In The Woods Festival takes place this year on September 1st-2nd. As fans of this unique festival, we cught up with the festival organisers, Tim Adam-Smith and Will Brown, to talk about their plans for the festival’s future.
Last year marked the 10th anniversary of In The Woods festival – that’s quite the feat! How has the festival changed over the years?
“It’s crazy to think that it’s been over 10 years since we threw a party in the woods for 80 of our mates, and whilst that spirit remains very much alive the festival has changed some what over the years. We don’t believe in standing still and like to make sure that we adapt and evolve with every year, ultimately trying to make sure that even if you’ve been to ITW since day one there’s something new for you to discover. Adding areas like The Spinney (spoken word/ poetry) The Den (dance area) has kept the site feel dynamic and has ultimately deepened our artistic programme.
Whilst most festivals try to expand we’ve deliberately kept small and retained our home-made ethos – we believe it’s better to appreciate all the bands we have on offer (we alternate each stage) than to have a mental breakdown over who to go and watch when there’s just too much choice on offer. We spend a lot of time deliberating over the order of our line-up and want it to feel like a musical journey that everyone can enjoy.”
Whilst garnering some fantastic awards and press, you’ve maintained the intimate size of the festival, protecting it’s intimate, exclusive feeling. Has that been a difficult decision to uphold?
“It’s certainly very tempting to grow your audience size and get larger but ultimately for us we’ve always been focused on delivering a fantastic show centered around the bands and artists that we think are doing the most interesting and innovative stuff in the industry. We go to great effort to check out the live show of any band that we’re interested in and most don’t make the cut, which is why it’s so important to do this with bands that are new on the scene. If we grew, this level of quality control wouldn’t be possible and the line-up would suffer as a result.
The other big factor is, we would lose the intimacy that is so much a part of the festival, from the performance spaces to the easy going, friendly vibe.”
Your eyes for up and coming acts have seen some very notable names grace the festival stages (Alt-j, Lianne La Havas, Glass Animals to name a few), making your festival a hotbed for those on the hunt for the next big thing. Was this what you wanted the festival to be seen as when you started out?
“This is something that developed very organically, it certainly wasn’t our MO when we started ITW. As everyone involved in organizing the festival were in bands, or some other part of the music industry. It felt a very natural direction for us to take and given the explosion in the number of bands on the live circuit, it made sense to try and sift through it all and present the best offerings, essentially acting as a noise filter for the public.”
The atmosphere at the festival seems so familiar. Even as newcomers a few years back we felt right at home. Is this something you speak to workers and volunteers about, or did it come naturally?
“At the end of the day, the festival is still 100% independent and it really is just an overgrown party. The volunteers and staff don’t need to be told to act a certain way – I think that the act of not giving them strict rules and guidelines is the reason their attitude is one of friendliness and affability. We hate the idea of things feeling too corporate or regimented so this attitude filters down naturally to everyone.”
Despite its modest size, the festival has a little something for everyone. Do you have a large team involved in finding acts to host?
“We’re pretty unconventional in how we go about building our line-up. There are 8 of us on the curation panel that meet twice a month to talk about who we think should be booked for the festival. As you can imagine everyone has varying tastes and likes certain genres more than others. The upshot of this way of working means that we only book bands that make a seriously good impression – if I’m played something that isn’t my usual cup of tea, but I can tell that it’s breaking new ground and has a great live show then I’m happy to have them booked. It means everyone fights hard for their particular offerings to get heard and only the strongest make the final list. This is definitely the secret to getting a really balanced line-up.”
Where can you see the festival going in coming years?
“We hope to keep the festival true to it’s roots and remain small in size for the foreseeable future. With so much competition in the festival market at the moment it’s imperative to innovate and keep making an event that people want to come to and that’s what we’ll endeavor to do. Over the last couple of years we’ve been working hard to extend the brand outside of the festival – we now have a series of podcasts, barn sessions and playlists that people who like what ITW is about can sink their teeth into.”
Finally, are there any other smaller-scale festivals which you think are currently bringing something new to the table?
“We’re about as small as they come really, but if I was to put one festival on the table that I think is doing something really cool it’s Brainchild festival – they’ve become good friends of ours over the years after reaching out to us for advice when they first started – they’re a bunch of very smart artistically engaged people, who embody the spirit of community and collaboration in the arts.”
Listen to our curated festival playlist below: