Fields are alive with the sound of music

Indianic will open Woodfest
Indianic will open Woodfest
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Farms are increasingly playing host to music festivals around the region. Chris Berry put on his dancing wellies to find out more about the growing trend.

When Sid James and Bernard Bresslaw dressed up as members of the flower-power generation in the film Carry on Camping in 1969 it defined an attitude. Live music festivals were purely for the young and farmers, such as those personified by actor Peter Butterworth, were not in favour.

Forty-three years later much has changed. The countryside has largely embraced a genre of scantily-clad, mud-loving rock, pop, jazz and folk aficionados who are as happy squelching barefoot through slush and detritus as they are when the sun shines.

Dalby Forest in the North York Moors now hosts an annual weekend of big names that has included Madness, Will Young and The Beautiful South; The Willowman Festival took place once again at Knayton, near Thirsk last month; and last week the Moonbeams Wold Top Brewery Festival featuring acoustic, folk and roots was held at Hunmanby Grange, Wold Newton in the East Riding.

The Deer Shed Festival makes its bow this weekend at Baldersby Park, Topcliffe, near Thirsk.

Now in its third year, this is set to attract 6,000 people, but there are others that will never reach that kind of mass attendance, that are far more homespun and are happy that way.

Farmer Richard Wood of Highcliffe Farm, Lees Moor, near Keighley came up with his own weekend of live music and camping five years ago. 
It may be the only festival 
that takes its name from its owner.

“I came up with Woodfest originally to raise funds for Wilsden Squash Club, which I am a member of, but it soon became a joint venture with Manorlands Hospice.

“My cousin Andrew organises many fundraising events and works for the hospice, so he gets involved with the running of the event.

“When we first started it was purely a gig in a tent in a field. Our crowd was mainly young farmers and the rural community.

“We now get a great spread of all ages and although we have only attracted audiences in their hundreds, the festival is increasing in numbers and this year we have a licence for over 500.

“I worry about it beforehand, wondering how it will go and whether people will turn up, but they do and it is getting easier.

“I would like it to grow further but I have no burning ambition to become the next Glastonbury. We run this two-day festival across three fields.

“It is a 15 acre site. That includes car parking and camping. If we can make around £10,000-£15,000 for Manorlands each year, then we’re quite happy with that.”

There are still antagonistic feelings from local residents in some areas where summer music festivals are held.

These usually manifest themselves in complaints about noise pollution, litter and traffic problems and are generally thought to be brought about by those who have bought properties in the countryside for the peace and seclusion.

One of the county’s more established festivals, Limetree, which had been based in Grewelthorpe over the 
past decade and was due to move to a new location closer to Masham, was stopped 
from going ahead this year mainly due to local public outcry.

The organisers are confident that it will be back in a new location where everyone is happy with it taking place in 2013. Clearly not everyone has changed their attitude from those Carry On days.

Andrew Wood believes that Highcliffe Farm is a perfect location.

“The nearest village is Cullingworth and that’s a mile and a half away. The prevailing wind is west to east and Bingley is the closest town five miles downwind.

“Richard gives tickets to all of the neighbouring farmers so that everyone knows what’s happening and most of them come down for the craic.”

Last year Richard was also so impressed that the ground had been left exceptionally tidy.

“With the way the weather has been I suspect several of the existing festivals may be feeling the pressure to carry on, especially if they have lost their event after having worked towards it all year.

“That can be heart-breaking as it was last week for the Great Yorkshire Show. But we’re okay here.

“For all the rain we’ve had the ground is pretty dry, and because we’re so high up it dries quickly when the rain comes.”

Andrew is also a farmer’s son, from Exley Head, near Keighley, but chose to work for Manorlands Hospice instead. He has never regretted it.

“The state of the dairy industry wasn’t right and still isn’t. I have always enjoyed managing events.

“Woodfest and others I’m involved with bring a lot of money into the charity.

“I was a member of Worth Valley YFC and got involved in events from there.

“It is a great training ground for event management and gave me the confidence to build this one.

“I think there is a new generation of farmers out there now who are keen to put on their own festivals as a result of their experience in running events with young farmers clubs.

“We make Woodfest dirt cheap for anyone to come to. It’s just £12 for a weekend pass, and that includes the camping.

“We don’t have big name acts, as we couldn’t afford them. What we do have are 18 bands playing a fantastic mix of original songs and covers.

“The Friday night is generally made up of those playing their own songs, whilst the Saturday afternoon and evening is more mainstream covers.”

This is one farm-based music event that doesn’t take itself too seriously either. There’s Farmer Wood’s ACowstick Marquee and they’ve also got Britain’s Got Talent’s Martyn Crofts taking a spot. For those who do not know him, he was the man with a saucepan on his head, acting as though he were a Dalek.

“He’s from Skipton. They’re a bit funny down that way, but you’ve got to get all the publicity you can!

“We also clash with the opening ceremony of another little event – The Olympics, so we’ve organised a big screen in the ACowstick marquee. We are calling it the Olym’pig Opening Ceremony.”

There will be one established name from the music business on show as Lee Southall, guitarist and vocalist with million-selling band The Coral, will be playing a set with Molly Jones and Matthew Fowlds.

Getting the fifth Woodfest under way will be local band Indianic, made up of five musicians from the surrounding villages. It will be their first appearance at the festival with their Clash-influenced indie rock since the band was formed 18 months ago.

They’re not farmers but Johann Shepherd has an 
ideal name for a farm-based festival and is the group’s bass player. He also runs a company called Angel Telecom, one of the event’s two main sponsors.

“Andrew approached my company. Since we were going to sponsor and we had the band as well I thought it would be good to be involved from both sides.

“I have known Andrew for a number of years and have always raised funds for Manorlands since I was a kid. We’re all from around here – Wilsden, Haworth 
and Keighley – so we’re hoping we’ll have a lot of support.”

Woodfest takes place at Highcliffe Farm, Lees Moor, near Keighley BD21 5QF on Friday July 27 and Saturday July 28.

The festival field is situated on Goff Well Lane, half a mile from the Keighley-Cullingworth road.

More music on the way

Other rural-based music festivals also taking place in Yorkshire this year include:

The Magic Loungeabout Festival, Broughton Hall 
– Friday-Sunday July 27-29

Galtres Festival 
– Crayke, near Easingwold Friday-Sunday, August 24-26

Leeds Festival 
– Bramham Park – Friday-Sunday, August 24-26