Being as cycnical as the next Mumsnetter, I was prepared to enjoy Wood Festival, but I was in no way expecting to be ‘touched’ by it, yet that’s exactly wheat happened. Sitting on a bale of hay with my two year old, early morning Sunday sunshine streamed down whilst a flautist played uplifting yet slightly haunting pan-pipe music. We were surrounded by the sounds of other families talking and having fun and I was struck with a wonderful sensation of peace and happiness. In short my inner hippy leapt out and mugged me and made me feel, for a short while, like I was part of something bigger.
Admittedly the organisers got very (VERY) lucky with their weather and the 23 degree heat was pleasantly offset by the cool breeze and shady trees surrounding the site, but the lasting impression I had of the festival was of the family-friendly nature of it. For one of the days I was there alone with my toddler and trying to put together a review whilst keeping a ‘bolter’ safe is not an easy job. At least I knew that I could let him roam a little further than I would normally and if he did go AWOL then he had a ‘return to sender’ band round his ankle with my phone number on – that’s more security than I get on a day to day basis! Surrounded by other families, as we were, you are assured of understanding adults and there were lots of activities and events planned specifically for the smaller people.
The workshops were a particular highlight – from bodhrun drumming to therapeutic hand-massage, intuitive birthing to junk flowers the topics were varied and interesting and, again, very family-friendly as proven when my aforementioned toddler terror waltzed into the bodhrun workshop, and demanded “I play a drum, Mummy” and was handed a drum and beater which he proceeded to bang with relish for a good ten minutes to be greeted with smiles by the other (all adult) participants and congratulated for his creativity by the workshop leader!
This is not to say that there weren’t plenty of child-centred activities, from clay crafting with woodland debris (please admire our phenomenal hedgehog thing) to story-telling, music, childrens’ yoga and the legendary Oxfordshire treasure that is Nick Cope, it was kiddy-heaven. There was even the unusual and heart-warming sight of children and adults taking part in things together like expressive dance and hula-hooping.
All these wonderful, inclusive activities were supplemented by displays and stalls by various craftsmen and purveyors of knick-knacks (hand-turned furniture, coracle-making, flower garlands, hand-dyed yarn etc) and a fabulous main stage of live music where families sprawled across blankets and children danced with bubbles in front of the stage. The party atmosphere was tangible.
Enough of the fun-stuff, though. Let’s turn to the practicalities. Whilst there was some issue getting the press-pass sorted I was assured by more than one festival goer that they had found admission and admin to be quick and smoothly run – an essential when you have a lot of over-excited children involved. Security presence was discreet, but noticeable, which is actually a comfort at a large event I think and there was a dedicated first-aid tent with trained staff available if needed.
With a bar, wood-fired pizza place, tea ‘room’ and a cafeteria-style tent there was catering for most tastes, although mostly skewed towards a more vegetarian diet, though plenty of people brought their own food too. Be aware that Wood is an eco-friendly festival with solar-powered energy and composting toilets, but since camping is a back-to-basics event anyway this isn’t too much of a shock to the system.
Those running the workshops seemed as happy with the event as the attendees. I spoke to the woman running the junk flower workshop who is apparently a regular at Wood festival and she couldn’t say enough nice things about how the festival has managed to retain its small-time community feel, despite increasing in size year on year. I think the biggest vote of confidence though, is how much the under-eighteens liked it. And, great though my toddler terror found it, the older children were even more taken with it, I overheard one six(ish) year old asking their parents if they could live there always. I wholeheartedly concur. Please invite us back again next year, Wood!
Watch this space for further updates and photographs!
*Tickets were received by Mumsnet Oxfordshire for review at Wood Festival, 16th-18th May 2014. Wood Festival will be returning next year. For more information see http://woodfestival.tumblr.com/ *