A festival that aims to expand the consciousness of its attendees with great music and new experiences
We talk to founder Tim Rees about an event that grew out of the launch of glampsite marketing business Quality Unearthed. Now a three-day affair, the Unearthed Festival provides transformative experiences for those who attend, from babes in arms to nonagenarians!
Describe your event and how many people it attracts
The mission of Unearthed Festival is the expansion of consciousness from the material to the ethereal. By this we mean that we would like to introduce interesting experiences, be that in the form of vegetarian food, a particular musical style or performer, or perhaps spiritual or philosophical concepts that our community may not be exposed to on a day-to-day basis. The idea is that with greater understanding of the self and universe, we are better able to walk the path of happiness.
What is the event’s history?
We started in 2011 as a one day ‘business launch’ for Quality Unearthed, the glamping marketing agency that I founded, which was basically an excuse for a party with some cool things going on. It was really popular; the community got behind it so the following year we made it a two-day event. Now it is a popular three-day event – nobody wants it to end!
What inspired you to set up the festival?
I had the good fortune to meet many fascinating people during my travels around the world in my youth – often when living in forests, caves, monasteries and fascinating communities. The process of learning and being inspired was something I wanted to share with my local community in West Wales. We are blissfully in our own bubble in this part of the world, but that can come at the expense of not being exposed to the varied activities taking place further up the M4.
We aim to be a community event, and we’re proud to host a variety of characters, ranging from farmers to fisherman, eco-community dwellers to business folk, babes in arms to an older crowd. In fact, we have had couples meet at Unearthed, then bring their babies to their first festival here. Even our 94-year-old neighbour is a fan! We orchestrate the event so that the start to each day is gentle and peaceful, building in action until the evening, where there is a good knees-up. The site is laid out like a village green, the idea being that parents can be sitting enjoying the music and their kids can be running around with other kids and can’t easily go out of sight.
Pembrokeshire’s reputation as a culturally interesting and beautiful area precedes itself – we are blessed with a rugged coastline and, in many ways, a rugged, ancient culture. It is still the case that everyone knows everyone, and doors are left unlocked. This level of trust and support means that the local people really get involved in the festival and get behind it. I suspect that, in part, because there aren’t a lot of people living here, and not a wild night life (apart from the rugby clubs on a Saturday night), people seem to appreciate such an event taking place.
The fantastic St Davids Peninsula allows you the unique opportunity to explore three coastlines within a six-mile radius of the festival, do yoga in the morning, go and surf, come back to the site, eat some great vegetarian food, make a bow and arrow, dance to some great artists, and end the night drinking mead by the fire.
How did you find applying for permission to run the event?
We have found that Pembrokeshire County Council are very amenable to events happening on St Davids Peninsula. Festivals such as this draw in extra tourism to the area, which is one of the peninsula’s main sources of income. We have also been overwhelmed by the support of the local community, many of whom have stalls at the festival, and many of whom are part of the volunteer team. It is the support of the people of Pembrokeshire that make this festival the special annual event it is.
What provisions do you make for power, lights and sound?
We run the festival with the mindset that we tread lightly upon the land and do as little disruption to the environs and community that surround it – this includes sound moderation, the use of solar energy and as much green power as is viable, and we ask that guests take nothing but photos and leave nothing but photographs. We use a local recycling company to help us clean up and keep things green!
How do you manage admissions and visitor safety?
We have a fantastic team of volunteers who run our ticketing booth and parking, as well as trained on-site medical staff and security staff to ensure the safety and enjoyment of all festival-goers.
What entertainment do you offer?
I love the scheduling element of the festival. As it grows each year, more and more phenomenal acts get involved, ranging from musicians from all over the world, to reggae artists of great repute, as well as folk artists, with a regular Welsh language contingent and the annual Twmpath. We have acts like Natty, Jamie Cato (Faithless), Soom T, Undercover Hippy, Boy Azooga, and so many more.
The musical acts need to fit into either the world, reggae or folk music categories. We schedule these particular acts so as to create an architecture of experience throughout the weekend. The talks are a big part of the event – these are scheduled largely based on the topics they are covering, and we endeavour to introduce ideas and themes which push the boundaries of our understanding. A great example of this is when author, former physicist and priest Don MacGregor gave an absolutely superb talk about science and spirituality.
Performing artists range from circus performers, magicians, fire performers, stilt walkers, trapeze artists, poets, wood carvers and more.
How do you publicise the event?
The festival has grown exponentially year on year, and although we harness the power of social media, and have a fantastic website and marketing team, we are very lucky that the enjoyment of our guests means that word of mouth and sharing of experiences bring more people to our beautiful event each year.
What are your plans for this year?
Plans for this year are revealed in stages over the next few weeks and months, but we can confirm exclusively to you that we’re welcoming the fantastic Captain Accident this year, as well as returning artists Skybarkers and Los Pulpos, who always draw the crowds. Check out our Facebook page, @unearthedinafield, for exciting updates as we reveal the top artists for 2018.
What are your favourite memories?
One moment that springs to mind is a story about a heavily autistic gentleman who came along to Unearthed Festival. He finds social interaction difficult, but was seen speaking to people, laughing and dancing. When his wife was told about it, she burst into tears of happiness. This is why we do Unearthed Festival.
Another favourite memory would be watching Natty playing the headline gig – everyone was in great spirits, and I was dancing with my girlfriend Miska; it was a beautiful moment. I remember thinking, no matter how many tickets sold, it would have been worth all the work just for that moment. There may have been some kissing going on, too!
Each year we have an epic fire sculpture which we light on the last night of the festival. In 2017, the sculpture was especially large, and the flames could be seen for miles. Seeing the sparks of light refract across people’s faces as they danced joyfully around the fire as the drums beat and folk sang was an epic few moments… until we thought the sparks would set the trees on fire, then we panicked!
What other outdoor hospitality sectors do you operate in?
I run the glamping accommodation agency Quality Unearthed. The glamping industry owes a debt of gratitude to festivals, and more specifically, to festival go-ers. These are the people who are developing the skills and have the creative minds to build unusual structures. There aren’t many festivals that don’t have tipis or yurts – these are what you might say were the original UK glamping structures.
What advice could you give to someone coming into the outdoor event industry?
Get a great team behind you. This festival would not be able to take place annually without the support of a strong management team, marketing team, loyal volunteers and fantastic suppliers. Always support local businesses where possible, as people come to Pembrokeshire to experience the authenticity of the area.
Communicating well with your local council should be a priority, as well as ensuring you have all relevant insurances in place before you begin thinking about acts and events. It is also important to organise events and artists that you enjoy, as the more that staff, management and artists are enjoying themselves, the more this sense of happiness transfers to festival goers.
29 June – 1 July
St Davids, Pembrokeshire