Amelia’s Magazine | David Bramwell introduces his upcoming book to be published with Unbound: No.9 Bus to Utopia

No9 Bus to utopia cover
I first heard David Bramwell talk about his upcoming book No.9 Bus to Utopia at Wilderness Festival last summer, where he spoke engagingly about his adventures whilst searching for happiness and meaning in communities across the world. In a neat turn of affairs I also heard John Mitchinson speak passionately about his revolutionary new crowd funded publishing company at Dark Mountain festival last summer. So when Unbound got in touch to ask whether I’d like to interview David about No.9 Bus to Utopia I of course said yes.

david bramwell and swan
What is the No 9 Bus to Utopia about and why should people support the project?
It’s a book that chronicles a year spent visiting seven extraordinary communities in Europe and America after a relationship breakup. It was undertaken partly to learn how to be better at sharing and also just for the sheer adventure. Over the twelve months I visited sexual arcadias, a new city being built in the Arizona Desert, ashrams, anarchist communes and a place in the Italian Alps straight out of the pages of a sci-fi novel. I returned home full of inspiration from the people I’d met and wanting to make a difference in my hometown of Brighton by helping strengthen my local community through an event called Zocalo. Zocalo takes place one day each year when we encourage people to leave their houses and sit on a chair outside as a way of saying: I’m a friendly neighbour, come and have a natter. It’s been steadily growing over the years and is an informal street party all over the city. Better still it’s mercifully free of fund-raising, council approval, red tape or Union Jack bunting. It was dreamt up by a local guy, David Burke, and is a simple way of getting people talking to their neighbours again and re-kindling a sense of community. There’s lots of good will for it in Brighton and I can honestly say I now consider many of the people in my street as friends as a consequence. We hope that Zocalo will spread around the country. I learned from my adventures and experiences in communities that generosity and compromise are at the heart of all good relationships.

oddfellows band picture
What kind of people do you hope will read it?
I love humorous travel writers like Bill Bryson and hope people will find it entertaining, personable and funny. It’s for anyone who’s ever wondered if the way they live could be better and how we can make a difference as individuals in the way our cities function (as well as our relationships). I was offered the chance to do the No9 Bus to Utopia as a TED talk last year which might be a good way for readers to get a taster of what the full story is about.

YouTube Preview Image
What was your biggest surprise discovery from visiting all these utopian communities?
A place in Italy called Damanhur which has built the world’s largest underground temple. It’s the most incredible place I’ve ever visited. The temple is about the size of St Paul’s Cathedral and was built in secret at night with little professional knowledge in how to accomplish such a feat. There are chambers where, if you press a certain stone slab in the wall, there’s a great whooshing sound and the wall slides away to reveal more secret rooms. It’s real Indiana Jones material. Visiting it took my breath away. Ok, if I’m really honest it actually moved me to tears!

one of the chambers in the Damanhur temple
Damunhur cross section of temple
Would you go back to any of them for any length of time, if so which one?
I’d return to all of them given the chance. The one I have been back to is Damanhur. I went a second time with a friend, Teowa, and we got to take part in some incredible rituals deep inside the temple. I even got the chance to jam with a rubber plant called Hellie, who the Damanhurians claim to have taught to make music. Hellie has even released a seven inch single. And no, I’m not making this stuff up.

hellie singing plant
What has the process of publishing your book been like and how did you hook up with Unbound?
Unbound was recommended by my friend Tom Hodgkinson from the Idler. They’re a hugely supportive and personable publishing company run on a crowd-funding ethos. We’ve raised a quarter of the money for the book so far in a short space of time, made a promotional video and I’m currently looking for opportunities to do the No9 Bus as a storytelling show/lecture. I’ve already spoken about it on TED, 5×15, Alain de Botton’s School of Life and the Idler Academy and it seems the best way to get people interested in reading the book.

oddfellows album cover
You’re a bit of a Renaissance Man – how do you divide your time up between all of your different activities?
I made a conscious decision to get rid of my telly many years ago and no longer read papers or follow the news. I felt I could do better things with my time and fill my head with more life-affirming information and ideas, rather than that sense of righteous indignation the news headlines seem to instil in us. I admit, I’d struggle to identify Nick Clegg in an identity parade but I do have more time now to dedicate to pursue my passions and causes like Zocalo. I also teach music part time so I’m blessed with lots of paid holidays and free time.

