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Britain’s first forest festival comes to town

Feanedock sits at the very heart of The National Forest. It is the perfect place for Timber to tell the Forest’s story, where the planting of trees is changing lives, the landscape and the economy.

Timber is an exciting new festival from Friday July 6 until Sunday July 8, which aims to bring together the story of the Forest, it’s nature and woodlands with festival-goers so they can admire and appreciate it’s long journey to become what it is today.

Taking place from July 6-8, the International Forest Festival will feature amazing torchlight processions, fire gardens and light installations, live music, midnight gigs, circus, theatre, comedy, dance, yoga and more.

We caught up with Sarah Bird, Director of Cheshire-based Wild Rumpus which has helped bring this event together.

What’s the idea behind the festival and who is behind the concept? 

Timber Festival is all about celebrating the transformative impact that trees and forests have on our lives and we’re doing this by bringing a whole host of brilliant artists, speakers, performers and installations to the National Forest to inspire us and help us to think about our relationship to the natural world. It’s the brainchild of The National Forest Company in collaboration with Wild Rumpus arts organisation.

We know a lot of work has gone behind transforming the forest, it was once covered by coal pits but is now growing and thriving green area! Who made this possible and can you just give us a brief insight into what was involved to bring this festival to life?

The National Forest came in to being 25 years ago now. Established by a consortium from across the three counties of Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire and working in collaboration with a range of partners including landowners, charities, local authorities, businesses communities and individuals there was  support from government to implement the tree planting. Now 25 years on that tree planting continues but it also feels like a good time to stop and think about the benefits that the forest bring us, for leisure activities, for our health and wellbeing, for enterprise and businesses. And it’s still a real collaborative effort if we’d lots of support in putting the festival on in particular from Arts Council England, North West Leicestershire District Council, Ecotricity, James Latham, Forest Holidays, Raebrook and Making Local Woods Work, without the support of these organisations it wouldn’t have been possible.

How long has the festival been in planning?

The festival has been an idea of a few years now, but really got kickstarted about a year ago when Wild Rumpus were appointed as the production company. Since then it’s been a whirlwind of activity from finding the perfect site, to booking all the programming and establishing a wide range of partnerships with other community groups, charities and organisations who share our passion for trees and woodlands and have come on board to help pull the festival together.

How would you sum up the festival up in 5 words?

Forests, Arts, Ideas, Music, Celebration

What’s the message you want to convey to those who attend?

We’d love the audience  to stop and think about their relationship to trees and forests, to make a moment to contemplate the benefits they bring.

What part of the festival are you personally looking forward to the most? 

Ahhh that’s really tough, there really is the most incredible range of programming throughout. I’m going to pick 5 things if that’s ok!

Wilderness Tracks is the perfect combination of music, forests and ideas. Producer Geoff Bird asks Robert Macfarlane, my favourite nature writer, Liz Alker, a DJ I love listening to on 6 Music and BBC Radio 3, and musician Erland Cooper to pick their 6 favourite nature-related songs. I’m expecting brilliant music and conversation.

Jony Easterby’s Tree & Wood, promises to be an inspiring combination of sound and light installation taking place in the woods at night time, which is definitely on my not to be missed list.

I’m planning on trying my hand at an aerial silks workshop in the trees with aerial artists Whispering Woods.

Hope & Social who are headlining Sunday evening are my favourite live band, they have the most incredible levels of energy and infectious joy when they’re playing, I defy anyone to watch them and not want to join their band.

Lastly, I’ll definitely be booked into the hot tubs and sauna in the woodland spa for some time to relax and contemplate the woods – what a treat!

In what way is the festival planning on being environmental friendly? 

The festival is underpinned by an ambition to mitigate our impact on the environment and encourage people to think about nature. We have a range of things we’re doing on site including encouraging people to bring their own water bottles to fill up with water from our stand pipes so that we can have a ban on single use plastic bottles on site. there will be reusable cups at the bar and merchandise will be organic fair trade cotton and a mix of vegetable ink. The biggest impact will come from audience travel and so we have arranged a partnership with Arriva to encourage people to come by public transport to the event, there will be special busses from Burton train station and we are also encouraging people to come by bike or to car share. We’re measuring and monitoring things like fuel, water and waste and will have a team working all weekend on recycling. We’ve done a host of ecological surveys on the site and will be careful to try and reduce the impact for local wildlife. And we’re thrilled to be working with a range of partners to celebrate their work in looking after our environment including Greenpeace, Action for Conservation, The Ecologist, My Green Pod, The Woodland Trust, The Wildlife Trust, The RSPB and Common Ground

What are your hopes for the future of the festival – do you hope it to become an annual event? That would be terrific, ask us in August when this one is finished though!

What kind of things can the public expect during the inaugural event? 

An incredible mix of music, theatre, great conversations, dance, storytelling, light and sound installations, inspiring talks, film, comedy, poetry, woodland workshops, great food, relaxations and we really really hope, some sunshine!

Learn more about the festival and book tickets via the website, Timber

WORDS BY: Keya Modessa, Editor of Muddy Leics & Rutland

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