Category Archives: Festivals

In The Woods 2014

After a truly magical and breathtaking experience last year, we were very fortunate to have friends join us for this years most beautiful festival. In The Woods Festival oozes mystery, tranquility and brings a small gathering of people together in the most surreal environment within some of the most picturesque woodlands.
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Putting last years memories aside in an attempt to be surprised again, it was clear to see a new theme without altering the dynamics previously enjoyed. The woodlands beautifully laced with colourful flowers and bright golden lights leading you along the magical footpaths.

At the entrance there were some bright pink, yellow and blue cactuses positioned amongst the natural green plants. A couple of footsteps later there were trees graced with the largest material letters spelling out ITW14.

There were cardboard masks hung by wooden pegs on strings hand painted for people to wear. The pathways winding with many other areas to explore. A material filled tree designed to look like a flowing waterfall was one of the most eye catching pieces. Our friend we met at last years festival had designed a sign that spelt out “But I Love Hymn” a fitting reference to the music we enjoyed during the weekend.

Last years record playing corner was replaced with a lovely little record shop which sold music from the bands playing. You could listen to them on Vinyl and I bought a CD from the band
Francobollo which had a hand drawn cover, a lovely little momentum of the festival from a new band I discovered.

On the first evening we participated in the Pub Quiz which was highly entertaining. Despite accruing a team of ten people we still managed to avoid winning. Either way it was a great chance to mingle whilst drinking some of the local ales they had on tap.

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Later on we went into the Silent Disco, this is a new concept for me. I’ve always wanted to try one and was unsure what to expect. It transpired to be one of the weirdest yet enjoyable experiences I’ve known. I was presented with some headphones that had 2 channels on them. Whilst listening to the music you could hear the people around you singing either the song I was listening to or the one on the other channel. One things for sure I can’t get Junior Senior or Shanks and Bigfoot out of my head!

The music was amazing and some of the bands I really enjoyed discovering were Francobollo, Juffage, Ichi and Febueder. The styles and genres on both sides of the spectrum gave the pallet a mixed variety. The stages are called The Quarry and Laurel Lounge, one is surrounded by trees and slopes that you can perch on a log whilst the others in a clearing within the lush green trees.

During the Saturday there was a chance to experience hands-on craft. We created a vinyl print which was cool to print whilst others were making garlands from plants and greens acquired from the woodlands. There was even the opportunity to draw a naked person. Art, Craft and Its diverse nature combined to offer a beautiful cocktail of opportunity for people like me to have a go.

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The Spinney is a part of the woods where you can sit down on hay bails listening to musicians play and sing whilst wearing headphones. It creates a spooky and chilling atmosphere because without wearing them all you can hear is the vocals and key presses on the keyboard. We heard Sivu play and his style encapsulated the surroundings beautifully.

The curtains for ITW14 drew down on Saturday evening with the most anticipated bonfire spectacle. A large plunger with sticks of dynamite were the decoration for an impressive effort. Within minutes the flames were dancing high into the dark sky flicking off fireflies and angels to keep the stars company afar. It was the surreal and comforting end to a beautiful event.

Thank you once again for making it so special and I haven’t even mentioned the amazing food on offer! Another portion of Cauldron cooked Beef Curry was enjoyed and we managed to sample the cakes in the Coffee, Tea & Cake hut before they sold out on the Saturday Morning.

One criticism and I hate to make it was the increased allocation of tickets taking the event over 1,000 people. This is too much, you could tell the strains this put on certain parts of the festival, please go back to how it was in 2013.

DarcyB

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Midsummer Music 2014 in Towcester

Towcester hosted it’s annual Midsummer Music event this weekend. The town was transformed into a showcase of local musical talent as various buildings, pubs and restaurants became stages for the acts to perform in. The weather was delightful once again as a sunny Saturday evening provided the perfect backdrop for this popular event.
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We started our musical adventure at The Saracens Head where Krissy Matthews and his three piece band performed in the courtyard. All of the tables were full as locals enjoyed his mixed playlist of self written and covered blues inspired tracks. Krissy was very vocal and despite joking that he had smoked something he shouldn’t have, he produced a set which kept the crowd going and opened up the event with punchy energy and style.

