Review: In The Woods festival

Not your typical festival; its secret location and DIY stance offer a welcome antidote to the super-festival scene.

Anita Awbi
  • By Anita Awbi
  • 3 Sep 2012
  • min read
In The Woods is in its sixth year, and is a far cry from the UK's bigger commercial festivals. It is staunchly DIY affair,  organised by the band Laurel Collective, their friends and family.

Last year was the first year that the festival made a profit, but it's been gaining momentum, with tickets to this year's festival selling out in four weeks. The festival has received funding from the PRS for Music Foundation and The National Lottery, and the ticket price is just £50 - cheap when compared to today's commercial festival ticket prices.

Upon arrival, we were guided down a winding path strewn with straw and illuminated by low-wattage bulbs, which
accounted for about half of the light under the thick canopy of tree branches.

What became immediately apparent is that there is something for everyone: new music across a plethora of genres, art, poetry, film... Many music festivals have struggled to sell tickets due to inflated prices offering just music, but not In The Woods.

Barney Hooper from PRS for Music recently told The Evening Standard: 'What will keep the festivals market going is innovation: new festivals that are genre-specific in comedy, film and art — not just music.'

It's pretty clear Laurel Collective and the organisers have understood this, creating a magical haven for indie music and the arts.

My highlights from the line-up were Stealing Sheep, whose Norwegian inspired nu-folk was entrancing and beautiful, AlunaGeorge, who played a massively high-energy set full of fuzzy beats and sonic bursts of vocals, and Alt-J, whose experimental music builds and builds, with waves of synths and guitar that bites the air around you.

Both stages were framed by trees and dimly lit, which is easily the most beautiful setting I have ever seen live music and again reinforces just how special seeing live music can really be. Although the festival is a one-day-only affair, it ends in style, with a huge bonfire bathing everyone in orange light, as revellers danced about like Pagan worshippers.

We ended the night with full bellies of locally sourced food and drink, and even bumped into AlunaGeorge queuing for some hog roast. It didn't rain a drop, which was just as well as I didn't take any wellington boots. Taking down the tent on Sunday morning was especially heartbreaking, as although the festival season is nine months away, it will be a full year before music and laughter echo through the trees of a secret location somewhere in the Kent woods.

Words by Shaun Mooney

Photos by Dan Mackey