2010 | Wood Festival – Braziers Park, Oxfordshire

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Having been to Truck, we had some expectations before we arrived at Wood, namely a small affair that was going to be brimming with possibility. Nevertheless, what Wood managed to provide in such a small space of land, outweighed even our expectations. Whilst Truck has the emphasis firmly placed on music, Wood manages to make this almost secondary to all the workshops it has to offer. In fact, their green ethic goes so far, that their bins are created from unloved vinyl, with bags secured through their middle. This pretty much sums up the ethos of Wood, the focus being placed on all things environmental, with music only taking over once the sun begins to set.

Undoubtedly one of our biggest curiosities when we first arrived at Wood was its fascination with hedgehogs and so it was inevitable that we ended up at the Hammer and Tongue stage on Saturday afternoon for the hedgehog workshop. “Why did the hedgehog cross the road, jump up and down in a puddle and run back?” We were asked… “Because he was a dirty double crossing hedgehog.” But it wasn’t all fun and jokes and we equally learnt a lot about keeping our spiky backed friends safe and happy, creating the right environment in our own back yards. Aside from the hedgehogs in the space of a weekend we also managed to make our own wallets from recycled tetra packs, watch a thatching demonstration, listen to a Fair Trade talk from a Zimbabwean school teacher, learn how to build a wormery and still only touch the tip of the ice berg in terms of workshops and activities.

Although we were far too big to join in we were also attracted to the buzz around the kid’s tent which was heaving, especially in the bright sun. Set aside from the main workshop village it looked like a small brightly coloured circus tent which, judging by the number of children running around playing recycled instruments they had made, went down a storm. Without a doubt Wood fulfils its mission of creating a family friendly environment and we spent most of our weekend dodging inflatable balls, diving out the way of water bombs and looking enviously at their painted faces.

That being said, the music is still second to none. The undoubted highlight came on Sunday evening, sadly as many families had begun their trek home. Frank Turner, who is soon to open for Green Day at the O2 Arena, rounded off the weekend with his punk-folk songs. He coupled classic songs like I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous with impromptu harmonica accompaniments from an audience member, the sharing of a bottle of Jim Beam mid set and a gut wrenching rendition of Try This At Home . Suffice to say, he finished the weekend with a bang and ensured that those still remaining danced until the sun had well and truly set on Braziers Park.

On Friday, Peggy Sue managed to entertain us, not like some bands with a two chord song, but instead one that for the majority consisted of just two notes. The Shape We Made might be simplistic to start, but it’s a real heartbreaker of a song, highlighting the perfect match of Rosa and Katy’s vocals. That being said, they seem to have diverged from their roots, and with the loss of the ‘and the Pirates’ in their name, they also seems to have dropped many of the quirks which made them unique in the early days. Replacing humours stories about superman and their toy box of instruments (that at one time filled their sets) with the addition of a drummer, there’s a sense that they’ve become somewhat middle of the road. Nevertheless, Lazarus and February Snow still proved that the bands low key, folk driven harmonies have what it takes to captivate a crowd.

Elsewhere, we were treated to the likes of Inge Thompson (perhaps better known for her place in the Karine Polwart Trio) who reminded us of Julia Stone and the all Welsh singing 9bach, whose electric guitar and harp combination culminated into a revved up set which took traditional songs and gave them a nice bit of bite. Meanwhile, The Unthanks ability to cram ten people on the Wood Stage, which is not much bigger than most people’s bathroom and also encompassed a real piano and clog dancing, which went down a storm. Whilst over in the Tree Tent the understated Canadian Ora Cogan fed us an abundance of bluesy numbers such as the impressive Gather, which featured her guitarist taking a violin bow to his strings.

All in all, despite the focus being firmly away from the music the line up boasted an impressive array of diversity, which kept young and old thoroughly entertained as the evenings began to break. Nevertheless, it’s without question Wood’s focus on hands on activities and ethically grounded initiatives, which make this festival so strong. It’s clear to see why many flocked to this year’s affair and we thoroughly recommend it to anyone who wants a family focused festival, jam packed with more than enough to entertain an audience of any age.

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