zocalo poster
Any news about Zocalo? Is it spreading around the country yet?
This year Zocalo has spread out of our neighbourhood of 3,000 houses to several other areas of Brighton. We’re hoping for our biggest ever turnout (weather permitting!) and have had lots of offers from local people wanting to run Zocalos in their streets. It’s yet to spread around the country but our long-term plan is a national holiday called Zocalo Day where everyone in the UK takes the day off work to sit outside their houses drinking tea and eating cake with their neighbours. OK, it’s an ambitious dream but why not?!

Are there any special festivities planned this Sep 9th?
To keep it simple we encourage people to bring their own entertainment to Zocalo on the day. We’ve had spontaneous table football tournaments, families cooking and sharing dinners out in the streets and sometimes people dragging their entire living room out onto the pavement, complete with stag’s head and Persian rug.

Why have you made Brighton your home? (I studied there and love it)
I grew up in Doncaster and studied in Coventry, so coming to Brighton for the first time was like stumbling upon an oasis. I’ve been here twenty years and still feel like I’m on some extended family holiday. It’s a liberal, bohemian party town where anything goes and to top it all, there’s a beach. Sure it’s also overcrowded and expensive but I only need go back and visit my home town of Doncaster to remind myself what an exceptional city I live in.

YouTube Preview ImageZocalo promo video

How would you describe your band?
Oddfellow’s Casino specialise in orchestrated melancholic pop with songs about nature, death and hauntings. The music seems to evoke the bleak English landscape, both pastoral and industrial. It’s something to do with being Northern I’m sure. It’s that same ethereal sonic quality that I find appealing in bands like Joy Division. It probably comes from eating too many pies and walking the Pennines in the drizzle. We’ve been making records for ten years now and have a strong, cultish following all over Europe from Estonia to Norway. 2012 has been a good year for us. We released a new album in May, The Raven’s Empire (on the theme of death) and had terrific radio play and support from Cerys Mathews, Gideon Coe and Lauren Laverne. We just released a new single, We Will Be Here, which is an anthem for the dead and was filmed in the Shell Grotto in Margate. We’ve got a handful of videos on youtube as well as a short film on our website that we made with former Dali model Drako Zarhazar.

YouTube Preview ImageWe Will Be Here

What has been your favourite festival experience this year?
Taking part in a Friday night spelling test at Port Eliot hosted by The Wire‘s Dominic West had to rank as the most surreal festival experience this year. I also took part in a record-breaking attempt for skinny dipping at Wilderness Festival. Sadly we were 200 people short of breaking the record. When I got out, I couldn’t find my towel and was a lone naked man wandering through crowds of fully-attired, drunk festival-goers.

YouTube Preview ImageWinter in a Strange Town

Have you discovered any other great acts that you could recommend to us?
Favourite festival band this year was We Were Evergreen, a Parisian trio who won over the crowds with their energy, humour and exquisite power-pop, led by ukulele. Current favourite artists are Alt J and Other Lives.

YouTube Preview ImageThe Crows and the Rooks

Finally, what next? And have you found true love again?
I’ve just made a short program for Radio 3 about a man, David King, who provides accurate long-term weather forecasts by reading nature. I’ve got a new talk on the history of pranks and mischief coming up at the Idler Academy in October and I’m hosting TEDx Brighton on my home turf in October. True love, I hope, is waiting in the wings, armed with a box of quality biscuits and good tale to tell.

