An immersive woodland event from an award winning team operating from a converted horsebox.

Friends gathered at event
Photo: Andrew Allcock

A joint project between creative event team Wild Rumpus and the National Forest Company, Timber celebrates the wellbeing effects of the forest and reconnects attendees with nature through music, art, literature and performance. We talk to event director Rowan Hoban about the ingredients that resulted in being awarded Best New Festival at the UK Festival Awards 2018.

Describe your event and how many people it attracts?
Timber is an immersive and revitalising weekend festival held in July over three days. It celebrates our relationship with the natural environment through carefully curated musical performances, installations, debates and workshops.

An audience of 6,000 attended the first event in 2018 at Feanedock, a 70 acre woodland site in the Midlands at the heart of the National Forest – the first forest to be created in England for over 1,000 years.

A joyous, reflective festival, Timber gives people the chance to recharge and reconnect with family, friends, nature and, most importantly, themselves. We were thrilled to be awarded Best New Festival at the UK Festival Awards 2018.

Timber event performance

Explain a bit about your venue and its history
Timber is held at Feanedock, a 70 acre woodland site on the Leicestershire / Derbyshire border – part of the ‘forest in the making’ at the heart of the National Forest. It’s a beautiful, diverse site including rolling parkland, established woodlands and swathes of brand new trees. More than anything, we love that it tells the story of the National Forest. The transformation of an industrial landscape is spelled out here in all its glory.

What is the event’s history?
The National Forest Company approached us at Wild Rumpus a couple of years ago to discuss the idea of setting up a festival as a joint venture. We work from four acres of woodland in a converted horsebox and treehouse and are passionate about the creative, health and wellbeing impacts we get from working immersed in nature, so the festival felt like a good fit.

How does the relationship work with the venue you hold the event at?
The land where the festival takes place is owned by the National Forest Company, our partner in Timber Festival. Last year’s festival was the first event held on the site, and it was certainly a steep learning curve! There are, of course, huge benefits in the festival organisers owning the site; we’re able to invest in permanent infrastructure and can take our time setting up.

How did you find applying for permission to run the event?
We have a premises license for the event, which was fairly standard and straightforward to apply for. We’ve applied for them before for other events, although every council is different. We found the process fairly straightforward.

Hammocks in the woods at Timber

How have you planned the layout of the event and what structures do you use?
We learnt lots from the first year of Timber. Coming fresh to a new site, you have to try to predict how people will move around the space. We’ve made some changes from last year. The kinds of things we think about are the different art forms we’ll programme, timings, sound bleed, cover etc, as well as how the spaces will feel. We want the festival to feel exploratory and to tell the story of a woodland in the making. We have a range of timber framed structures, canvas marquees and tipis, mostly hired but a few purpose built too.

How did you research and source your marquees, flooring, bars etc?
We aim to source as many of the suppliers and contractors for the festival from within the National Forest as possible. It’s important to us that the festival has a positive social, economic and cultural impact for the forest.

What entertainment do you offer and how did you choose and source it?
We’re ambitious in the impact we want Timber to have, and the programming reflects that. We invite the audience to join new thinkers as they challenge us to re-examine our relationship with the world. Gather with artists, musicians and writers, as they respond and react to the forest in bold and exhilarating ways. Activists and makers will invite us to join them in joyous celebration of nature. The rebels and the unexpected from the worlds of music, art, performance and wellbeing will play, provoke and inspire as we change the world.

We spend the year seeing great stuff at other festivals and events, reading, listening and watching inspiring artists and organisations.

Child and mother at Timber

What provisions do you make for power, lights and sound?
There will be three music stages at Timber festival this year. We have the usual audio and lighting for these and other smaller spaces around site as well as a range of light and audio installations throughout the site.

How do you manage admissions and visitor safety?
We’re selling tickets online via Ticketsellers and as well as weekend tickets there are day tickets available and discounts for local residents. Safety is part of our event management plans and is informed by our experience producing outdoor events and festivals for the last nine years.

What ground protection do you use for cars and footfall?
This year, the National Forest Company are investing in some permanent trackway through site, which will give us a great route for vehicles during set up and the audience during the event. There will also be a small amount of hired temporary tracking but most of the ground drains well.

How do you publicise the event?
A comprehensive comms plan is in place which looks at a whole range of marketing and PR opportunities, from social media, website, flyers, reciprocal marketing with partner organisations, competitions etc.

Workshop at Timber

What challenges have you faced?
Building up a new festival in a crowded market place is always tricky. We’re working in a new region in Leicestershire so building up local contacts has been challenging but as the event is a partnership with the National Forest Company they are already well established in the area and have been able to broker many introductions. We’re seeing a lot of returning audience from 2018 which is great.

How have you financed the event and how profitable is it?
The event is set up as a not for profit entity and is financed through a mixed income model of ticket sales, concessions, merchandise, sponsorship and grants.

What advice could you give to someone coming into the outdoor event industry?
To have a very clear vision of your event, and base it around something you feel truly passionate about. Authenticity shines through, and it is the events with real heart that stand the test of time, so don’t shy away from a niche market or programming if it’s in an area that you really love.

Be very clear about what impact it is you are trying to have, who your audience are, what you are trying to achieve and then use your events to tell your story.

Signs at Timber


Peak Tipis: www.peaktipis.co.uk

Posh Frocks & Wellies: www.poshfrocksandwellies.co.uk

Travelling Barn: www.thetravellingbarn.co.uk

GAP: www.gap-group.co.uk

Ukloos: www.ukloos.co.uk

Ticketsellers: www.theticketsellers.co.uk

EEP: www.theeventpartnership.co.uk

Integro: www.integrogroup.com

Timber MainStage with BBC performance

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