If you go down to the woods today… you may witness one of the most atmospheric gigs of your life. Inspired by the success of local concert programmes at Thetford Forest and Westonbirt Arboretum, in 2001 the Forestry Commission decided to boost public engagement with their outstanding locations using excellent music to attract people who wouldn’t otherwise have thought to visit.
It’s working. Since The Levellers and Joolz Holland first toured four forests, more than a million music fans have attended Forest Live concerts across seven participating venues, with last year’s top-flight bookings including Elvis Costello and Paul Weller. 44% of gig-goers surveyed by TNS said they’d never visited the site before, 78% planned to return outside the concert programme, and almost all hoped to attend future gigs.
Forest Live 2014 has something for everyone. We take a look at the venues and what’s on offer this year.
Thetford Forest, Suffolk
Thetford Forest encompasses 20% of the Breckland Environmentally Sensitive Area, and is managed for timber production, sustainability and nature conservation. The High Lodge Forest Centre will this year host evenings with Suede, the Pogues, Boyzone, Katherine Jenkins, Deacon Blue and Rebecca Ferguson.
Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire
Set in a heritage Cotswolds landscape, Westonburt House has formal Victorian gardens and an arboretum presenting one of the world’s most important tree collections in an informal, picturesque setting. Gigs among the rare plant specimens will include Little Mix, Suede, Boyzone, Deacon Blue, Katherine Jenkins and Rebecca Ferguson.
Bedgebury Pinetum, Kent
The most complete collection of conifers in the world, Bedgebury’s 12,000 trees include rare, endangered and historically important specimens. A network of paths allows visitors to venture into its 300 acres on foot or by bike. Jessie J and Paul Weller will appear amid the pines.
Cannock Chase Forest, Staffordshire
Set in Cannock Chase, a tiny Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Cannock Forest provides enchanting woodland walks around the picturesque Fairoak or Sherbrook valleys, with chances to see fallow deer and rare and endangered birds. Performing in a tranquil clearing are Jessie J and Paul Weller.
Dalby Forest, Yorkshire
A dramatic Ice-Age landscape on the southern slopes of the North York Moors, the valleys and plateau of Dalby Forest provide habitats for badgers, roe deer and nightjars among the pretty mix of indigenous trees. James Blunt, Paul Weller and Deacon Blue will appear between the oaks.
Delamere Forest, Cheshire
A shady oasis on an agricultural plain, Delamere Forest’s 972 hectares of mixed deciduous and evergreen woodland features several lakes, creating habitats for woodland birds, dragonflies and butterflies. Paul Weller, Jessie J and Boyzone will sing under the stars.
Sherwood Pines, Nottinghamshire
The refuge of Robin’s merry men can be explored in foot or horseback, or you can study outlaw skills like shelter-building, willow weaving, green woodworking and whittling. Boyzone, Jessie J and Paul Weller will be found amid the conifers of the Forest Park.
There are still tickets available for many of the gigs.