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We headed to the town square to see the Mayor officially open the festival at 7.15pm before quickly heading to St Lawrence’s Church to watch the Towcester Choral Society perform. This was truly breathtaking as the Choral Society performed famous songs from the movies which included Raindrops keep falling on my head (Burt Cassidy & The Sundance Kid) Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera and a selection of songs from Mama Mia. St Lawrence’s Church is a beautiful building and the tall ceilings and open halls created an acoustic delight.

As there were many acts performing in the evening it became apparent that we would be rushing around nipping in to see various parts of acts. We quickly made our way back to The Saracens Head to watch the Giocoso Concert Band in the Pickwick Room. From Swanbourne in Buckingham we heard them play the theme from Star Trek before they took a break. Once again we were back on foot to The Dolphin Cafe to watch Nathan & Katrina.

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Katrina Harris certainly delivered with her powerful vocals including a pitch perfect cover of Katie Tunstalls classic Black Horse & A Cherry Tree. Nathan Digby & Nial Hoggarth completed the three piece act who went down extremely well. Their songs were original, exciting and fresh with a mixture of classic and modern blues, soul, pop and rock pieces.

The next destination was Towcester Mill to watch Craig sing and play acoustic guitar. Craig was extremely quirky and delivered a high energy filled performance which included a couple of amazing covers including Crowded House – Weather with you and Queens – Don’t stop me now.

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We spoke to Craig after his performance and found him to be extremely pleasant and slightly humbled by the compliments we paid him for a fantastic show.

The Midsummer Music Festival then held it’s Firework Display on the Mount which lasted around half an hour and was typically exciting and didn’t disappoint.

The music didn’t stop there as we headed to The Brave Old Oak to watch The Band Isabelle. This six piece edgy pop and rock band are from Bedford and were the highlight of an amazing day/night. With a twist of funk and soul the lead singer ended a high temp medley of music with a flawless performance of the hit by Moloko – Sing it back. The place was filled with people enjoying the fresh vibes produced as the music went on past midnight.

It certainly was a success and I can’t wait for Midsummer Music to return in 2015.

DarcyB

Towcester Food & Drink Festival

The weekend of the 7th/8th June saw the inaugural Towcester Food and Drink festival which was held at Towcester Racecourse. This was the first time I’ve been to the venue and the sunshine was out in force after the mid morning thunder storms. This event was extra special because one of our family members had his homemade cider on sale after receiving the seal of approval from the organiser of the event.

Situated amongst the iconic Racecourse there were plenty of Food Tents showing off a fine selection of locally produced produce including cheeses, cakes, pickles and spices. There were cooking demonstrations and live music creating a varied number of things to see and experience.
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At the Champagne Bar Andy had his Cider on sale. His dry cider was called “Two Faced” which came in at a tasty 6.5% ABV. This was a truly awesome achievement, one that we are all extremely proud of. On the Saturday Andy sold just over half of his bottles and the remainder were cleared out by the large crowds on Sunday. Up against some well known and established local Ciders, Andy held his own and looked very much at home next to them. Selling at £3.50 a bottle I asked a couple of people who purchased Two Faced what they thought of his cider.

“This is really nice, it tastes fresh and I’ll certainly be buying another bottle today”

“I do like dry cider and this one ticks the right boxes”

One guy joked when I asked him how he found the cider, he replied by saying in the bar through that door. He must have thought I was trying to sell him life insurance! A very funny line if ever I heard one.

The evening saw us take part in the Towcester Food Festivals “Real Ale Trail” the event allowed customers to purchase a glass tankard and visit five local pubs/restaurants to try out new ales. These were provided by Crispin who had organised the festival over the weekend. For £7.50 we were set to have 5 x free quarter pints followed by another half at the Towcester Mill Brewery, our new tap house.

We had some great tasters of Golden Ales and some Darker Ales. Sadly one venue didn’t buy into the spirit of this event. The Plough is a pub we have not visited before and it’s safe to say the way they made us feel as we entered the venue was not pleasant. They told us that they had sold out of the Ale and were not prepared to give us an alternative. Apparently according to the rather bullish lady who greeted us “they weren’t big enough to give us another option” the near packed front bar was a very poor alibi to her claim.

Needless to say I’d like to thank the barman at The Brave Old Oak who had ran out of Pitstop (Silverstone Brewery) who gave us a couple of other options, thank you. The numbers taking part suggested that there was a good take up on the offer to sample local Real Ales, so that was a positive. I would also like to thank The Dolphin Cafe who made us feel extremely welcome in comfortable surroundings. The evening concluded at our new local tap house, the Towcester Mill.

