Working with a community group that has a five or ten year plan is pretty rare, but when you’ve worked for over a decade with an organisation proudly delivering on their FIVE HUNDRED year strategic plan, it really sets the tone on your own part in a legacy. So says Gold Coast arts and culture heroine Kate Baggerson who, along with husband Kristian, have served since the early 2000s with the team from the Woodford Folk Festival, that iconic week-long Sunshine Coast hinterland mecca that tens of thousands flock to every year between Boxing Day and the New Year.
Kristian and Kate have championed a variety of cultural projects on the Gold Coast for years now but both reflect affectionately on the role Woodford has played in shaping their broader work in the arts and culture sector.
“I’m first a Gold Coast girl,” says Kate, “but the values underpinning the Woodford experience, not just at the festival but throughout all Woodfordia does during the year, has been really important to how we try to implement our work locally from the Gold Coast.”
Kristian is Woodfordia’s Site Layout Logistics Manager, being responsible for the way significantly more than 100,000 people movements occur in and out and through the main event over the event week each year. He speaks fondly of the event’s impact on his own development as a creator of great art and deliverer of amazing events, since 2000 when by chance he followed some friends to be a part of the famous fire ceremony.
“There is a constant evolution occurring within Woodfordia. This evolution is a dynamic environment where striving to do things better is the approach of the whole team. It’s a place of creativity, inclusivity, respect and joy; a glimpse of how the world could be. The Festival introduced me to the power that comes when the community embraces the arts. So much so, I’m dreaming up a large scale installation on the Gold Coast where thousands contribute to one giant work of art; the art of people making art!”
Kristian’s enthusiasm is palpable, perhaps matched by Kate’s admiration and connection to the sense of generational community that has been built at Woodfordia since the event started 33 years ago. She and Kristian got engaged and married there; they’ve attended funerals and weddings there, celebrated and grieved, watched friends raise children, now growing their own in little daughter Birdie Blue, and worked their hands to callouses. Her experience commenced back in 2003, when as a graduate she was introduced to street theatre, quickly realising, she says, that curation and production were her real passion, volunteering in Year 2 until today where until recently she was responsible for the oversight of major projects, including the opening, closing, and the New Years Eve ceremonies.
Chloe Goodyear, Woodford’s Head of Programming, beams praise over the two Gold Coasters as she considers their involvement;
“Kristian’s the link between so many departments and he’s relentlessly practical and positive. Kate’s so fun to work with, endlessly creative and so smart, having handled our NYE programme in the Amphitheatre for more than seven years now. Both have amazing work ethic and they’re really embedded into the Woodfordia community; quite indispensable. It’s so lucky for the Gold Coast that they’ve decided to base themselves there, when a myriad other places try to lay claim (including us!).”
As Kate reminisces of a time when she had “more time to play” at the event, she recalls her most poignant Festival moment. The Bluestown stage tucked away in the trees, back in 2003, The Waifs call up a young woman from the crowd to play the harmonica, to rousing electricity from a surprised audience. Kate remembers the excitement but acknowledges “the festival is FULL of surreal moments like this” where participation becomes the spectacle, as community and entertainment integrate. The Waifs return again this year, with big names like The Cat Empire and Xavier Rudd, and emerging acts like The Big Ilch, Stella Donnelly and Alex the Astronaut. Gold Coast musicians Hussy Hicks and Burger Joint, along with the Bleach Festival conceived ‘Spirit of Churaki’, also perform. Kate closes our interview with a genuine invitation and encouragement.
“I get so super proud when I see so many Gold Coast artists on the programme,” she said. And not just on the bill, but dozens of volunteers and street performers… if Gold Coasters have never come, well… it’s just up the road. You just must join us this year!”
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Woodford Folk Festival runs 27 December – 1 January.