Wood Festival 2009 - Rated!

United Kingdom United Kingdom | by Ali Kerry | 19 May 2009

This little sister to Truck, with its eco theme, couldn’t be better placed among the 55 acres belonging to Braziers House (a Grade II listed building), in the Chiltern Hills of Oxfordshire. Braziers Park adopts the motto: "Promoting Conscious Co-existence", and is part of the government's Countryside Stewardship Scheme which provides funds for managing land for conservation purposes. It also operates as an educational trust holding residential courses throughout the year in everything from yoga retreats to sacred arts to effectively communicating within a community.  

The Wood Festival fits perfectly into this ethos. The main stage - the Wood stage - is solar powered. The second stage - the Tree Tent - is powered by recycled chip fat. There's even Cycle Disco Tent, which relies on pedal power of the punter and you have to keep cycling if you want the music to continue.

It's not just about the music at Wood, there is also a Workshop Village teaching everything from making musical instruments from junk to composting to thatching and wood working. Or you could sit down for a talk about renewable energy, Earth economics and "How Hedgehogs Can Save The World". The kids have their own area too and there's even a 'Baby Café' providing services for the Earth mothers attending with their little nippers.

There something for everyone here. From music fan, to eco warrior to families looking for an alternative activity holiday; it would be fairly difficult not to enjoy yourself at Wood.

Overall – 8/10

With a capacity of just 1,000 in such stunning surrounds, it feels more like a private party than a festival. You can listen to music ranging from indie to folk and even a West African Kora player. If fancy something more than music, you can get involved on a Poetry Slam, make a musical instrument or wooden furniture and even learn a traditional country craft. After all of that you can lounge in the lush grass while eating top quality organic food and drink.

Getting there and back – 9/10

Very quick, easy bus connections from both Oxford and Reading, followed by a short walk down a picturesque country lane to Braziers Park.

The site – 9/10

A small and manageable site, mainly contained in one tree-lined field within Braziers Parks, meaning it only takes a few minutes to run back to the tent for another layer of clothes.  The food is all organic and lovingly prepared. The bar tent, the Hippy Arms, is run by local brewery Cotswold Lager with outstanding organic cider among the drinks menu. No portaloos either, for here we have composting toilets in raised wooden huts with a sign posted that says, "thank you for your deposit", which are relatively odour free and almost pleasant. The water points are rigged with foot pedals so you use the least amount of water possible and of course eco-friendly soap is provided. There's even an outdoor shower which for such a small festival is a luxury. The whole site is immaculately clean with punters respectfully making full use of the many recycling points.

The Atmosphere – 9/10

Intimate and family oriented, this festival is exceptionally friendly. There is only one field for all, no VIP area, which creates a wonderful sense of community. The best atmosphere could be felt on the cold nights around the large bonfire, where everyone gathers to keep warm and sing songs. It's a bit more rock n roll and less 'kumbaya' than it sounds.

The Music – 7/10

The music is a mix between traditional folk, young indie folk and local Oxfordshire artists with a few anomalies like Britpop legends and a taste of West Africa thrown in for good measure. If it's raucous, wild musical vibes you're after, this is not the festival for you. The music programme is for the more discerning music lover who is well verse on their indie labels or for someone who loves to discover good music in a welcoming environment. You get all the style with none of the attitude you may see at other boutique festivals.



Local Oxford boys, Jonquil, wow the first night crowd with their sweeping melodies.

Brighton four-piece Brakes play a great set Friday night on the Wood Stage. This is a little festival warm up for Brakes who are off to America to play the Bonnaroo Festival next month, which makes their appearance here quite special.

Sam Isaac
The wonderful Sam Isaac seems to get even better with every gig. His six-piece indie-folk collective's set includes his recent single 'Fire Fire'.

Jali Fily Cissokho
West African Kora player, Jali Fily Cissokho mesmerises crowd on the Tent Stage early evening Saturday, with his dreamlike playing so perfectly suited to this setting. For most watching, this is a joyous new musical discovery.

Yes, that Dodgy from the 90s, hit the Wood Stage for an outstanding set that includes all their hits, crowd interaction, crazy banter and sing-a-longs. Not only do they sound better than ever, they provide the most fabulous vibe of the weekend, which is exactly how you want feel at a small festival.

Leave no trace
On leaving the campsite, it's noticeable that the "Leave No Trace" eco-ethic has been strictly adhered to. Despite 1000 people moving in for three days, the park is returning to its natural state as people leave. This instils hope for the future that there really are people taking the environment seriously.


Whether the weather be hot, or…

The weather – but isn't it always with the great British summer?  It was uncomfortably cold camping at night and there was a biting wind for much of the day. If you fancy adding this to next summer's festival excursions, make sure you pack winter clothes.

You wait for one bus and then none come for an hour
Wood's organisers neglected to check for an updated bus timetable.  The version posted on the website is three years out of date, thus causing an hour wait on the side of the road in the freezing cold for a bus back to Reading.  

A return ticket to Ride

A late edition to the Sunday night line-up included an acoustic set from the wonderful Mark Gardener, singer from seminal 90s band Ride, which we might have caught had it not been for the point above.

Random Events

Im-mead-iately making mates

Moments after setting up camp, a friendly camping neighbour introduces himself and offers us some of his home-made Mead, the ancient liqueur dating back to the Vikings. This is a lovely start to the festival knowing we have friendly neighbours. We didn't see much of 'Mead Man' until we were preparing to leave the festival when he comes running up and says, "I'm so pleased I found you again. I wanted to offer you the last of the homemade Mead." And we're grateful he did! We also learn that 'Mead Man' is actually called Dave and we look forward to seeing him again next year.

By Alison Kerry

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Dodgy? Only the haircut. - Photographer: Sara Bowrey

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