Smashing ideas at Woodford Folk Festival

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Smashing ideas at Woodford Folk Festival


Bianca Millroy at Woodford Folk Festival

9 January 2017

For some of you, the start of the summer holidays marks a three-month hiatus from all things uni related.

For most, it is an opportunity to ‘cash up’ with a job (part-time to allow for a surf or SUP either side, of course) and for others it’s a chance to take on some valuable work experience, which is exactly what I did.

Having endured a gruelling Session 8 course over the previous summer, I was determined my Summer of ‘16/17 would be a chance to get out, network and have some of that crazy little thing called fun. As a creative-minded person in an industry where it’s all about ‘who’ you know, I literally hurled myself at the chance to volunteer as a writer for Woodford Folk Festival. This is a taste of what it is to be a writer at one of the world’s most renowned folk arts festivals – a dusty, dazzling multi-coloured shindig that takes place each year from 27 Dec to 1 Jan.

Those of you who aren’t familiar with ‘Woodfordia’, as the festival’s stomping ground is affectionately known, may ask ‘what happens there?’ Folks, the real question is: what doesn’t happen at Woodford? I’ll save the long-winded and elaborate descriptions that mainly involve towering bamboo structures, every shade of hippy/happy pants imaginable, hovering electric-blue jelly fish and enough organic, bio-dynamic food to last a lifetime. This is the place where sustainability meets stardust and anything becomes possible. Even time travel, according to the man who needs little introduction, Dr Karl Kruszelnicki.

Our very own Dr. Who (Can Answer Just About Anything) formed a kinship with USC after receiving his Honorary Doctorate in early 2016. Returning as a guest speaker at Woodford, Dr Karl and a team of USC researchers were put to the test over four days to smash some serious ideas in modern science. Each topic was discussed, disseminated and de-mystified by a panel of experts, including Dr Karl, two USC researchers and a moderator. The talks, boldly entitled ‘Dark Matters and Smashing Ideas’, culminated in four hour-long forums that took place at The Greenhouse, a USC-sponsored initiative that has been a stalwart with the Woodford crowd in previous years.

From predicting the antibiotic apocalypse to food fights you shouldn’t try at home, and even the Whereabouts of the Other Eight Dimensions in our Universe, USC’s panel and Dr Karl shed light on some dark matters concerning our past, present and future. And I can tell you, there was not a spare seat in the house. Despite the midday sun beating down, what seemed like all of Woodfordia turned out in their festival best to lend an ear or, in many cases, take to the mic to ask each of the Doctors a curly question. I was in the prime position with a photographer and media pass, pen in hand, to soak up as much new knowledge as I could!

For instance, did you know that coral bleaching of our precious Barrier Reef is happening at an alarming rate, yet rising ocean levels may not be as bad as we think? Or that sustainable agriculture could be our farming of the future, while current food production is waging war on the economy?

If I had to narrow my favourite talks down, it would be a close tie between ‘Back from the Future; The End of Antibiotics?’ and ‘Primed for Time Travel’. While these topics seem to hold little in common (apart from the Back to the Future reference in the title), the aspect I found most fascinating was the concept of time. Dr Karl agreed with his time-travelling TV counterpart, that it is indeed a ‘wibbly-wobbly’ thing that our human brains can’t seem to grasp and that it can and does move up, down, left and right! Might I add that our four-dimensional universe was looking pretty dandy until Dr. K pointed out mathematical equations have proven the existence of 12 dimensions!

Perhaps that’s for another time, in a galaxy far, far away…

On a more timey-wimey note, I will mention the other, darker matters at hand. As USC’s molecular microbiologist Dr David MacMillan explained, types of antibiotic resistance are more prevalent in our society, despite medical breakthroughs and advances in technology. In fact, the antibiotics we take in tablet form for the common cold and flu contain bacteria that formed in prehistoric caves over 2 million years ago. In a nutshell? The world’s shortage of antibiotics could be coming sooner than we think!

Four days, 13 industry experts and a whole lot of ideas to be smashed into action. Good Reef! And we thought fossil fuels were the only thing we had to worry about. If only brain power could replace coal power? It turns out that we, as a global village, are approaching two roads, and, as a wise poet once wrote, the one we take will make all the difference.

That is, essentially what I take home from Woodford (other than a daisy chain and the classic Woodford Dust Tan). All quips aside, the reason why Woodford is now in its 31st year with a record-breaking 120,000 in attendance is that it raises awareness of controversial topics, inspires change for good and gives a voice to those who are passionate about creating a harmonious future for all.

That being said, I better get back to the DeLorean to chase next year’s Dark Matters and Smashing Ideas.

By Bianca Millroy

Photos by Justin Lytzki

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