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As we arrived at a packed Towcester Mill we were able to sit under the moonlight amongst the peaceful fields the Mill is set within. The odd bat flickered across the moons beams in a lovely tranquil atmosphere. This was certainly the best place to conclude this night and we enjoyed the last hour in the bar as the temperature started to drop.

This is our new favourite pub and one place we will certainly be enjoying our weekend evenings in. I would like to thank Crispin for an amazing food festival which has put Towcester on the map. I would also like to congratulate Andy on his successful debut launching Two Faced. It has been a pretty decent experience, The Plough aside!

DarcyB

Towcester Beer Festival 2014

This weekend saw the much anticipated Towcester Beer Festival return to Towcester Rugby Club. The annual event is into it’s 5th year and the weather didn’t disappoint for those joining in. The event has grown in popularity because it gives those keen to try new real ales the opportunity to do so and with over 60 types on offer it is unmissable.

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Crispin “The Festival Man” Slee brought 60 real ales to the table with the addition of 30 real ciders. There was also an opportunity to try some local bottled ciders on the Saturday and Sunday. There was a fine selection of Food on offer as well and the Gurkha Curry once again went down a treat. The Sausage Sarnies and Burgers were also a success as those requiring some ballast to keep them going were looked after in style.

Friday evening generated a real buzz of excitement amongst the crowd there who were keen to start early. Despite the nip in the air as the sun went in there were those brave enough to sit out on the open area neatly laid out with tables and benches. By Saturday this area was awash of people all enjoying the combination of drinks and sun.

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Saturday and Sunday also saw live music from local musicians including the Rock School as well as bouncy castles and face painting. There was a lovely atmosphere with those enjoying the sunshine that graced the Rugby Club.

Back to the Ales and our friends at a Towcester Mill Brewery were showcasing their Blonde number Mill Race. This 3.9% ABV Ale is brewed using Pilsner malt which gave it a pale blonde appearance whilst delivering a grapefruit and herbal finish. We started with this and it didn’t disappoint and ensured the tasting session started in a positive fashion. Towcester Mill Brewery opens in May so it’s not long until we can grace their new bar to try some of their other Ales.

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There were many different breweries to try from, some local and some not so local. We enjoyed in particular Crazy Daze, a Golden 5.5% ABV ale from Potbelly brewery in Kettering, Northants. The Local Whittlebury brewery also had a presence and my favourite Amber Ale was called Green Dragon 4.4% ABV which offered a strong bitter finish created using a combination of Sovereign and Challenger Hops. Silverstone brewery offered a lovely Golden Ale called Skidmark which delivered a fruity, floral aroma with a citrus taste. This came in at 4.2% ABV using a mixture of three hops, which was very nice.

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In conclusion the Towcester Beer Festival has once again been a resounding success. I am truly grateful that as locals we have the opportunity to attend something this exciting on our door steps. The venue was well set out and the variety available was so diverse. It was clear from the 2,000 + people who attended over the three days that it was enjoyable and the sunshine capped it off well.

Please add me on Untappd my username is markyjb to check out my reviews of Ales tried so far.

DarcyB

Party Perfection

This weekend has been a truly wonderful opportunity to share time with family and our closest friends. Since our Engagement in August whilst away on holiday in Cornwall, we have been blessed by the amazing people we share our lives with. We set a date for our Engagement Party soon after the proposal in Cornwall which was this Saturday.

It’s safe to say that time sneaks past us when we are least observant and it was exactly the same in this instance. We are both extremely busy with our jobs and since my relocation to Bedford it’s certainly made the time spent at home during the week shrink. It is at this moment I’d like to place on record in writing on my little blog a massive, sorry I mean a MASSIVE thank you to my wonderful fiancé for working her socks off in preparation and launching this fantastic party of celebration.

Now I’m a typical guy, not in the sense of being lazy and unaware of the urgency of certain situations, but in a more traditional sense. I mean I’m always there to wash up after dinner and in the rare instances I’m back before dusk, I’ll get some dinner on to help share the responsibility. I’m talking about the inability to gauge time and understand the order and detail required to make things go smoothly and without any trouble. It’s because of my fiancé, I must go on record again to thank her for undertaking all of these things on top of her workload which borders on excessive most days of the week. It is because of this tireless effort and commitment our party was the success it was.

