Australia’s biggest fire ceremony is at Woodford

Anna Dreyer and Haley Smith

Woodfordia is a place of many traditions, rituals and customs with its closing fire event one of the biggest ceremonies in Australia.

MWD_WFF_2018_12_30144 Woodford Folk Festival Fire Event Director Alex Podger. Photo: Meg Williams-Dell

The annual ceremony of the Woodford Folk Festival holds a special significance for Woodfordians, as a place of many traditions, rituals and customs.

The Fire Event closes the Woodford Folk Festival. Photo: Nance Haxton

A team of people including professional artists, puppeteers, performers, painters, technicians and volunteers from across the world spend 4 weeks building the show from the ground up using reclaimed building waste and up-cycled materials.

Woodford Folk Festival Fire Event. Photo: Dylan Crawford

Each year it conveys a message to humanity and this year’s message was inspired by Aristophanes’ speech, Plato’s Symposijm (385 BC).

This year’s theme of “The Rift” told a story that the earth is only new and inhabited by peculiar twin-folk -lumbering spheres that resemble two humans bound back-to-back.

Woodford Folk Festival closes with the fire event every year. Photo: Dylan Crawford

The fire event was first held in 1989 with just 6 people and a band, but now involves a team of more than 1000 people featuring music composed specifically for the event by a team of composers and song writers.

This year the event was performed in collaboration with guest artists and Woodfordia’s own orchestra and choir made up of 400 festival patrons who’ve been learning and practising the score each morning during the festival.

The beginning scenes were set with hundreds of people cascading down a hill and around to the front of the stage as giant elders walked by. 

A fire handler trekked up the hill to light the sign, as it exploded into flames and “The Rift” is revealed within the burning flame.

The climax of the show is the bridge becoming engulfed in flames as it slowly collapses to the ground and the performers look on in wonder.

Mother nature swooped in to create a whirly whirly on the side of the burning bridge, joining the earth elements of the performance.

The orchestra continued with growing intensity as the performers joined with fire handlers to take their final bow for the closing of this year’s Woodford Folk Festival.

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