You can support the No9 Bus to Utopia on Unbound by pre-ordering a copy. Find out more about how to run a Zocalo here. Keep up with David Bramwell at

Categories ,5×15, ,Alain de Botton’s School of Life, ,Alt J, ,Bill Bryson, ,book, ,brighton, ,Damanhur, ,Dark Mountain, ,David Bramwell, ,David Burke, ,David King, ,Dominic West, ,Drako Zarhazar, ,Idler Academy, ,John Mitchinson, ,joy division, ,No.9 Bus to Utopia, ,Oddfellow’s Casino, ,Other Lives, ,Port Eliot, ,Radio 3, ,TED, ,TEDx Brighton, ,The Crows and the Rooks, ,The Idler, ,The Raven’s Empire, ,Tom Hodgkinson, ,Unbound, ,We Were Evergreen, ,We Will Be Here, ,Wilderness Festival, ,Winter in a Strange Town, ,Zocalo

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Amelia’s Magazine | New for 2013: Amelia’s Award will launch the career of a talented Graduate Designer Maker

amelias award with secret emporium
Calling all soon to be design graduates: read on to find out about my new collaboration with the brilliant Secret Emporium, a curatorial umbrella which supports and promotes independent creators of wonderful goods. We’ve long championed the work of Secret Emporium and the designers they work with on this website so I’m really happy that we have now teamed up to bring you Amelia’s Award.

Secret Emporium at SGP christmas fair
Diane Turner at the Secret Emporium Christmas Market. Photography by Elizabeth Khan–Greig.

Secret Emporium at SGP EA Burns
EA Burns stall at Secret Garden Party.

This summer Amelia’s Magazine and Secret Emporium will celebrate the best in graduate design by helping a gifted young designer to launch a career as a designer maker. We are searching for a super talented graduate with bags of ideas about what they would like to make. This could be: jewellery, sunglasses, visors, clothing, accessories, illustrated goods, screen printed wares or art based food. Products with ethical or environmental considerations will be favoured.

Secret Emporium yellow cheetahs spangled sunglasses
Yellow cheetah sunglasses by Spangled at Secret Emporium.

And now for the best bit of all: the Prize! The winner of Amelia’s Award will be gifted a scholarship place worth £495 to showcase and sell their work with Secret Emporium at Wilderness Festival (held in Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire on 8th – 11th August 2013). They will be profiled and promoted on Amelia’s Magazine, as well as through the Secret Emporium and Wilderness Festival promotional channels. A couple of runners up will also receive special recommendations and promotion in Amelia’s Magazine, and for the winner there will be the potential to become part of Secret Emporium in the future.

Secret Emporium tent at festival
This is a great opportunity for a talented young design graduate to kickstart a glittering career so we can’t wait to hear from you! All we are looking for right now is some brilliant design ideas, the ambition to create wonderful things, and the desire to win Amelia’s Award and be a part of Secret Emporium this summer. Advice will be on hand to ensure those ideas become a reality, so don’t delay: fill in the form at this link now, or pass the information on to any talented design graduate friends who might be interested! The closing date for submissions is Tuesday 2nd July. *NOW EXTENDED*

Secret Emporium Rosita Bonita
Secret Emporium Rosita Bonita siren collection
Rosita Bonita. Photography by Emma Saunders.

Here’s a bit more information about Secret Emporium and Wilderness Festival to whet your palette:

Secret Emporium seeks out grass roots designers and curates events, collaborations and mentorship schemes to support designers and launch their careers. Every summer Secret Emporium embarks on a tour of the best British festivals with a tent full of independent designers hand sourced and curated from a mix of graduates and more established labels. Each designer takes a 8ft x 6ft pitch and sells their fashion, jewellery, art or illustration to the crowds for 4 full days. It allows designers who are starting out and who perhaps don’t have their label with stockists yet, who are doing things independently for themselves, the opportunity to access up to 60,000 people for sales. Designers get to interact with customers and benefit greatly from being juxtaposed with other designers who are able to share the same trials and successes of growing their own business. Collaborations are born and ideas are shared, but ultimately the most important part of being with Secret Emporium is the access to so many people thirsty for independent design, which results in sales and revenue that allows designers to financially support themselves.

Secret Emporium at SGP Daisy Thomas
Daisy Thomas at Secret Emporium.

Wilderness Festival is a 15,000 person music and culture festival at Cornbury Park in Oxfordshire on 8th – 11th August 2013. Secret Emporium has a tent at Wilderness festival each year showcasing the best of independent British designers. The winner of Amelia’s Award will win a scholarship place in this tent worth £495. Wilderness Festival is a particular favorite for Secret Emporium as the Wilderness crowd love the tent and, financially, it is the most successful festival of the season.