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The weather was on our side and despite a worrying blanket of thick grey cloud in the early afternoon we were treated to a pleasant warm sunny day. We opted for an open house format of party, which in its name gave a simple and non time constrained day. The beauty with this is you are able to control the flow and keep a steady number of people with you throughout the day. This is great in theory, but as we are pretty awesome* people, the number actually increased as the day went on! 😉

* Self proclaimed by me.

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All the detail was beautiful, from the disposable cameras right through to the decorations we had acquired from random events during our busy year. The carefully selected play list of party tracks and songs right through to the ever filled food buffet.

We are looking forward to developing our cameras in the next couple of weeks and seeing what delightful moments have being captured. If it’s like past events, I’m sure there will be the usual one of me looking slightly perplexed and bemused by the situation.

A party is only as good as the people who attend them and it is because of this that I’d like to thank every single one of you. In fact as I write this blog in my speak I should say we both want to thank you for joining us. There were some amazing scenes of our families meeting each other for the first time and the opportunity for our friends to meet each other too. Obviously there were those unable to join us but wished they could. We would also like to thank you for being thoughtful and supportive with your kind wishes, we will be seeing you all very soon.

So what did I learn from co hosting a party on the day? Well I learnt that frozen mini pizzas do not take 15 mins at 180c (Waitrose we will be in touch!) and while Salad is healthy, people prefer couscous instead. I’ve also learnt that it pays dividends to have an Xbox 360 and a wireless network. The children aged between 2 and 14 were more than preoccupied with this and I couldn’t have been prouder with the fact there were no tears all day. I learnt that Pacman is still cool and that despite no one actually playing Scrabble, that there were one or two of the children inquisitively asking about playing the game! I’ve also discovered that our Bathroom now has it’s own fan club!

So once again I’d like to thank you all, you made our special day well and truly special. It was an absolute pleasure to invite you into our home. Oh and before I conclude this blog, I’d like to also thank a couple of people.

Firstly I’d like to thank Amanda from All Seasons Kitchen. The cake you made was an absolute treasure-trove of sweet chocolate delights. Everybody loved it and we were not surprised to be left with only a couple of slices at the end of the night. Please check out her web page to see what else she is able to create at:-
http://www.allseasonskitchen.co.uk

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And finally I’d like to thank our friends at Whittlebury Brewery for supplying us with a lovely 18 pint pack of Old Tun. My fiancée certainly knows how to spoil me and it was because of the quick delivery of this that we were able to enjoy it. Very reasonably priced we finished it off within a day and it went down a storm. We have both been invited to visit their brewery which is something we will be accepting. Once again, please check out their site, it’s a great place to see what they do at:- http://www.whittleburybrewery.com

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The frustrations of not being able to get Glastonbury Tickets this morning have well and truly evaporated due to all of you that made this so very amazing!

DarcyB

Towcester Autumn Beer Festival

This weekend saw Towcester host it’s very first Autumn Beer Festival. The event which ran across three days was held at The Pickled Pig on the High Street. Following on from the successes of the more established Summer Beer Festival and Sausage & Cider Festival held at Towcestrians Rugby Club, Whittlebury Brewery hosted and showcased a couple of their offerings to the residents of Towcester in this unique event. The Pickled Pig proved to be a suitable choice of venue and with a buzzing crowd and live music it complimented the selection of 16 Real Ales and 12 Ciders on offer.

John Evans of Whittlebury Brewery was on hand to serve the liquid treats available whilst happily sharing information which made the tasting even more enjoyable. Two of the Real Ales “Amarillo and Oasis” are brewed by John and it’s clear from our conversation he believes and shares my enthusiasm for Real Ale, “Real Ale is far more complex than Wines. You can achieve far more variations with Ale, this is because you can alter the way the hops are used to create a completely diverse taste. Wine can be tasted by swilling it around your mouth, Ale needs to be swallowed”.

