It was with huge excitement that we packed our bags for our first festival in almost 2 years. As well as the conundrum as to what to pack for a mixed weather forecast, we also had to remember to pack our face masks in case we needed them.
We all had to get a negative lateral flow test within 24 hours before the festival. This was fairly straight forward. We were able to go to our local pharmacy and were given several boxes of free lateral flow tests. Once we had our results, they had to be registered via the gov.uk website. We received a text message that we had obtained a negative result for each person who took a test. We showed the text messages to the stewards when we got our wristbands. All very easy really and reassuring to know that everyone who had entered the festival had a recent negative test. The Timber festival organisers also provided a station with test kits for anyone who had forgotten to do this stage.
Back at Timber Festival
We are lucky as a family that this is our third time visiting Timber festival on behalf of Festival Kidz. As a family, we have been lucky to go to a huge variety of festivals, some tiny, some huge. However over lockdown, Timber was the festival that all of our family were hoping to go back to, including our Junior School aged son and our teenage daughter. I the reason why is that Timber is set in the National Forest, so wide open space and nature is an integral part of the DNA of the festival. There are no loud crowds of people, nobody is particularly drunk or acting in unusual ways. The activities end at a sensible hour and the site is quiet at night. Plus it is always easy to access a toilet (we preferred to use the long drop toilets, which have air circulating around them) and a lovely hot shower with no queues. So it feels easy, safe and works well as an outdoor venue.
What was it like to be back at a festival after so long?
It is hard to put this into words really…in some ways it felt cosy and familiar, like an old pair of slippers that you haven’t worn for a while. But in other ways it was hard to take it all in. Just seeing unfamiliar faces made me realise that I had only spoken to quite a small group of people over the past 18 months. It was wonderful to see children of different ages to my own having a good time and hearing voices with a variety of accents from around the country.
During the tough days of lockdown, I would often think about what it would be like to be back at a festival again. If it was a tough day at work at the NHS, I would sometimes treat myself to a sparkly item of clothing from eBay and imagine dancing in a field. I did wear my sparkly festival items, but a lot of the time I was quite content to sit on my picnic blanket with a cold pint of mango cider and take it all in.
Timber does a fantastic job of curating a small, yet diverse line up of music. This year I was particularly looking forward to Snapped Ankles, a punk, tribal band who wear masks and sing into sticks! (you have to trust me on this, they are amazing). However sadly they had to pull out due to Covid related restrictions. The Timber team with speed provided a new headliner, the Bhagdaddies, who had the crowd up and dancing with their ska-infused beats and brass band.
After this we walked to a giant planetary installation in the Elemental field, which was illuminated in the darkness. Timber always do a wonderful job of placing art within a natural setting and making it look just right.
On Saturday morning, my 11 year old son and his friend were really excited to try the tree climbing experience, which was a new activity for Timber. The staff who organised this were so wonderful at explaining how to use the ropes to get high into the tree canopy and ring a cowbell when they reached the top. Each child was given 15 minutes to get into their harnesses and 45 minutes of climbing time, which felt generous. A tip for next year – if your son or daughter (or you!) fancies a go at this, it is worth dragging yourself out of bed and down to the tree climbing area by 8.45am to book a slot. I heard the tree climbing instructor explain very kindly that the slots were all booked first thing each morning. Booking didn’t start until 9am, but it’s worth queueing earlier as it was so popular. As a parent, it was also very nice to have a sit on a log for 45 minutes whilst someone else takes care of your child.
One of the unexpected highlights was the clothes exchange stall. We were asked to bring some unwanted items of clothing, which were quarantined a bag for a few days before the festival started. The items could be traded for wooden, painted tokens which could then be spent at the shop. Some of the items had charming stories on them about their past, which made me smile. One blouse had been worn to many work meetings and was searching for a more exciting life. A pair of dungarees with bright figures on them was eagerly awaiting to find a new owner to love them. My kids were delighted with their treasure- a giant pair of fluffy elephant slippers, a monkey onesie, a cool crochet top for the teenager and another sequin skirt for me. I actually found out that the sparkly skirt had been donated by my friend who lives half a mile down the road from me, which made us laugh.