Secret Emporium sign
Grace Du Prez at SGP. Photo by Maria Papadimitriou.

Further reading:
My reviews of Wilderness Festival in 2011 here and here (including photos of the Secret Emporium tent), an extensive review of the Secret Emporium tent at Secret Garden Party in 2012 by Maria Papadimitriou, a piece about Secret Emporium artist Lauren Baker and a recent interview with jeweller Rosita Bonita by Jessica Cook.


Categories ,Amelia’s Award, ,Cornbury Park, ,Diane Turner, ,Grace Du Prez, ,Lauren Baker, ,Oxfordshire, ,Rosita Bonita, ,Scholarship, ,Secret Emporium, ,Secret Emporium Christmas Market, ,Secret Garden Party, ,Spangled, ,Wilderness Festival

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Amelia’s Magazine | Free Range Art & Design Show 2013: Week One Review

Free Range show 2013
The graduate shows are upon us and that can only mean one thing… I’ll be heading down to the Truman Brewery on a weekly basis to discover the most inspiring new designers graduating in 2013. Due to the fact that I was off camping in rural Sussex last week (bliss) I only just made it along in time to view the first week’s showing at Free Range Graduate Shows. Sadly Somerset College was already packing up, but here’s the best of what I found elsewhere.

Suzanne Kugler at Coventry Uni
Fashion students from Coventry University had created an innovative display out of cardboard boxes, with exciting over-sized ceramic jewellery by Suzanne Kugler taking pole position in the window.

Perverted Penguins at Greenwich Uni
Next door University of Greenwich was showcasing the best of it’s new designers in multiple disciplines – I liked huge creative typography by Ben of Perverted Penguins.

African beads by King's Edogiawerie
In a dark corner an intriguing laser cut description of African beads had been made by the brilliantly named King’s Edogiawerie.

Stunning beaded accessories by Sophia Denny
Goldsmiths had taken over the largest area in the basement to display a plethora of different design ideas under the This is War moniker. I was attracted to stunning beaded accessories inspired by history by Sophia Denny Design.

Tools to build emotional intelligence by Fanny Bissa
With children and friends aplenty frolicking around her stand Fanny Bissa‘s clever and colourful tools to build emotional intelligence warranted a closer look: I can imagine small people in particular would love to play around with her chalkboard shapes, but their usage could also be adapted to adult situations – find out more on her elegantly designed blog, Learn to Solve, here.

Emily Sutcliffe at Southampton Solent
Finally, I was drawn to Emily Sutcliffe‘s 80s tastic fashion alphabet at Southampton Solent University, which runs a course specialising in Fashion Graphics.

If you have just graduated and are wondering what to do with the rest of your life, why not check out our inaugural Amelia’s Award, the winner of which will receive a sponsored place to sell creative goods with the Secret Emporium at the Wilderness Festival this summer.

I look forward to discovering much more talent in the weeks to come – don’t forget to follow me on instagram (where all the above images appeared first) if you want to discover it in real time with me. My listing for Free Range can be found here.

Categories ,2013, ,Amelia’s Award, ,Emily Sutcliffe, ,Fanny Bissa, ,Fashion Graphics, ,Free Range, ,goldsmiths, ,Graduate Shows, ,instagram, ,King’s Edogiawerie, ,Learn to Solve, ,Perverted Penguins, ,review, ,Secret Emporium, ,Somerset College, ,Sophia Denny Design, ,Southampton Solent University, ,Suzanne Kugler, ,The Secret Emporium, ,This is War, ,Truman Brewery, ,University of Greenwich, ,Wilderness Festival

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Amelia’s Magazine | An interview with Josh Patterson: Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion featured artist.

Birmingham City University graduate Josh Patterson creates intense fantastical images in a distinctive colour palette that immediately caught my eye at New Designers this year. His artwork for Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion was inspired by the super pretty Wilderness Festival, but will surely appeal to festival lovers anywhere. I am also super pleased to announce that Josh is creating the cover for my book… and it’s already looking absolutely fabulous.

