As self-confessed festival connoisseurs, we absolutely love it when a new festival springs onto the scene. Although there are now more festivals than ever for families to choose from, finding any that really create their own niche and standout from the crowd isn’t always easy. However, the brilliant people at Wild Rumpus (who are behind the excellent Just So family festival) have really excelled themselves with their new venture. Timber Festival 2018 was a huge success in our eyes, and we can’t wait to see what they have up their sleeve next year. Here’s why…
Before we arrived we already had a sneaky feeling that Timber Festival was going to be an awesome new addition to our list of cherished summer festivals. A collaborationbetween Wild Rumpus and The National Forest, it puts nature at the heart of the festival’s ethos. As such, we were heading there expecting a thought-provoking, chilled out weekend full of wonderful experiences.
Arriving at the stunning setting of the National Forest in Derbyshire late on Friday afternoon, we pulled up to survey the landscape. The initial signs were good. Friendly site staff on hand to point you in the right direction, adequate staffing at the wristbands desk – keeping queues to an absolute minimum – and wheelbarrows available for a small charge for people needing a hand lugging their gear to the campsite. Speaking of the campsite, we were also pleased to see that it was only a short distance from the car park. When you’re aiming to establish yourself as a family friendly festival, this point should not be overlooked. It makes a hell of difference if, like us, you have two toddlers in tow and a festival wagon loaded up with festival ‘essentials’ (note to self: are Nat’s numerous footwear options really essential?).
At the campsite, and despite arriving pretty late on Friday afternoon, we found plenty of space to pitch our lightweight Thermarest family tent (our bell tent is now reserved for longer family camps, given the size and weight of it and all of the added paraphernalia – bed, canopy, event shelter, rugs etc. – that we’ve grown accustomed to using when we do get out). Although, as expected, the campsite did fill somewhat over the course of Friday evening and Saturday morning as more festival goers arrived, the site never truly felt crowded. In fact, there was enough space for me and the kids to have a kickabout with our mini football in the mornings, which made a lovely change from waking up a foot away from your neighbours and spending all morning negotiating guy lines in the festival wagon, as you do at larger festivals.
It was only a very short walk from the campsite to the festival grounds, and yet it somehow felt beautifully removed from our tented village. Immediately we noticed how central art was to the concept of Timber Festival. Strolling through each distinct festival area was a pleasure because the organisers had thought very carefully about the layout to ensure that each zone had a slightly different feel and focus to it. Furthermore, they’ve made sure to acquire the services of some truly inspirational individuals from across the artistic spectrum to provide visual stimulation and conversation.
Chief among these Timber Festival art installations was the simply awe-inspiring Museum of the Moon by Luke Jerram. Measuring a whopping 7 metres in diameter, this giant sphere was suspended above festival goers in the heart of the woodland area. Utilising detailed NASA imagery, The Museum of the Moon was also accompanied by a soundtrack and voiceovers of actual lunar landings. It was a very eerie and yet wonderfully surreal experience to listen to actual recordings of astronauts and mission control specialists while sitting gazing at this giant moon right next to us as day turned into night.
In addition to the many amazing art installations, Timber Festival also had a vast array of talent on offer in other areas. On the main stage we particularly enjoyed This is the Kit and Jane Weaver who headlined Friday and Saturday night respectively. The mellow and stripped back nature of the artists in the line up complemented beautifully the laidback and thought-provoking nature of the festival. It’s less for bouncing around, more for chilling on the grass in a vertical position, cuddling up to loved ones with a cold beer while your toes tap and your head slowly sways. Given the speed and ferocity of modern day life, Timber Festival is a blissful escape into an alternate universe where you actually have time to look around and truly appreciate your surroundings and interactions.
For a festival of this type, it came as no surprise that the food and drink choices were very good indeed. Think of it as having a range of Waitrosesque festival food outlets and you’ll not be too far wrong. Moreover, the craft ale bar and gin truck ensured that both Mr and Mrs Potty Adventures were kept very well refreshed throughout what was a very warm weekend. One really nice touch was the addition of numerous drinking water taps placed around the festival site. While not uncommon for a festival campsite to have these, it is very rare for the festival site itself to have them. Not only did this encourage people to use reusable drinks bottles, it also ensured young families like ours were never far away from afree, cold, liquidy top up for the kids. Great work Timber Festival!
Talking of the kids, Timber Festival really is a family-friendly festival. With woodland monsters designed by local kids, each with a memorable little description (including any special powers that each might have), our eldest toddler couldn’t wait to tell other festival goers all about them. Elsewhere, they enjoyed stone stacking with some tips from some rather impressive individuals who made my effort look very tame indeed. Yet another favourite among our kids was the Moth Hotel. Yes, just as it sounds, it was a hotel for moths. Hundreds of them. With a very cool maze thrown into the mix, and an area where kids, under supervision from site volunteers, could get their hands on hammers and saws to craft their own adventure den, Timber Festival has more than proved its family-friendly credentials to us.
Don’t, however, just think that Timber Festival is for kids. While they clearly go out of their way to make it family friendly, this is very much a grown up festiva. With outdoor libraries, complete with hammocks to lazily read in, and even an outdoor spa with hot tubs; this would also have been very much on my radar before we had kids.
All-in-all, Timber Festival was a huge success. You never can be too sure when a new festival hits the scene whether it will live up to expectation and hype. Timber Festival smashed it out of the park. I hope for more of the same next year.