In the Woods is a truly boutique festival, with only 1000 tickets and the perfect setting just a stone’s throw from London, in the idyllic countryside of Kent. This day long festival is cheaper and far more cheerful than many larger festivals.
After a speedy, hour long trip from London Bridge to Staplehurst, we boarded a shuttle bus, leaving civilization even further behind and soon after were released into a sunny field with a few cars and a picturesque, rustic barn. From here we continued to guess our way around for the rest of the day, though it is small so that is fairly easily achieved. There is next to no information given about the festival and the website says the secrecy is part of the charm but I’m personally beginning to think that secrecy has had it’s day. While any event might not be perfect for everyone, you could quickly find a thousand people who’d love this festival (and a few who wouldn’t) so why not let them know?
Anyway, a string of lights lead us along a delightful straw covered path into the woods. It really was in the woods – not like many of the scrubby forests of England but proper woods with tall, broad leafed trees that look fantastic with the coloured up-lighting. After a minute, we arrived in a divine clearing, in which lay the largest (Quarry) stage.
There are two main stages which alternate, so in effect there’s really only one area of performance at any one time. However, since each stage can be setting up while the other is entertaining, the whole waiting-around-for-the-next-band rigmarole is thankfully cut out.
The festival prides itself on showcasing up and coming artists and the music is pretty eclectic. We saw moody singer songwriters, beat poetry, and the headliners were up and coming shouters, Drenge. This means there is simultaneously something-for-everyone, but also nothing for anyone who doesn’t like what’s on. Therefore it helps to have an interest in music, rather than just coming for a party. The large silent disco tent was well suited for the party goers later on and, in contrast with the rest of the festival, was churning out 90s dance hits both times we visited.
As you might expect, because this is a one day festival, it must attract a certain crowd. It’s certainly a boon for professionals who can’t get the days off work. Attendees ranged from extremely young (there were quite a few toddlers and kids with their parents) but were mostly made up of the 20-30’s lot. From the conversations thrown around we guessed most were from Clapham, but, in spite of that, everyone was lovely and civilized and had planned to relax rather than show off their kookier-than-thou festival get up.
We enjoyed perching on some logs and asked a few people what they thought and they were largely pretty pleased, though again the secrecy surrounding the event hadn’t overly charmed them and a couple mentioned that they felt a little like they had gatecrashed someone else’s party – albeit a very professional and friendly one. Some of the art, it was thought, paled in comparison to Mother Nature’s handy work, but much of it was great and added to the wonderfully non-corporate feel. The tables with paper palm leaves made a particularly nice place to stop with a drink which was available from a small relaxed bar.
Outside the main woodland area, there was another field with the silent disco tent, a small cinema, another tent (which everyone had vacated to enjoy the sunshine) and a single food stall. The food was great but at times the queue for hog roast was as long as the journey back to London. Along with ticketholders’ tents there were also clean toilets and a huge heap of kindling – waiting to punctuate the end of the festival and warm up anyone still dressed for summer.
It’s impossible to dislike the setting of this one day festival, put on by indie band Laurel Collective, and morale has no chance to falter when you know you’re setting off home the next day, at as leisurely a pace as you like. A fairly priced beer jacket protects you from midges and any other woodland troubles, so if you’re interested in new music and a relaxing day away, rather than a carnival of muddy hedonism, then I’d highly recommend you head into the woods next year.