You’ve already done exceptionally well for a graduate, how did Birmingham City Uni set you up for your career?
BCU was a great place for me to go to. The course and facilities on campus were top notch; although, I almost wish I had made more use of them during my time there. As I’m sure with most creative courses, the tutors really push you to extend the boundaries of your creative thinking. But what I found really useful about BCU was their focus on preparing us for what the industry would be like. With talks from the AOI, agents and top illustrators, I think the majority of my year left with the necessary knowledge to do well in this competitive industry.

What awards have you won?
I won two awards at the Lara Vis Com Awards ceremony this year. The first was called, ‘The Illustration Award’ and was sponsored by the AOI. I believe this was to go to the most promising new illustrator, so that was very encouraging! The prize for this was a 3-month internship with the AOI. But I’ll talk more about that a bit later. The second award was the ‘Illustration Using Print Award’ – which was sponsored by Nobrow. The prize for this one was a portfolio review with Sam Arthur, the Managing Director and Founder of Nobrow. This was a great opportunity to get some professional advise on my work, and being a huge fan of Nobrow myself, it was great to simply have a one on one chat with him.

How have you found commissions for work to date?
The majority of my commissions at the moment have been from people/companies contacting me via email. Most of them having stumbled across my website or seen my stuff advertised on various social media sites. I’ve actually just been approached by an architectural company in Guatemala, Mexico – about potentially doing some illustrations for an up and coming project they’re working on. I guess that goes to show the power of the Internet and social media in today’s society! However, I do still send out samples to magazines and newspapers – that’s how I got the Computer Arts job.

What inspires your style and colour palette?
Anything and everything really… I try to document the inspirational things I see, whether it’s a quick sketch or taking a photo. Usually the latter if I’m on the move! For example, I was on the train the other day and noticed the colours in the pattern on the floor so I whipped my phone out and started snapping away. I did get a few strange looks mind you… I try to keep up to date with what is current in the industry and see how I can interpret certain aesthetics or concepts in my own way. I’ve always enjoyed drawing people with small heads and elongated figures as I find this almost adds personality to the characters in my drawings yet, allows me to maintain a strange sense of anonymity throughout an illustration.

How do you create your artworks?
I’ll sketch the roughs and scan them into Adobe Illustrator. Once the vector drawing is built up on a grayscale I’ll start to think about a colour scheme for the illustration. I like working in grayscale initially as this allows me to establish the correct tone and shading in an image. It also makes it easier when working with gradients too. After all this I superimpose the textures into the final coloured illustration.

What kind of atmosphere best suits you when working?
At the moment I work in my studio from home. I’m pretty content working by myself as it allows me to get my head down without there being too many distractions. However, I think I’ll be looking to rent a studio space soon, preferably one that is shared with other creatives as I appreciate getting other peoples inputs on my works in progress. I really enjoy freelancing as I can work to my own schedule, which is a real privilege of the job. I also love the fact I get to listen to music all day, as this is another thing I’m immensely passionate about. But, it is probably one of my biggest distractions when trying to work. I find myself forever trawling through the deepest reaches of Spotify discovering new music and making new playlists.

How did you come up with the idea for your colouring book illustration?
My submission was inspired by a recent trip to Wilderness Festival. I was so captivated by the atmosphere there that I was looking for any excuse to illustrate it, so this brief was perfect! I’ve made the illustrations slightly personal by highlighting particular events that my friends and I got up to while we were there… So there may be a few private jokes in there! In an attempt to capture a sense of the chaotic nightlife I’ve experimented with a slightly more vibrant colour palette to what I usually use. I’ve juxtaposed this chaos with the tranquil scenes of boats in the (hot-tub surrounded) lake and people doing yoga: in order to represent a genuine feel for the festival.

What have you been doing at the AOI?
For the past three months as well as working on freelance projects, I’ve also been interning with the AOI and assisting the awards manager in curating the World Illustration Awards exhibition. This has been an amazing and invaluable experience for me – especially at this stage in my career. I’ve met some awesome people, made some great connections and learnt a lot about the industry during this time. They’ve helped me out massively when it comes to accepting commissions and pricing my work as well. I would highly recommend to any illustrator (new or experienced) to consider becoming a member as it will only make you more knowledgeable of the industry, thus making you much more professional as a creative.

