strange sights and sounds in the woods

Words and Photographs by Jacob Perlmutter

Like ‘love’ and ‘hate’, ’boutique’ is not a word to be used lightly. But In the Woods stands to be one of the few exceptions. With only 750 punters, this festival is the real deal; an untouched woodland paradise, idyllic and intimate. It oozes wholesome Hobbit joy from every feathered edge, enriched with locally brewed ales and hog spit roasts. The one-day festival commences at midday, with performances featured on two music stages and a quiet corner tucked dreamily away for the poetry and spoken word stage, complete with hay bales for seats and headphones for each audience member. In the Woods essentially takes the gems from Glastonbury [that everyone brags about having ‘discovered’] and rebirths them into their natural habitat, more like a 360 degree piece of fantasy immersive theatre than a music festival. It thrives with exuberant energy, alive and kicking with no stories harking back to bygone glories.

As sun sets, the fun really begins. The warm incandescent lightbulbs illuminate the hay-strewn pathways and it’s time to ping pong between the stages and several organic food stations. Through the evening the music plays, each artist rejoicing in the attentive atmosphere. Ale, beer and heart-warming whiskey mingle and blend, the clock strikes twelve and the grand bonfire is lit. The flames roar high into the inky countryside sky and sap fairies pop and fall like flares, watched in the reflections of young hopefuls’ wet eyes. The silent disco is off somewhere in the background. And you stop, and pause and reflect and realise that this is, in actual fact, almost zen-like in its peace and serenity. A few pointy madcap characters dart between the shadows and as you crawl into your tent, a damp hush falls.

The next morning brings about heads poked through dewy tent flaps, mole-eyed and peering at the rising smoke from the grand bonfire, one or two silhouettes hugged in animal skins, bleary-eyed and swaying having whispered secrets all night. The breakfast queue lengthens due to high demand for splendid fresh fruit smoothies and a countryside fry-up. Tents packed and love thy neighbour… and like that, all of a sudden, poof! In an instant, it’s all over, like a beautiful dream that never even happened. Better come back next year to check whether the walnut hasn’t cracked.