduce them, or give them our thanks, but generally there were “Introducers” who carried out this function rather better than I could…   Public speaking is not really my thing I am afraid.

One of our other duties was ensuring that the auditorium was clean before every performance, which in most such festivals is a hell of a lot of work,as people arrive with food and drinks, and cheerfully leave their rubbish for others to clean up – but the good folk who attend this festival are of a different sort, and almost always take their rubbish away with them and dump it in one of the many bins around the place, so I was confronted by an auditorium that only had one bottle and a couple of packets of food to deal with after most performances.   Made a nice change I can tell you from one of my other regular volunteering jobs, the La Boite theatre, where after each performance we have to clean up loads of glasses, food bags and bottles – to be honest, I fail to see why people need to take so much food and drink into a show that will only last about an hour and a half – are they so near to dying of thirst or hunger that they absolutely have to have sustenance during a show?

All that aside, it is a gentle festival to work on, the people who attend it are for the most part gentle Hippy-like souls who wander around with friendly grins on their faces – not stoned but simply content to be there.   One of the things I particularly noted each year we are there is how the patrolling cops behave.

We have a number of uniformed policemen who patrol the festival all the time it is open, and on the first day they tend to be like cops all over the world, scowling and disapproving of the festival goers, but as the days pass, they become more and more relaxed, so by the third day they are wandering around with the same silly grins as all the festival goers and greeting everyone with a friendly grin and waves…    Nice to see them becoming human in that fashion.

The actual shows tend to be people who speak on a wide range of topics, and the occasional music group as well, so I have had a bloke who discussed the idea of Australia building a number of new submarines under the control of a French ship building company, who pointed out that the arithmetic of the deal made no sense for Australia, and that it would be cheaper to hang onto the existing fleet of perfectly good and never actually used, submarines and to give each of the people it was intended to hire for this project a couple of billion dollars – this startling conclusion he proved with a load of facts and figures.

Michael Leunig

I have also had a world famous cartoonist, Michael Leunig giving two talks in my theatre.  The first one was worrying as he didn’t bother to come back stage, but wandered into the theatre about when he was due to speak, and clambered onto the stage from the auditorium side and sat himself in the chair I hurriedly got onto the stage, and then spoke for the entire time he was booked for as a steady stream of consciousness…  It was superb!    The second time he was due to speak, later that same day, the management who were unhappy with how the first one had gone, insisted that he was back-stage in time, and had a bloke to ask him questions, which was rather less entertaining – Oh well……….

All in all, a pleasant way to pass a few days, and a gentle reminder of those far off Hippy Days of yore.