I hear you have a few other projects on the go, can you tell us more about them?
I’ve just finished a project for a company called RM2, who specialize in employee share schemes for private companies. They’re in the process of writing a book about their industry and asked me to illustrate the front cover – which unfortunately I can’t share with you as the book hasn’t been published yet! I also produced a series of 4 illustrations to accompany certain headings on their website. I pretty much had free reign when it came to thinking up the concepts behind this project. However, I was restricted with the colour scheme, as they wanted it to more or less match the colours of their logo. I sometimes enjoy working with colour restrictions as it encourages me to focus on other elements of an illustration and I’ll often produce an outcome with a much more interesting composition or perspective.

I’ve also just closed on a deal with a company called Bramwell Brown to produce a series of three different clock designs for them. I’m very excited to get started on this project, as I’ve not done any illustration to this kind of format before. The clocks are really cool as well; they have illustrations that rotate inside them, with a section that shows certain parts of the image relative to what the weather is like that day. They have various other themed ones as well but are interested in me creating a London styled one. And have, again, given me free reign on the concepts for the other two. So I’m very excited to get started on this one!

You can find the stunning work of Josh Patterson in Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion, available from Kickstarter soon.

Categories ,#ameliasccc, ,Adobe Illustrator, ,Adult Coloring Book, ,Adult Colouring Book, ,Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion, ,AOI, ,Birmingham City University, ,Bramwell Brown, ,Coloring, ,Coloring Book, ,Colouring, ,Colouring Book, ,Computer Arts, ,Illustration Using Print Award, ,interview, ,Josh Patterson, ,Kickstarter, ,Lara Vis Com Awards, ,Nobrow, ,RM2, ,The Illustration Award, ,Wilderness Festival, ,World Illustration Awards

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Amelia’s Magazine | Wilderness Festival 2011: Sunday Review

Laura Marling by Jenny Lloyd
Laura Marling by Jenny Lloyd.

Sunday at Wilderness Festival came somewhat early due to my ill informed decision to put up the tent in the family camping area, health a major no no when you’ve been up late and the little buggers are raring to go at 7am. If only there had been a decent map, or someone to guide us towards the quiet area when we arrived (we did ask, and were told to camp wherever we fancied).

Wilderness Festival 2011 review photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

The next issue was locating something decent to eat for breakfast, which proved predictably difficult given the small number of food vendors on site. For a festival that boasted of its culinary stripes I found this aspect sadly lacking, and in many ways inexcusable. Wilderness must have known how many tickets were sold, and how many could be fed at the giant daily banquets (which sold out long before we had a chance to book). Why then were there not enough food stalls to feed everyone else? At all times there were huge queues, and if I’d had small children to feed I would have been frankly fuming. As it was we tried to grab our meals at downtimes when the queues were not so long.

Tom Hodgkinson by Barb Royal.

Then it was time to head straight back to The Idler Academy to take advantage of their eclectic daily line up. Brave Old World saw a conversation between Idler founder Tom Hodgkinson and his friend Matthew de Abaitua, who has just written a book about The Art of Camping.

Wilderness Festival 2011 review tom hodgkinson photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review Matthew de Abaitua photo by Amelia Gregory
Art-of-camping Cover
Particularly entertaining was their mutual disdain for Glamping, and their po-faced conclusion that they could earn more as purveyors of festival yurts than writers.

Wilderness Festival 2011 review theo simon photo by Amelia Gregory
Theo Simon of Seize the Day gave a passionate speech in praise of the Luddites, who stood up for their rights 200 years ago this year. Being a talented musician he easily glided between talking and live performance of traditional folk songs used to promote their ideologies.

zocalo 2011 Poster
David Bramwell spoke amusingly of his year long trip in search of Utopia at a string of intentional communities across the world, including Findhorn, Damanhur, Esalen and Osho Leela. Despite his sometimes cynical commentary it was obvious that he had made many good friends along the way before returning to his home in Brighton where he decided to play his part in creating an urban Utopia – setting up the Zocalo, whereby local residents get their chairs out on the streets and make new friends in the community. He hopes the idea will spread so why not check out his website for more information (also check out the poster above).

