An Arboreal Escape
Picture this: a forest barely begun - just 25 years in the making - and a vision to create a festival celebrating the beauty, the power, and the wisdom of trees. Billed as an intoxicating experience where music, art, philosophy and sustainability weave together into an unforgettable, exhilarating weekend, the inaugural Timber Festival was a celebration of not only trees, but also all woodland culture, and the transformative power of forests.
I was invited to find out more by the festival organisers, Wild Rumpus; full disclaimer: my friend and I attended for free, but all opinions in this post are my own.
Friday began with an incredibly hot pitching of the tent before we immersed ourselves in the trees, with an outdoor performance of The Lost Words, by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris: Seek Find Speak. (If you haven't heard of the book, it's a stand against the disappearance of wild words we often use in childhood: dandelion, conker, willow, otter... words that sadly no longer feature in the lexicon of our own children.) Led by a charm of Goldfinch performers, we were guided to Seek the words hidden in the branches, in the undergrowth, in the shady glades; Find the lost word in that location; and Speak it aloud, sometimes reading the spell-poems from the pages of the book, sometimes watching the Goldfinches enact its meaning.
The performers engaged not only the excited children following their enchanting calls, but also the whole troop of adults; for an ex-English teacher, and a committed logophile, it was brilliant.
Other strange but wonderful highlights from the weekend included 'In the Eyes of the Animal', an immersive virtual reality experience that allowed us to see through the eyes of four woodland creatures. It lasted only a few minutes, but felt like I was on another planet. Definitely an eye-opener.
The performance from Canopy of Stars was also mesmerising, complete with a final storytelling session with plenty of audience participation!
The talks on offer were wide-ranging, and we'd highlighted everything we wanted to go and see before we went (highly recommended!). Particularly entertaining were Stuart Maconie's keynote speech and Robert Macfarlane's reflections on how music and landscape are connected. But it was Sarah Spencer's 'Think Like a Tree' workshop that I found most enlightening. You might have read our post last month where Sarah introduces the concept, but following her advice in person, and listening to her wisdom, was truly worthwhile.
There were many other weird and wonderful things going on over the course of the weekend: The Dream Antelopes (above) and the Museum of the Moon (below) being just two examples. What we loved was being able to dip in and out of these without feeling too pressured that we were going to miss them. In fact, the feel of the whole weekend was slow and relaxed, and it was the calmest, most peaceful festival I've ever attended.
Sunday closed and we left with willow stars that we'd made that day, nature pendants we'd created the day before, and a sense that the forest, the woods, and trees, really do have the power to transform our moods, our vision for the future, and our lives.
If you're interested in attending next year, you can sign up to the eNews at www.timberfestival.org.uk to be the first to hear about dates and early bird release tickets.⠀⠀