Radio man, music fan, trees helper and all round good guy Jon Ponting gives his #accessallareas account of life behind the scenes at 2000trees. Enjoy! Andy
We all know (and hopefully appreciate) a tonne of work goes on behind the scenes at an event like 2000trees. And somewhere between your typical festival-goer (who turns up on Friday and is gone by Sunday) and the dedicated festival creators (who meet on the Sunday to plan the following year), there’s a small handful of good-natured folks who have been privileged enough to get a unique viewpoint of the festival. I’m one of those ‘in-betweeny’ types, and this is my history of Trees.
I pick up this story some sevenish years ago. Me & Ells (should be Ells and I) were hosting a regular local music show on Stroud FM, and we had popped into town to meet and interview a young Andy Rea, who was handing out flyers and promoting his festival – now in its second year. How this arrangement had come about genuinely escapes me.
We chatted over some coffee and a digital recorder, and this is where I learnt all about the festival, first hand, from one of the founders. On hearing the news that both Frank Turner and Eighties Matchbox were headlining (showcasing my own varied musical taste), we got ourselves some tickets, and enjoyed every waking minute of it!
Next spring, there was a Battle of the Bands event for acoustic artists at the Frog & Fiddle in Cheltenham – winner plays at Trees. Ells was successful in competing but unsuccessful at winning. Ruth Bewsey was congratulated by all, and while the contest was going on, I grabbed some fresh interviews in the Green Room with Andy, and with a couple of his comrades – I think it was James and Hazel, but memories are hazy – then Jim Lockey spared me a few minutes to talk about his fledgling career in the music industry.
A couple of days after the 2010 Trees, a plea appeared on my Facebook page asking for a team of emergency litter-pickers to head back to the site. As it was a rare occurrence that our calendar was free we headed down, and experienced our first view of Trees post-event – a quiet, churned up dishevelled collection of fields.
The rubbish had already been taken away, but we spent a few hours collecting up cigarette butts, stray crisp packets and fox-scented beer cans from the sites hedgerows. It showed me the organisers really care, about everything.
It was like a forensics operation – a line of rubber-gloved individuals parading up and down the field where the pyramid stage had once stood. The barriers and rigging had all gone, but the grass marks still gave clue to their whereabouts. Then onto the Cave area, the footpaths and the car park.
By the time we’d finished the ground was so clean, the sheep could eat their dinner off it, and they promptly did – plus we got a couple of free tickets out of the deal. Win win!
Onto 2013 and our 2000trees started a couple of weeks earlier than most, when we offered to pop by Withington to help convert the farm into a festival. It’s an eerie moment when you drive through the gate, down the big dip and there’s no people, no backpacks, no stewards – just a farm track and empty space.
We found a small crew of helpers at the farmhouse, and spent the day furnishing coats of paint to random blocks of wood which, given enough time to dry and assemble, would be transformed into busk stops and signposts.
This was the first time we’d ventured as far as the land owners’ home. The peacocks you often hear in the distance during Trees were alongside us, showing supremacy over the chickens. Two royal blue plumed birds would make their distinct call – a third would attempt to join in, but always sounded like a rusty airhorn.
After a morning of painting stages and smirking at ‘Mr Honky’ we headed onto the festival site. The core Trees team had already been out with hundreds of stakes, laying out the positioning of stages, camping areas, footpaths, car parks, toilets, portable cabins and so on…
We joined in with the seemingly simple task of constructing the First Aid tents. It was like unpacking twenty Tesco Value garden gazebos and constructing them simultaneously. I made the ironic move of slicing my finger while freeing the First Aid tent from the packaging. But after that mishap, and after rebuilding the frame twice because we couldn’t tell the difference between our poles, we finally had something which resembled a tent. And we clearly did a good job – it was still there when it came round to festival time.
I’ve missed out so many tales from this blog. We’ve been to every Trees (apart from Year One), and enjoyed each one. The weather might not always play ball, and we may never win the Fancy Dress competition, but I don’t care. It’s a weekend which will always be a highlight on our calendar.
Jon Ponting is based near Cricklade, is music co-ordinator for the Treefest festival at Westonbirt Arboretum and presents The Late Gig – a local music show – on Swindon 105.5. Sunday evening’s from 9pm. He also manages www.4014.co.uk