Wilderness Festival 2011 review beyond the valley photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review rosita bonita photo by Amelia Gregory
The pink tented Secret Market Emporium area stocked a whole host of small maker designers, including Beyond the Valley (who designed the Wilderness website and programme) and I totally fell for Rosita Bonita‘s printed leather necklaces. Love.

Wilderness Festival 2011 review playsuit parlour photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review vagabond van photo by Amelia Gregory
The Playsuit Parlour stocked wonderful wrap dresses made from upcycled ethnic fabrics, and from a beautiful renovated silver airstream the Vagabond Van sold environmentally conscious clothes and jewellery.

Wilderness Festival 2011 review Daniel Johnston photo by Amelia Gregory
I only caught the end of Daniel Johnston, who looked like he had just climbed out of bed, trackie bottoms tucked into bunched up white socks.

Wilderness Festival 2011 review Guillemots photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review Guillemots photo by Amelia Gregory
The Guillemots at Wilderness Festival
The Guillemots at Wilderness Festival by Dan Lester.

Guillemots followed up with an energetic set, which made me realise just how many of their songs I am familiar with. And I was quite transfixed by the bassist’s shorts playsuit.

Wilderness Festival 2011 review Laura Marling photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review Laura Marling photo by Amelia Gregory
Our last act of the day was Laura Marling, who gave a staggering solo acoustic set, a testament to her incredible talent, ‘I’m conscious of not being a party festival band so I’m going to play… a slow depressing song,’ she said before holding the large crowd in near silence for an hour – something of a feat.

YouTube Preview ImageLaura Marling live at Wilderness Festival

We left Wilderness Festival as the remaining festival goers geared up for one last night of late summer abandonment. I had a wonderful time but there were quite a few aspects of the festival that need tweaking: when people pay a lot of money to go to a festival there is no excuse for shirking on certain basic provisions. Next year there simply have to be more food stalls with more choice of food and there need to be more loos tended to more frequently, especially at hotspots, eg. near the main stage. Given the popularity of the discussions bigger tents for these would be a wise idea. And it turns out that even at a festival that trumpets its other attractions the music remains extremely important: it definitely felt as if there should have been more choice, and a second main stage.

Wilderness Festival 2011 review photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review photo by Amelia Gregory

Wilderness Festival retained much of the eccentric magic that makes Secret Garden Party so special but it didn’t quite deliver on the added extras: something to work on for 2012.

Don’t forget to check in with my review of Saturday at Wilderness Festival too.

Categories ,2011, ,acoustic, ,Barb Royal, ,Brave Old World, ,Cornbury Park, ,Damanhur, ,Dan Lester, ,Daniel Johnston, ,Esalen, ,Findhorn, ,Glamping, ,guillemots, ,Intentional Communities, ,Jenny Lloyd, ,Laura Marling, ,Luddites, ,Matthew de Abaitua, ,Osho Leela, ,review, ,Secret Garden Party, ,Secret Market Emporium, ,Seize the Day, ,The Art of Camping, ,The Idler Academy, ,Theo Simon, ,Tom Hodgkinson, ,utopia, ,Wilderness Festival

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Amelia’s Magazine | Wood Festival 2011: a special preview interview with founder Robin Bennett

Wood Festival  Relax

Wood Festival is mere weeks away, sale so what better opportunity to catch up with one of the founders? I asked Robin what inspired him to create this fabulous boutique festival, check and why being sustainable is so very important to him.

Wood Festival tent

What initially inspired you to start Wood Festival and what were your goals in putting it together?
I have a life-long interest in environmental issues, and the relationship of these to festivals was brought home when freak floods caused the postponement of Truck Festival in July 2007, flooding the village of Steventon and my parents’ house too. While these floods may or may not be to do with global warming, it did make us think. We also thought that if we ran some more events we’d be less susceptible to such ‘acts of God’, and for our first new event, Wood, we thought it would be good to make it an example, even the greenest event in the country (though there are some other very fine contenders for that crown).

Woodfest Portable+Solar+Generators

It has been awarded Gold standard by A Greener Festival and Industry Green 2*, and we’re shortlisted for the Music Week Green Business award, so we are getting there. I also had a newborn son and wanted to create an event that was suitable for small children and families, which certainly has become the case, as children nearly outnumber adults at Wood! Our new company which has run the events since 2007, Truck Enterprises, has a mission: “to build community through music and the arts”, and that’s what we try to do.