We then sat down in the Field Notes tent, which had no sides and socially distanced benches to sit on. We were privileged to hear the wise and compassionate words of Caroline Lucas MP. I really think that having experiences like this as children can make a profound difference to how children appreciate the world around them and that they all have a role to play in creating a better future for our planet.
We then spent a few hours enjoying the sunshine, watching the Abbots Bromley Horn Dancers, taking part in the obligatory circus skills tent and watching some very brave children swinging on a trapeze. Then it was back to our van to get changed into some clothes for the England game. My daughter and I made it back in time to sit on our picnic blanket and soak up the sunshine, whilst listening to the beautiful voices of The Unthanks, one of my festival favourites. In the meantime, the male members of the group found themselves a prime spot to watch the quarter-final.
A few years ago we watched an England match in a crowded tent with an overheating and temperamental projector. This year the Timber had massively upped their game, with a giant LCD screen showing the game in the Food area. This was a great decision as there were lots of benches to sit on and covered areas when the rain began.
It was amazing for our children to watch the game on a giant screen with a small crowd of people. And when England one, there was a party atmosphere with lots of dancing in the field.
During the football I sneaked off for a while and watched the Timber cabaret show, which had the children howling with laughter. It was such a wonderful sight to see the children watching live entertainment and loving every minute. The party atmosphere continued to at the Woodland Disco, with banging tunes provided by the Poet Laurate Simon Armitage. We ended the night with a hot chocolate and watching the joyous sight of the Hackney Colliery Band.
On the final day of the festival, after a lovely warm shower (did I mention that they are hot? Clean? And no queues! Incredible…) we headed into the festival for a spot more tree climbing, campfire stories and a final mooch around the clothes swap stall. We also took some time to wander around the stalls that were selling variety of clothes, jewellery, chocolate and plants, with a beautiful view over the National Forest. We could see the tightrope where there had been a show the night before, it looked incredible. There was a chance to write memories of lockdown onto paper which had been embedded with seeds, which were displayed and then going to be planted at the National Memorial Arboretum. Reading some of the memories of both adults and children was a privilege and brought a tear to my eye.
The boys loved looking around the woodland market, looking at locally made products and playing noughts and crosses on a tree-stump. It’s those little playful moments that I’ve missed, as well as the big live acts. I spent around 15 minutes watching a baby sitting on the floor of the forest canopy, feeling the mud under her toes and exploring a fallen leaf. Just lovely.
Food and drink
The food and drink field is small, but offers a wide range of street food.
The bar served a large number of locally brewed beers and ciders, which were served in reusable cups which cost a pound each. The bar seemed to be struggling with their wi-fi payments on the first night but appeared to have this sorted out by Saturday. Luckily there was another caravan that sold a range of cocktails. These were reasonably priced at £7 each and made a nice change from pints.
There was a good selection of food from a variety of cuisines and plenty of plant-based options. This was something I had been slightly worried about before the festival, but there were plenty of vegan options including paella, phat thai noodles, wraps and loaded fries. There were a great variety of children’s options, including pizza, hot dogs and beans on toast for children who wanted something a little less adventurous.
The accessible camping field is in a great position, right next to the toilets, showers and wristband area. It was great to see an accessible changing station provided by Mobiloo. There is a slight hill to get down to the festival area, however we saw a number of wheelchair users around the site who appeared to be getting around with no problems. The ground was well drained and the main festivals areas are flat, with wide paths through the forest canopy which were easy to get around.
…the whole family had a wonderful, relaxed time at Timber Festival. There were so many more things that we could have seen and done. I had planned to go to a gong bath, watch the trapeze show, listen to more poetry, try more workshops. But Timber delivered exactly what we needed; a chance to spend time together as family and friends, be entertained, try new things, be inspired and fill our tummies with wonderful food and drink. We left with happy, tired children, muddy feet and full hearts. A wonderful festival for first-time festival goers or if you would like to try something that is a little more slow paced, relaxing and celebrating the wonders of nature.