At the end of fourth week, I went to WOOD festival with some friends; Joe and I had been planning to go for a while, but Laura’s decision was very last minute and took place at about 4am the night before we booked tickets.
The festival itself is very small and takes place on a field owned by a commune in the south of Oxfordshire. The first year in which I went, it was drummed into those of use working that we had to be very diligent in picking up rubbish because “the cows are back on Monday”. This year, however, I wasn’t working (though it wouldn’t have been possible to avoid responsible waste management anyway, with prominent recycling stations dotted all around the campsite and very little provision for unsorted “general” waste at all).
Joe, Laura and I spent the weekend lounging about outside our tent, eating food from Joe’s massive sack of provisions, wandering around in the fields and woods surrounding the festival, listening to the varied selection of music on the “main” stage (which is a minimal fraction of the size of the main stage at any regular festival, largely because it is powered solely through solar energy), browsing the odd shops and stalls dotted around, and trying (read: failing) to work up the energy to attend one of the many workshops which were on offer. You could do anything from making a totem pole, to spiritual animal healing magic (18+, apparently). We passed and instead lay on a blanket in front of the stage, giggling and snacking and blowing bubbles. It was absolutely idyllic escapism, and even though we were such passive participants I don’t think any of us would have done it any other way.
My favourite thing about the festival is that it is known for its ethical and all-inclusive approach to nature and conservation. Indeed, the recycling stations and solar energy are just the start. From the compostable toilets – beautifully constructed wooden huts where you use sawdust instead of toilet paper, and which are both less smelly and more hygienic than the abundance of portaloos which is normally provided at such events – to the wooden cutlery and paper plates in the food tent, I would go so far as to say that the adoration of nature defines this event more than an adoration of music. The organisers, delightful brothers and Oxfordshire locals, might even agree (though as they are also behind the far larger and more conventional Truck festival, they might not love that conclusion) In their own words, the festival is “a celebration of music and nature” and “a family festival powered by renewable energy & community spirit!”. That last part is certainly true, and nobody could debate it.
The festival was almost exclusively peopled by families with young children, children who formed packs within half an hour of arrival and traversed the festival site (large enough to provide plenty of entertainment and distraction, small enough that the parents don’t have to worry about their child never being seen again) in groups, singing and whistling and playing. This allowed the parents time to relax, drink a beer or two and enjoy the strains of folk and world music drifting from the Main Stage.
Countless workshops and acts were aimed at children, and there was hardly any drinking or drugging at all on the site, bar the occasional whiff of weed, one jaded and 24-year-old who’d knocked back some nondescript pills and tried to climb into Laura’s and my tent at three in the morning, and one exceptional remnant of the 60s. This was a tall man with a long gray beard and long grey hair, clad in a rainbow-knitted robe, who stood right by the music tent and swayed for several hours a day. That really sums up the festival; slightly odd and completely peaceful.