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If there is one frustration of mine, it is the fact that you struggle to find locally produced Real Ales on tap in the local pubs. Towcester certainly has the pubs in place that would surely benefit from this, however it’s a common fact to find London Pride on tap and not Amarillo. I spoke with John and he has promised that this situation will change and that the next year promises to be exciting for lovers of Local Real Ales. In the past it has been known for a guest ale to appear, however by the time people are aware of this and the time that’s passed it’s off no sooner than when it first appeared. This is going to change and John will try all he can to make this happen. Another local supporter and event organizer of Local Real Ales and Ciders Festivals is Crispin Slee. Crispin organizes the Beer Festivals and created the popular Sausage & Cider Festival concept in Towcester. He was there on the Friday night we attended. Crispin who is better known as The Festival Man has seen peoples love for Local Real Ales and Ciders create a demand for these events.

There were other Real Ales available from breweries close by such as Nobby’s Brewery in Guilsborough, Northampton to as afar as Tring Brewery in Hertfordshire. It was safe to say that this carefully chosen selection gave a nice range of tastes and styles for any Real Ale fan.

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Whittlebury Brewery was founded in April 2010 and they happily sell their Ales to the Public, which is fantastic news. You can check out their website at http://www.whittleburybrewery.com
Here you can see the selections available as well as some fantastic seasonal gift sets. If you’d like to contact John Evans, then his details are on this page.

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Finally no Beer Festival is quite complete without having a go yourself as John kindly let me pour some of his Ales. The pricing was extremely fair for this event and £15 would buy you a Token that covered 10 half pints at £1.50 each. I think The Pickled Pig was a shrewd choice in venue and the space they have upstairs allowed this to run independently alongside their bar downstairs. The three day event is a nice concept and I think bringing this into Towcester Town Centre made it easier to access whilst attracting passing trade.

So what next? Well Towcester will be holding a Winter Beer Festival at Towcester Racecourse over the weekend of Friday 30th November – Saturday 1st December. There will be 30 Real Ales and 10 Ciders available alongside a Christmas Market and National Hunt Horse Racing Card on the Saturday. Entry to the event is free so please take this opportunity to attend and see in the Festive Season in some style.

If you’d like to keep up to date with the local Real Ale and Cider Festivals you can follow the Festival Man on Twitter @thefestivalman and for those who’d like to read my reviews on Ales I’ve been trying then please follow me on the Application called Untappd username: markyjb

DarcyB

In The Woods

If you go down to the woods tonight, you’re in for a big surprise………. Sadly there are no teddy bears this time around, however that is where the disappointment ends, or relief begins! I am talking about The Laurel Collectives intimate offering of In The Woods 2013.

In The Woods is a festival with a difference, in fact many differences to those other festivals that many of you are familiar with. The only similarity that came to mind is the point where we exchanged our tickets for a wrist band. Once this formality was completed the whole experience and world offered to us was so very very different to that of a commercial festival.

For this years festival there were just under 1,000 tickets made available for sale. This number allowed for people working at the festival and the only way we were able to get tickets was from the lessons we learnt in our failings last year. The whole package is very secretive and the website gave very little away. If it wasn’t for my partner subscribing to the mailing list, we wouldn’t have received the link sent earlier this year to apply for tickets. These tickets were so hot, that they were all snapped up in less than 12 hours as soon as the remaining ones went on General Sale.

In The Woods is a festival founded by The Laurel Collective who are a band keen to give up and coming artists a platform and unique environment to showcase their talents. This was the same festival that a couple of years ago presented Alt-J and Stealing Sheep to the world. Alt-J subsequently won the Mercury Music Awards in 2012 and Stealing Sheep are becoming better known. This alone shows the power and success that this intimate festival can offer the bands that are hand picked to perform.

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In The Woods is so shrouded in mystery that all we knew until 2 days before the festival was that the location was no more than an hour from London in Kent. We didn’t even know the line up, this was intended to prevent anybody from knowing about it. This made an already exclusive event even more so. Once we had located the venue only made possible by the delight of Google Maps we were presented with a field and a short walk to obtain our wrist bands. The security check was thorough, if we didn’t have ID that matched our tickets, we weren’t getting in. The next thing we were presented with was the most picturesque and mysterious entrance to what would be our surroundings for the next two days and nights.

