A brand new festival, we knew from the start, would mean finding a brand new site. How exciting, but also daunting. We always knew that finding the right site for Timber would be vital. The festival is so rooted in the story of the National Forest, how it has changed lives and the landscape through the planting of trees. We spent a long time traipsing the highways and byways of the National Forest, muddying our boots in fields and forests, visiting potential sites that could be right? Maybe?
But then we visited Feanedock, in the heart of the National Forest, and we knew that Timber had found its home. It’s a beautiful, diverse site including rolling parkland, established woodlands and swathes of brand new trees. More than anything, we love that it tells the story of the National Forest. The transformation of an industrial landscape is spelt out here in all its glory.
And so to work! Never had we come to an event with quite such a blank slate. When we first visited Feanedock, programming was at an early stage. We started to picture how the audience might move around the site, where people would naturally congregate, where stages would fit naturally into the landscape, and how we could create surprises and wonder around every corner. The site is naturally exploratory with paths leading off in all directions. It could be disorienting, so we’ve talked about how to make it manageable, but also how getting lost can be the start of an adventure.
After our third visit to Feanedock, Sarah, Cathryn and I sat down with fresh notebook pages and each drew a site map, how to make sense of this sprawling spread of grassy avenues, rows of silver birches, tangles of brambles and surprising hillsides. Our maps were a muddle! Different from each other, our mental maps of the site went off in all sorts of directions. But then we looked again and a skeleton of a festival site began to make sense and take shape. As we talked we started to picture the audience gathering around campfires, wondering at light installations, sitting on the hillside looking down on the newly named Nightingale stage.
So from this scribbled map, the programme and the layout quickly began to make sense. Names of areas came to us as we talked about the programming we could imagine in the clearings, fields and forest glades we stood in. Suddenly those particular oaks could only be used for tree-climbing. The Eyrie stage felt completely right nestled in those glossy holly trees and the hot tubs would be perfect at the top of that slope. The crossroads, the coppice, as the crow flies and field notes are becoming as familiar to us as the streets of our town. We just can’t wait to see it brought to life in July. We’re just not quite sure where we’re putting the moon…
By Rowan Hoban, Wild Rumpus
Our Woodland Culture blog is supported by Making Local Woods Work, an exciting pilot project working to help support and grow woodland social enterprises across the UK.