Wood feels like a big garden party with folk music

Wood 2011 review

published: Wed 25th May 2011

around the festival site (2)

Friday 20th to Sunday 22nd May 2011
Braziers Park, Oxfordshire, OX10 6AN , England MAP
weekend £95 for adults, juniors (13-17) £65, child 12 and under free
last updated: Thu 28th Apr 2011

Set in the depths of south Oxfordshire, Wood festival, now in its fourth year is the successful friendly little sister of Truck festival. With many folk and world music acts to see and an extensive array of workshops to get involved with, it's certainly making a name for itself as the most family friendly festival in the country.

around the festival site (1)
Priding itself on being eco-friendly and self sufficient, the Wood (main) stage is powered by solar panels, the Tree tent by recycled chip fat, and if you want to hear your favourite songs long into the night then you better get pedalling as the Cycle Disco Tent relies on bicycles generating the power to keep the vinyl spinning round.

There are also numerous kids tents, and lots of big toys left lying around for them to play with, accompanied by the occasional appearance of the 'Truck Monster' for them to hug and get their photo taken with.

Arriving at the festival on the Friday evening the first thing that strikes you is how compact the site is, with just 800 paying customers everything is contained in the one 55-acre field, with only the car parking in a separate area and you can walk from one side of the site to the other inside five minutes. After setting up camp in a blustery field we went to see our first band of the evening.

Spindrift
Spindrift from Los Angeles take to the stage and gave a laid back performance in which they showcased new songs from their upcoming album 'Classic Soundtrack'. They are swiftly followed in the Tree Tent by George Borowski from Manchester who are the first of many bands to feature organiser Joe Bennett and they entertain us with a melody of songs including one about collective responsibility, which gives us all food for thought.

The festival adopts an approach of organising the timetable as such that you don't miss a band, so you could in theory watch every band on the top two stages if you so wished. As the evening drew on, Mama Rosin claimed what must have been the biggest crowd of the evening. With a lead singer looking like Sideshow Bob from The Simpsons they invited the crowd to get up to dance to their popular song 'Honky Tonky' which had all the parents and young children in face paint jumping about at the front of the stage.

Thea Gilmore
After watching Birmingham 5-piece Goodnight Lenin, we awaited headliner Thea Gilmore, unfortunately she seemed to spend more time complaining and being cynical in-between songs than entertaining the crowd, although she did provide a rousing rendition of Guns N Roses 'Sweet Child of Mine' which was a nod to being 7 months pregnant.

Due to the site being so small, there isn't much in the way of entertainment apart from the Cycle disco after the bands have finished so the organisers put on a controlled bonfire for everyone who wanted to stay up after hours to keep warm and enjoy a few more drinks long into the night. Everyone got into the spirit of things, and punters and performers brought along their instruments to play, with guitars, bongos, harmonicas and clarinet all being brought out whilst everyone else clapped away to the beat.

around the festival site (1)
One of the other quirky features of this festival is the toilets, which are all set in small huts. Your 'deposit' has to be covered in sawdust (which is in a bowl on the floor) after you have used the toilet and candles are lit throughout the night for any late night calls. It's certainly the only festival where toilet paper has been readily available and refreshingly made a change from the plastic portaloos that I've been used to in the past.

A glorious morning had most campers up and about early, with some of the workshops up and running by 9am. Due to the small scale of the festival, the music stopped whilst the workshops were open to ensure no one missed out on anything so they could do something else. Most of the workshops tried to either make something or teach you a new skill.

around the festival site (1)
My friend, Jules, got into the spirit of things and attended a jewellery making class. This was done by using beads and recycled copper wire with a £1 optional donation at the end, the tutor came round and gave individual help to each person with the option of making bracelets, necklaces or earrings.

We sat in on the sun soaked bank of the main stage sipping on a few Cotswold ciders and enjoyed performances from Band of Hope, and Owen Tromans before heading off to enjoy some of the food the festival has to offer. Despite a small attendance there was still a good choice of grub to keep you going. There was a pizza stall where you had your pizza cooked in open wood-burning oven, or the main restaurant area which served tea and cakes on one side, with the other running through full English breakfasts, healthy organic lunches and full dinners such as curries and chicken and rice all provided by a restaurant from Oxford.

Jali Fily Cissokh
Up till now footballer Patrick Vieira is probably Senegal's most famous export, but Jali Fily Cissokho is giving him a good run for his money, as he continues to tour around the world performing with his intriguing kora instrument which is a 21-string African harp. Cissokho is riding high after achieving a top 10 place in the world music chart with his latest album and had the crowd up on their feet whooping for more after he had finished his set.

Back at the Wood stage unusually named 3-piece Uiscedwr (taken from a mix of Irish and Welsh language meaning "water") fired the crowd up with an array of traditional Irish music to get the crowd going. As the sun went down and the temperature dropped rapidly, we took place up by the fire whilst watching Willy Mason on the Wood Stage.

Willy Mason
Mason had been spotted by the organisers whilst he was a driver for one of the bands who were playing another offshoot 'Truck America' and was joined by Joe Bennett who continued to join an array of bands on stage. The only thing I knew of Mason previously was providing vocals on a Chemical Brothers song in 2007. Mason had a real American country and western feel to it and the highlight was a song about a pickup Truck. The only slight criticism was the lack of interaction with the crowd who had made the effort to get up right by the stage to enjoy his performance.

We sat round the campfire chatting to other festival goers, and trying to keep ourselves warm, whilst listening to a group of girls murder an array of songs, when they got round to Grease's 'Grease Lightening' that was our cue to leave and retreat back to the warmth of our sleeping bags.

Our last day at the festival was not as hot, and as such I was saved the boil in the (tent) bag effect till nearly 9.30am. After we had sorted ourselves out with a few coffees and breakfast we settled down to watch Polly & The Billets Doux who were a 4-piece from Winchester. Giving the crowd a mix of folk, country and blues, the trend was suddenly broken when Polly started rapping in-between one of the songs, which certainly woke the majority of the crowd and showed the depths of her talents beyond her usual realms.

around the festival site (2)
Our workshop reporter Jules then embraced herself again by attending a Harp workshop. She was taught a simple Welsh tune on a Celtic harp, over two 20-minute sessions. The tutor was able to give each student a lot of time with just 4 people in each session. She also explained the order of the strings and taught them how to play some chords.

As the weekend drew to a close we enjoyed Two Fingers of Firewater, Green Lines, and Zeus, before finishing off our Wood festival experience with Eliza Carthy Band, who provide the crowd with an array of amusing tales through their songs including one about having her drink spiked at the premier of Jerry Springer the opera and jokes about watching too much daytime TV now that she's heavily pregnant.

We then decide to pack up and trudge out of the festival, listening to local heroes Dreaming Spires play the last set of the weekend in the Tree tent. It's an odd feeling though, I didn't even feel like I'd been to a festival, more like a big garden party with music.

If you like folk music or you just want a weekend at a festival where your young children will be safe and have plenty of things to keep them occupied then Wood is the perfect setting for you.

Eliza Carthy Band
review by: Stuart Watson

photos by: Ian Norris

Friday 20th to Sunday 22nd May 2011
Braziers Park, Oxfordshire, OX10 6AN , England MAP
weekend £95 for adults, juniors (13-17) £65, child 12 and under free
last updated: Thu 28th Apr 2011


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