The Woodford Files 2014-2015: The Lettering House, December 2014

The Lettering House at Woodford Folk Festival
The Lettering House at Woodford Folk Festival

Bill Quinn was sitting having his ritual cup of peppermint tea in Fine Earth Foods at Woodford Folk Festival when a postie came into the venue and started attempting to deliver letters.

To people.

He sought out the recipients by announcing certain characteristics like a writer from Sydney (“Hello!”) with blue eyes (“Strike one!”)

And then someone with odd socks.

What could possibly be happening? What was this specifically non-specific form of delivering items of mail?

After an intrepid search through the back-blocks behind the Holy Cow chai tent, we managed to find Roger the Postie who explained all.

Image courtesy of Woodford Folk Festival

*** Audio file will be deleted by end March 2020 ***

*** Audio file will be deleted by end March 2020 ***

And as mentioned in the rambling intro, and to Roger off air, the whole shebang gave a strong resonance of Jacques Tati in Jour de Fete.


Text of the interview with Roger the Postie:

Bill Quinn: For Timber and Steel and for Overheard Productions, I’m outside ‘The Lettering House‘. There’s a sign I’ve just taken a photo of: ‘Post a letter to someone in the festival’ next to a bike. I’m getting resonances of a Jacques Tati film.

Hello, Roger.

Roger The Postie: Hello. How are you today?

BQ: Fantastic, and all the better for talking with you.

Roger, can you explain ‘The Lettering House’?

RtP: Mate, it’s a fantastic way to move a big scale festival and make it all about those intimate interactions, one on one with people. Basically, we’ve got this beautiful Lettering House right here, and inside you’ve got pens and paper. Y’know, taking it back to basics.

And you’ve got four options: you can deliver a letter as you normally deliver a letter: put a postage stamp on it, send it outside the festival.

Second option is to deliver a letter that you write to someone specific. You supply their phone number, the Lettering House gets in contact with them, and it will say, “You have a letter to collect at ‘The Lettering House’. They’ll come and grab it.

The third option is where I come in, because people write these beautiful notes, these beautiful words of wisdom, words of hope, words of encouragement to people around the festival. I might get a letter that says, “This letter is for the person with the most Woodfordian smile”. So I’ll look for someone who fits that description.

And mate, my postie instincts are honed, they’re razor sharp, you know? It’s like some sort of super power that I have that I can hone in and just know: you. It’s you, this letter’s for you. And every time, bang on 100% I get that person and they get this letter, and they’re like, “Yes, that’s for me”.

It’s really amazing. Sometimes the descriptions are a bit more specific. ‘Five year old boy with red shorts’, you know? Always find them, though. Always. Every single time. Might take me a while, but I get there.

The fourth option. Now, this is beautiful, I love this. It is essentially: you write a letter, you put it in an envelope, and then you put it in the box to be burned in the fire ceremony [Fire Event on 1 January].

So that’s a really nice, maybe catharsis, maybe a sense of a wish or something like that. We had a young girl here the other day. She sat here for three hours, wrote letters to all of her family members – every single person – and then bundled them up and put them straight in the fire ceremony pile. And that was so profound, because she really worked hard on those. I didn’t read them, of course, but you can only imagine what was inside.

And that’s what it’s about. A lot of people are going for that option. I mean, where we are: it’s beautiful, it’s Woodford, and there’s a sense of love, of freedom, and of reflection here that when people step into ‘The Lettering House’ they’re allowed to be free – in paper and pen.

Image courtesy of Woodford Folk Festival

BQ: On that point, Roger, my issue is this: Woodford is the home of young, beautiful people. Do these young, beautiful people understand what paper and a pen are?

RtP: Mate, I’ve given some letters to some kids and they have stared at it in shock.

And I’ve said, “Mate, you don’t swipe it! You don’t click it! You gotta open it. Use your teeth if you have to!”

It’s amazing, it really is. But in terms of a lot of the young people who get around – and everyone’s so whizz bang with their iPads and all that sort of stuff now – they love it, they absolutely love it. Because you can see the handwriting, you can tell the spirit of the person, and it might be marked with little pictures or something like that.

I had one the other day that was a letter, and it was for someone who looked a bit lost. Inside was a letter and also accompanying that letter were about five or six little cards. And the letter said, “If you feel lost, here is your ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’. Whenever you feel lost, take a card and do that.”

And I thought, what an amazing thing. There’s so much you can do with that you just can’t do with computers. You just can’t.

Another great story, if you don’t mind, there was a letter and enclosed in the envelope were two letters. One was for the man and one was for the woman in this couple. The woman’s letter said, “Be warned: the man next to you is a spy. He’s from ASIO, he’s working for the FBI” – something like that. It gave a detailed history of what this guy had been up to, all the secrets, everything.

