Wood Festival by Tabby Booth and James Heslip.
This year I was super excited about taking Snarfle to Wood Festival – last year he had not quite started walking yet and I think the concept of being in a field with music was probably a bit lost on him. This year, however, he is a walking talking being and I knew he would love a weekend spent in the Oxfordshire countryside.
We headed westwards on Friday afternoon in the lovely May sunshine, and put our tent up right next to the woods that fringe the field at Braziers Park. It’s a lovely location that I have camped on many times before, and it makes me wish for a life lived nearer nature…
Bar tent, Wood Festival by Becca Corney.
The music started just as we began to wander around the festival, and we caught the tail end of Sephine Llo on the main Wood Stage whilst eating a delicious meal courtesy of Will’s Cafe. This classically trained musician experiments with lesser known instruments such as the kora and sanxian, and her debut Flame EP is currently out with Tape Club Records.
Wood Festival by Karolina Burdon.
Leeds based outfit Dancing Years impressed with delicate melodies, big instrumentation and heartfelt vocals. Their singer told us that since their tunes hardly lived up to their name they had prepared a special dance tune for their set, which I thought was a great addition.
Next up it was nice to hear from Trevor Moss and Hannah Lou again, showcasing their pitch perfect harmonies before jetting back off to rejoin Tori Amos on tour. I particularly liked hearing Hannah sing on her own for a change. By this point we had put Snarfle in his pyjamas and he had a great time running around with the other wee ones in front of the stage.
I first wrote about Alessi’s Ark many a moon ago, and yet she is still only 23 years old. She graced the stage as my child started to go a bit mental with tiredness, but since he is not given to sleeping before nightfall these days we decided to sit by the camp fire for a bit, where a kindly lady let him pluck at her ukelele. I think his undoubted favourite of the day was watching the Oxford Ukeleles sing a selection of popular songs in the Tree Tent just before we fell asleep under the stars.
On Saturday we awoke to brilliant sunshine, and Snarfle had a lie in whilst I did some knitting (bliss, this never happens). Our morning was spent exploring activities for small children – we missed the yoga, sang along with family entertainer Nick Cope, discovered a wonderful woodland playground (how I wish we had more trees near us in East London), watched a man make a flute with a carrot, had lunch and then went for a lie down.
Or maybe not as it turned out: because instead Snarfle BROKE MY FUCKING NOSE. By head butting me. Yup, I was hysterical. The onsite St John Ambulance sent me off to the Royal Berkshire A&E in Reading, so that is where we spent a lovely sunny Saturday afternoon. It turns out there was probably very little point to this trip because they gave me no referral letter, so I ended up back in my local A&E earlier this week in the hope of being seen by a consultant. As a result this Friday I am being put under so that they can whack my nose back into place. Toddlers: dangerous weapons of facial destruction. Watch out parents: it might happen to you!
But back to Wood Festival: on our return we managed to meet up with a number of friends who were on a day visit before they left. Many locals only come down for the day on Saturday, so the festival gets delightfully busy (but never too much so).
By turns glitchy and dreamy folktronica by Oliver Wilde kept us entertained into the evening. We also enjoyed the female folk duo O’Hooley & Tidow, particularly their reinterpretation of songs by the likes of Massive Attack.
By the time the Wood Festival brothers’ band The Dreaming Spires took the headline spot the kids were out in force, dancing wildly in their onesies beneath the stage. Snarfle was pretty much spent but we managed to catch carefully crafted folk songs from Birmingham’s Boat to Row before bedtime.
On Sunday we took it easy again in the morning, with Snarfle very happy to hang out in the big kid’s tent, drawing whilst a bunch of older kids made wonderfully odd animals out of twigs and pinecones twisted into clay. He was also transfixed by a storyteller in a big feathery hat.
In the Kindling Tent Phil Ball gave an engaging (and thoroughly candid) talk about his time spent in a Russian prison as one of the 30 Greenpeace protesters arrested in the Arctic last year. It was good to see him in the flesh, having only kept up with his recent antics via facebook for some time. Find out why it is such a bad idea to drill for oil in the Arctic here.
Snarfle drifted off during his talk but before leaving we could not resist hanging out for a bit longer in the sunshine, lulled by the twinkling world sounds of kora player Jali Fily Cissokho, who spends his time between Senegal and Oxford. Rapturous applause ensured a lengthy encore, before we finally hit the road homeward bound.
It was once again the perfect festival for families and folk lovers (ahem, we’ll leave aside my personal mishap). Before we left I picked up a pair of hand turned wooden bowls made by Alistair Phillips of Woodworks and Coracles, who was offering lessons in wood turning; once Snarfle is older I will really enjoy participating in the adult workshops, of which there are many.
Sadly I missed a number of favourite Wood Festival musicians… including Ellie Ford, Knights of Mentis, My Sad Captains, Goodnight Lenin and Co-Pilgrim. But don’t worry, you can still enjoy them by listening to my special Wood Festival compilation playlist on Soundcloud (just above). I’m looking forward to next year already.
- Wood Festival 2011 Review: Goodnight Lenin, Thea Gilmore, Telling the Bees
- Wood Festival 2015 Review: A Family Friendly Musical Paradise
- Wood Festival 2013 Review
- Wood Festival 2011 Review: Sarabeth Tucek, Khaira Arby, Willy Mason, The Epstein and more!
- Review: Truck Festival 2011