This weekend saw the launch of a new festival, Timber; a joint project between the National Forest Company and Wild Rumpus, with, at its core, the celebration of everything 'woody', through art, music, activities and discussions.
The festival site, just outside Moira, on the border of Derbyshire and Leicestershire, was an area of fairly new woodland sloping quite steeply down from the car park and camping area, forming a natural amphitheatre for the main Nightingale stage, and with grassy avenues leading to other open grassy spaces, much like a series of linked rooms, with new 'finds' in each.
If you're a regular reader of the blog, you may remember how thrilled I was to be asked along, as a 'Timber Pioneer', and I'd been laying my plans of what to do and see, so, did it live up to my expectations? Absolutely! Did I follow my clever plan? Not entirely.
|murmuration by day|
The festival was billed as 'family friendly' but it wasn't just a festival for children.
There were serious discussions on environmental issues taking place in the Field Notes tent. We sat in on one about food, how it finds its way From Field to Fork, and what some producers are doing to break the supermarket's grip, and keep production local and small scale. Listened to Adam Weymouth's talk about his journey down the Yukon river, and the challenges faced by the communities along its banks, as the salmon they once relied on are being severely depleted. Chatted to the Greenpeace rep about the wonderful response to The Blue Planet programme about plastic in the oceans, but the great challenges still facing us and the natural world.
Lots of the events and activities though were suitable for all ages.
High on my list of plans had been to catch Seek, Find, Speak, an outdoor theatrical companion to Robert McFarlane and Jackie Morris's book The Lost Words. These lost words are ones relating to the natural world - such as lark, bramble, and otter - which are disappearing from children's speech and writing. Dressed as a charm of goldfinches, the actors led us on a search for those words hidden around the festival site, bringing them to life through poems and dance. It mesmerised both children and adults (and given more time, I'd have watched again and again)
Another 'must see' was Luke Jerram's Museum of the Moon, a touring piece of art hidden for the weekend among the trees. By daylight, it seemed more scientific and technical; at night, ghostly and unreal.
I found my way through a maze woven through saplings, and a labyrinth made of straw. Watched story-tellers and acrobats. Encountered a Carnival of Animals, discovered Forest Monsters, and rather wished I'd been small enough to go on the Bewonderment Machine, a pedal-powered carousel.
|murmuration by night|
|The Eerie Stage|
|The Fire Garden|
|Is it really safe?|
Part of my plans for this year include trying 60 New Things. I settled for the struggle of trying to relax in a hammock, while my husband was delighted to be able to try 'long-reining' at the horse-logging demonstration. I'm not a fan of horses (they tend to bite me!) but I was interested to hear of the environmental benefits of using them for forestry work, instead of tractors.
Time was against us though and we didn't have chance to really check out all the activities on offer, from willow weaving to turning walking sticks on a pole-lathe.
Over the three days, we listened to a wide variety of music - Westerman, Jane Weaver, Ewan McLennan and Perhaps Contraption (a brass band like none you've seen) on the larger Nightingale stage; Sivu and Disco Lypso on the woodland Eerie stage. Plus of course, at a festival, it's always there in the background, even if you're doing something else.
One of the things being explored in various ways at Timber was the regenerative power of woodland - both physically, as it has in the Feanedock area transforming former open-cast mine workings into green hillsides, or emotionally and spiritually. Last week wasn't a good week at a personal level, but Sunday afternoon found me sitting on a hillside in the shade, listening to music, feeling relaxed and refreshed. What could be better?
All in all it was a fabulous experience - amusing, enlightening, entertaining in equal measure. Next year, I hope, will be equally wonderful, and to find out about next year's dates and early bird tickets, you can sign up for
e-news at www.timberfestival.org.uk