YouTube Preview Image
2007: Year of the Flood.

How do you manage to run so many events, and your own shop?
I’m not sure if manage is the word, it’s more like juggling hot potatoes, even on-fire potatoes… the idea is they form part of a greater whole, and make out lives more balanced. They certainly make a lot of work! we have some quite efficient methods and systems, but then we try to work individually with the community around each event, which means there are no short cuts. For example, Wood is held at a community living experiment/eco-village called Braziers Park. The shop – Truck Store – is run day-to-day by our friends from Rapture, an independent record store in Witney, a Cotswold market town. My brother works in there to keep things family. There are many Bennetts involved in the Truck Enterprises team… maybe that explains it!

A documentary about Wood Festival made in 2009.

Can you tell us more about the Truck shop – what is special about it and what can people find there? if people don’t live in Oxford where can they tap into your offerings?
Truck Store is a shop, and also a hub for the Oxford music community – it has great big windows, tables and chairs for those who just want to read a magazine, and a stage for live music events such as Record Store Day. It sells loads of vinyl, the best new CD releases, comics, DVDs, festival tickets, and even cuddly Truck monsters. It’s also an all-year base for all things Truck and a chance to say hello. You can always find interesting, helpful and unusual music advice from the staff that is more personalised than you might get on the internet. It’s close to the Oxford Tube (St Clements) stop so no excuse not to visit from London. It has a facebook page and twitter but not yet a website. The events have websites – and

Wood festival Street

What was your highlight of Wood last year?
Seeing the Make Your Own DIY Wormeries workshop sell out – if that’s the term. Who knew so many people wanted to make their own wormery? In fact, the children’s Sunday morning fancy dress parade is always a highlight and taps into some strange pagan instinct…

Trevor Moss & Hannah Lou playing The Allotment Song at Wood Festival 2009 in a pedal-powered tent from Magnificent Revolution.

Why is sustainability so important to you? is it something you’ve grown up with, or that you have found over the years?
I was aware of the issue from the age of 5 or 6… picketed Macdonald’s at age 10, etc, so it goes back a way. I was lucky as a child to be able to roam freely in the woods and see farming conditions first hand, an opportunity many children now don’t have. I became aware of the importance of education on the subject after being a trustee of a charity called Siren which worked on conservation education, hence there is a great emphasis on that at Wood. Really, sustainability is important for all of us – it’s hard to actually be opposed to it! Having child(ren) certainly reminds you that the world must be left in as good a state as it can be. As a dominant species, it’s our responsibility.

Wood Festival child

What are your current hot tips for the festival season?
Bell tents, at least, I’d like one. Dreaming Spires, my band, will be at some festivals. We will try to be hot. Gaggle are appearing at Truck and sound quite novel, a choir of indie opera singers. Mama Rosin, at Wood, are a Swiss Cajun band. What is that? Come find out.

Cat Martino dancing to Dreaming Spires in Truck America
Cat Martino dancing to Dreaming Spires in Truck America.

Just Can’t Keep This Feeling In by Dreaming Spires.

Why should people come to Wood this year?
It’s a special experience – where else can you make your own musical instrument from vegetables, or go foraging in the woods for food? *NB, we have normal food too.

I don’t know about you but I can’t wait to get to Wood. Here’s my full listing here.

Categories ,2011, ,A Greener Festival, ,Award, ,Brazier’s Park, ,Cat Martino, ,charity, ,Dreaming Spires, ,gaggle, ,Green Business, ,Just Can’t Keep This Feeling In, ,Macdonald’s, ,Magnificent Revolution, ,Mama Rosin, ,Music Week, ,MusicWeek, ,Rapture, ,Record Store Day, ,Robin Bennett, ,Siren, ,Steventon, ,sustainable, ,Swiss Cajun, ,The Allotment Song, ,Trevor Moss & Hannah Lou, ,Truck America, ,Truck Enterprises, ,Truck Festival, ,Truck Store, ,Vinyl, ,Witney, ,Wood Festival, ,Wormeries

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