Chelle and the Fig


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Greetings from Woodford Folk Festival

It’s been 16 years since I was last at Woodford Folk festival. I was pregnant with my first born and recall the purple and blue tie dyed petty coat I wore as a dress…and it wasn’t a ‘special’ Woodford outfit, it was my normal weekend attire back then…the lingering effects of the nineties low fi fashion statements. It was 2000…the end of the Millennium and the world-shattering prophesies didn’t occur in the dramatic way media fuss had been spruiking. I’m sure we could dig up some possible apocalyptic turning points just as we could every year, but at Woodford the big issues of the day are a distant planet. For a moment you can forget it all. The first born I mentioned snug under my tie dye belly in 2000 joined me, now 16, for his first post utero Woodford experience. 

Our neighbours whose son is good friends with J had invited him to stay with them. It took some logistical wrangling to meet them there and it took me overcoming my worry of the cost, the heat, the crowds and the holiday traffic, but eventually I was in. 
We hit the road early and made our way up the M1 to the Bruce highway surrendering our voices to a soundtrack curated by him…The Head and the Heart, Sarah Blasko, the Fratellis, Powder Finger and timeless favourites of Queen and Led Zeppelin. Our first stop was arriving in Woodford’s main strip for lunch…the only strip in Woodford, and we get a sense of the heat. It feels thick and creature like. 

Once at the site we drive past four different entrances and we’re confused already…we choose one in consultation over the phone with my neighbour and friend Lisa. Within seconds there are volunteers with high vis smiles and vests. They’re spirit of generosity is immense…nothing is too much trouble. They effortlessly come up with solutions to my misplaced ticket. Their happiness clearly immunes them from the dust and the heat. And from there we flit from one happy moment to the next. There’s people with dragon fly wings and goblin ears, in fact a whole hobbit like world of fantasy has been created. There’s green slopes where people are stretched out peacefully on rugs. There’s a labyrinth of love festooned by rainbow flags and pretty flowers. There’s a book club space. There’s cool mist sprinklers and delicious food; there’s a guy on a bike delivering love letters from the letter booth. There’s kind people everywhere who say things like “You go first.” And of course there’s the music Tinpan Orange, My Bubba, Montaigne, the Cassettes, Natalie Gillespie, Darren Percival and the beautiful men who participated in his work shop (including my son and his friend) and who unbeknownst to them drew in an audience, Lisa and I included, who sat mesmerised on the grass across from them under a big old tree as their voices tenderly carried across a kindly breeze “I Shall Be Released”. Of all the music this was my favourite…seeing these everyday men rise up to meet their beauty and their inner creative magic…held by Darren Percival and a small audience, most of us moved to tears.  

I packed up my tent and hugged Jardy goodbye who stayed till the end. I’m so glad I braved the heat, the crowds and the traffic. I’m so happy he gets to experience this beautiful, free spirited creative ecosystem. How sweet it can be when a world of possibility opens up, and lyrics like “any day now I shall be released…” speaks as much of the spirit breaking free from all that keeps it bound. 

As I drove out I stopped at a cafe in the Main Street for a quick bite. A young girl served me and I asked if she was going to the festival. She said she couldn’t afford it. My high became a little tempered then. The festival for a young girl from regional Queensland might just be the sliding door that makes the difference in opening up her world. Being held on her doorstep  I felt it was her right to be there, to have the experience and perhaps there was some accessible means that did not present itself to her. Surely a festival oozing this much love would consider a creative mentorship program a few months leading into it for the local young people, maybe it has one. I better look into it. In the mean time may the best of human spirit be with you in 2018 and beyond.

     


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My Mountain Home and The Places You’ll Go Post Card Series

It’s taken a while but I think I’ve finally completed my Murwillumbah Post Card Series (which you can find in our local Bowerbird gift shop and the Tweed Regional Art Gallery). I have made a few changes since the first instalment on wood, and I have added another mountain image which is the one you can see here. I have loved creating this Murwillumbah series and thought I would share a bit about what this town means to me. I left my home town Geelong when I was 21 to study in Rural Victoria and then Melbourne. Once I left Geelong nothing felt like home to me for a long time, not even when I went back to Geelong…probably because all my family had left. I felt untethered and often lonely. 

I moved to Brisbane and immediately felt a connection with the old Queenslanders and the lush tropical earth and then I met my main man David, who grew up here in Murwillumbah and my sense of home stretched across the border to this beautiful Caldera Valley. I commuted to Uki, where he lived, every second weekend for 6 months before we shacked up in Brisbane. Eventually we both started longing more for nature and by the time I was pregnant with our second baby we made our home here. 

Murwillumbah is one of those towns that enlivens my imagination and where I am never short of creative inspiration. I love the sense of two worlds colliding. The old world with strong threads to a timeless past…the Sugar Mill, art deco shop fronts, the Austral, the Regent, the Bundgalung Nation and it’s mountain, and those locals who have seen a generation of changes. And then there is the new wave of families looking for affordability and character in a town…who value the humble beauty of Murwillumbah, it’s trees and mountains, it’s good food and coffee and it’s proximity to all the culture anyone could ever need. I feel almost a perfect symmetry of the old and the new and that holds something lovely and steady which is hard to describe, but which I feel grateful to be a part of.

I hope my children will have a deep connection to this land and the three generations that came before them, their dad, their grandparents and great grand parents who first settled in Brays Creek in the mid 1930’s. My own family were so scattered and disconnected, I always longed for deeper roots. My mother-in-law Jan and father-in-law Gordon told stories about when they were kids and it took a whole day to get from Tyalgum to Murwillumbah and back again by horse and cart. They are deeply good people as is their son (my partner)…and maybe I’m being overly romantic, but I feel that’s got something to do with this place, some old fashioned values and the beauty of this land seeping into their soul.