WOOD festival, population: 800, and crafted into the beautifully rolling Oxforshire countryside, provides for an utterly remarkable and spell-binding weekend.
There’s something cocooned in a sleeping bag, rolling past me down the hill, and over there small children are poking a roaring open camp fire with large sticks. There’s another child walking past with what looks like a tiny lamb in her arms. And there’s a wizard, jumping around like a loon to the awesome music coming from the solar powered main stage.
These are indeed interesting times.
As reported here, WOOD is run on 100% renewable energy, have composting toilets and bicycle powered stage. For their eco-loving troubles, WOOD organisers Robin and Joe Bennett have green awards tumbling out of their finely tuned ears.
WOOD is a marvellously family-friendly affair; much like a Woodcraft Folk away day but with infinitely better music. The music alternates between the two renewably-powered stages: great because you never miss a thing, but a pain in the arse to constantly have to shift around, just as you’ve relaxed into the warm grassy slope in front of the main stage.
But that is a minor quibble in an otherwise glorious weekend.
This is a quick interview with Willy Mason, in which the US alt-country singer struggles heroically while an idiot interviewer (me) waffles on about compost toilets, offshore wind farms and the rapture, and then insults him by suggesting his earlier bands were crap!
Willy Mason interview by Green Wedge
Your intrepid Green Wedge correspondent, however, was having none of that. Into the morris dancing workshop we strode and, an exhausting hour later, we were capering, swaggering and thwacking our sticks together with abandon.
Here’s a rambling interview with head bell ringer and Morris man-in-chief Sem Seaborne, of the Icknield Way Morris Men.
Morris dancer interview by Green Wedge
We also carved some mean lino prints (back to front in the end – schoolboy error!), but due to an unscheduled diary change we completely missed out on how to make musical instruments from vegetables.
The positive environmental message that threads together this festival runs to a rather wonderful bicycle powered tent that hosts a cinema, a club and a small stage for acoustic sets. On either side of the stage sit a dozen bikes, all hooked up to the tent’s generator. If there’s not enough pedal power, the power dies.
And this happened at one memorable point.
As The Magic Numbers’ Michele Stodart was in the middle of her short solo performance on the bike-powered stage, a number of the riders who were dutifully aiding her beautiful songs decided to take a break, and the mic and amp duly ground to a halt. Up rushes loyal brother and Magic Numbers front man Romeo, leading the charge to rescue his poor sibling from an ignoble end, slinging his leg over the nearest bike and pedalling furiously. Up cranks the electrics, and sister Michele continues her melodic enchantment.
Fresh from her performance, and being constantly, but sweetly, interrupted by children and well-wishers, here’s a very short interview with Romeo and Michele. Again, apologies for my inane wittering. You won’t learn much from this interview, but they’re absolutely lovely people.
Magic Numbers interview by Green Wedge
Romeo was spotted a few hours later, smoking his pipe while warming himself up by the festival campfire.
Finally, a special mention must be made for the band Dreaming Spires, who finished the whole festival off with a barnstorming set late Sunday night and then in the bar early into Monday morning. Robin and Joe Bennett, the two brothers who put together WOOD, as well as Truck festival and also run the Truck store in Oxford, both front this wonderful part Beatles, part Stone Roses rock and roll band. Their rollicking, boisterous cover of the Boss’ Born to Run was the perfect end to a perfect weekend.
Dreaming Spires’ new album is out soon, and they’ll be playing near you soon. I heartily recommend that you join the queue to see them.
WOOD is a fantastic festival in which to refresh and recharge the soul. Its intimacy and interactivity is refreshing for adults and children alike, from the wonderfully run workshops to just saying hello and sharing a cider with any of the bands and artists kicking around the site.
Belying the hours of stress and hard work that I’m sure went into organising WOOD, everything is thought through with a breezy contentedness to secure the festival’s ecological awareness, tremendous good humour and enduring comfort. The punters return that faith in spades to make WOOD festival a roaring success and top quality addition to the festival season, staying just the right side of hippy.
And all watched over by a monster of loving grace.
Most of these lovely photos were taken by friend of Green Wedge Amelia Gregory of Amelia’s Magazine, Green Kite Midnight and a world of other pies that she has her fingers in. Do pop over and read her far superior WOOD review instead relying on this ponderous ramble.