And his letter said in just a few words: “Your cover’s been blown. Run!”.

And I thought, that’s brilliant. That’s so much fun.

Image courtesy of Woodford Folk Festival

BQ: Now, can I ask you about a bit of a grey area, because my first interaction with this whole process was this morning. I was sitting there having my usual cup of tea at Fine Earth Foods when I think Kaspian came in and she asking, “Is there a writer from Sydney?” and I said, “Yes!”

Then she went on and asked if I had blue eyes, because it was that specific, and I said, No, I cannot in all truth and fairness say that. And the next one was someone with odd socks and I was [embarrassing revelation about my sock situation].

Are there grey areas where it’s a contested thing.

RTP: Look, you try to get as close as you can, and I’m really proud that I’ve been able to get very close to the descriptions. But sometimes you see someone who you know that letter’s for. It could be this letter’s for a five year old child and you see an eight year old child. And you just know, it’s yours mate, y’know?

BQ: An five year old trapped in an eight year old’s body.

RtP: Maybe something like that! And I think the spirit of it is it’s a bit of a game. You have a bit of fun trying to match the descriptions. But at the end of the day, it’s just about those beautiful interactions, those beautiful intimate moments.

So sometimes it can be for a beautiful female, and you see a beautiful man and you think, “What even are  gender roles, huh?” So you give it to the man and say, “Hey, this is for you. I know it says it’s for a woman, but it’s clearly your letter.”

BQ: Embrace it if you will.

RtP: I think so. I think it’s up to us posties to just use our initiative, use our discretion in those situations.

BQ: I like to think of myself as an empath, but I don’t think I can hold a candle to you in terms of empathy.

Thank you so much for joining us this afternoon in front of The Lettering House.

RtP: No worries; thank you so much for having me. Have a great rest of your Woodford.

Image courtesy of Woodford Folk Festival


UPDATE 1: Wednesday 31 December 2014

Todd and Julie in The Lettering Office, Woodford Folk Festival
Todd and Julie in The Lettering Office, Woodford Folk Festival

On New Year’s Eve in the Woodford Folk Festival media centre, a young couple walked in with a story to tell and wanted someone to tell it to. Megan and Jake had come to the right place to tell the story of Megan’s mum, Julie and the letter she’s received from Todd.

Listen in for the full romantic story:

*** Audio file will be deleted by end March 2020 ***

*** Audio file will be deleted by end March 2020 ***

Text of the interview with Todd and Julie:

BQ: We’re just about ten metres from the spot where yesterday I spoke with the lovely Roger the Postie. This is the epilogue, or maybe Chapter 36 of the many chapters to be written about The Lettering House.

We’re speaking with Todd and Julie. Hello, Todd and Julie.

Todd and Julie: Hello!

BQ: Yesterday we spoke with Roger about the whole concept of The Lettering House, but you guys have got a very personal story which the lovely Megan here apprised me of this morning. Tell us your story.

Todd: Well, we met in high school and connected 30-odd years later, and Facebook helped us on that journey, believe it or not. And we’ve planned on a marriage next year.

BQ: And how do you actually propose to the lovely Julie, the lovely Todd?

Todd: Well, it would have been at The Lettering House at Woodford, I would believe.

Julie: I did, I did get a letter.

I got word that I had mail so I came over and collected the mail. I really didn’t expect it to be his letter; I thought it would have been from my daughter, actually. But no.

BQ: Can you divulge what the words were?

Julie: The words were perfect, and the words said: “Julie T., will you marry me?”

BQ: You can’t beat the classics, can you? You’re an old softie, Todd?

Todd: Straight to earth, down to earth. Get to the point. Get it said and done.

BQ: And so have you got a date set?

Todd: Not as yet, no. It’ll be 2015, maybe at Woodford!

BQ: Whereabouts do you guys hail from, roughly?

Todd: Gold Coast.

BQ: So this is your backyard. Or just down the street.

Julie: Yeah.

BQ: And are you Woodford veterans?

Julie: I am.

Todd: First time.

Julie: A virgin.

BQ: So basically, you’re something of a cradle-snatcher, Julie? 

Julie: Exactly, exactly.

BQ: Well, that’s a lovely story; we look forward to the nuptials in 2015, and what a great story for Woodford 2014.

Todd, Julie, and Megan who’s standing here beaming, thank you so much.

Todd and Julie: Thank you, Bill.


UPDATE 2: Wednesday 31 December 2014

After posting this article, someone picked it up and reposted it to a larger audience, because the number of reads started rolling around like a poker machine dial. This morning, it was getting a lot of interest in USA.

Then on Twitter, a lovely man named Geoff Richards piped up and told me about a song of his called ‘Write A Letter Home’. An’ it goes a little somethin’ like this:


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