The camping area was spacious and no more than 2 minutes away from the bar area and entrance to the woods. We got our smaller tent set up quickly and we found ourselves ready to explore. This was the first time that they opened for the Friday night and it was obvious that the majority of people present were keen to take up this opportunity. It was like the scene from Willy Wonker and the Chocolate Factory, everybody extremely keen to wander off and explore what was within the woodland arena. The promise of local foods and ales were fulfilled and this was all prepared in traditional ways. We were treated to Curry, Chorizo and Sausages as well as a Hog Roast with the first two cooked over large cauldrons sat on open fires. The bar was full of casked Ale whilst the choice of home made smoothies and Mojitos a welcome alternative. It had all been thought through carefully and the pub quiz on the Friday night settled people in nicely and created a vibrant buzz amongst the hay bales and retro board games.

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It is at this point I am struggling to find the right words to describe this festival which do it justice. Imagine pathways within the woods covered in straw with plants on either side guiding you along. These pathways are covered by small pretty lights hanging amongst the trees to guide you along when it’s dark. As you first enter the woods you can help yourself to a mask pegged on lines, you can even stand behind one of many picture frames hanging from trees and have your photo taken behind them. There is a cardboard train and a saloon where you can find yourself in the Wild West and there are mysterious banners and bunting hanging from the trees branches that grace the pathways.

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There are secluded areas that you can wander into and be thrown into a whole new scenario. Be it spoken poetry or written stories, we found ourselves stumble into a theatre staged Leafy Art Exhibition and tour which involved many characters that made even me question if they were real or acting.

Please check out Direct-H on Facebook, they were very very convincing and had me fooled. We were led around various art pieces including a Sodium Chloride Dog with an Electric Lamp and a Teddy Bear with a tilted head. The Artist holding the champagne studded show was none other than the flamboyant Damien Dali. With his surrounding cast of characters they put on a creative and entertaining show, with the hunt for votes and Damien a priority towards the end.

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There is an area no bigger than a front room with two record players on and a big bundle of Vinyl Records. We sat down on the final night just soaking the atmosphere whilst listening to Alt-J album on Vinyl. The beauty of this festival is no matter where you are within it, you can find yourselves alone due to there being less than a 1,000 people there. It’s because of this you can truly let yourself escape and your mind wander.

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So what about the music? Well the artists and bands played across two stages which were no more than a 30 second clamber through a woodland clearing. The performance times staggered so you could see them all perform. On the Friday night we saw Lianne La Havas open up the festival with beautiful piercing vocals and notes held so long you could really feel the Acoustics bounce off the trees surrounding us. We were sat at the back on a log looking down at the stage, the view absolutely magical. It was then we watched a film documentary called Searching for Sugarman which is truly amazing.

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On the Saturday we threw ourselves in and checked out some of the other artists, all that we hadn’t heard of so we were bracing ourselves for what we’d hear. The highlights for me were Khushi, Nick Mulvey and Marika Hackman. Khushi will be going straight onto my IPod as they were fresh and pleasing to the ear. Their sometimes haunting vocals sent a shiver down my spine. Secondly on the smaller Laurel Lounge stage I was impressed with Nick Mulvey who I joked looked like Jack from Lost and was totally drawn in by Marika Hackman. She reminds me of Fredrika Stahl and as we heard her prepare for her set, it provided one of the closest and intimate moments of the entire festival. It was it this point you could feel the moment of tension before she launched into her set.

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As the music drew to a close on Saturday night, the final moments presented an orchestral performance where there were trumpet players situated around the top of the Quarry Stage. We were sat next to one at one of the higher viewpoints, it sounded amazing. It wasn’t the end of the magic just yet, there was still so much more to offer.

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The final breathtaking moment came when they lit the Bonfire which was situated in the field by the bar and food counters. This bonfire was massive and it was here that the welcome heat lost from leaving the woodland could be appreciated. As the flames stood tall and the orange specks filled the midnight sky there were also fire dancers performing around the edge of the bonfire. We also met back up with some people we met in the woods earlier in the day and enjoyed their company amongst others. It’s safe to say this is a moment that will not escape my mind in a lifetime.

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So in conclusion, please don’t make this event any bigger, leave it be. This is amazing and the most intimate experience I’ve shared with others ever. That last line sums it up perfectly, no trouble, family friendly and easy to talk to and meet new friends. Amazing!!

I know I’ve missed many things but I truly hope this paints some of the picture I’m trying to paint. In The Woods 2014, I can’t wait!

DarcyB

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(Always nice to have a tweet a favorited on Twitter, thank you ITW)