Interview: Andy Rea, 2000 Trees Festival

Summer is nearly here, and alongside the comforting prospects of sunny days and balmy evenings, there is the ever exciting promise of a multitude of music festivals, with thousands of artists in the UK alone performing over the course of our island’s sweetest months. The big names have already rolled out the big guns, with Reading boasting a reformed Rage Against the Machine and Download screaming from the rooftops about KISS headlining.

But for those who don’t quite fancy getting crammed into a field with tens of thousands of other sweaty music fans, and who don’t quite have the guts to either buy or eat an overpriced burger from that burger van, there are a surprising amount of alternative and independant festivals popping up all over the country, offering a nicer atmosphere, intimate band performances, and some quality burgers.

One of these new specimens of weekenders is 2000 Trees, still an infant in just its second year. Taking place in the beautiful surroundings of the Cotswolds, the organisers of 2000 Trees work for a very different mission statement, putting the music first and foremost before any profiteering comes into question. Impressed with their bold efforts I got in touch with Andy Rea, one of the six dedicated music fans who have worked passionately to bring 2000 Trees to the public:

Brigade at 2000 Trees

Brigade performing to the audience, sunset and a lucky balloonist.

Hey Andy, would you mind starting things off by telling us a little bit about yourselves and what’s in store for this year’s 2000trees?

We are six friends who love live music, but became fed up of the festivals that were out there, so we started our own. The emphasis is on great music, great memories and great value for money, as well as being as environmentally friendly as possible.

There will be almost 60 bands, three stages and two nights of camping in a picturesque field in the Cotswolds, across a wide range of genres – so something for everyone.

So how did the concept of 2000trees come about?

We were sat around a campfire at a mainstream music event that shall remain nameless, and all of us felt disillusioned. Frustrated with ever-spiralling costs, poor facilities, the pursuit of profits at all costs, being crammed in, treated like children and not in any way relaxed. We decided festivals could be better and that we could make it happen. To us, festivals should have less commercial emphasis and instead be about a love of live music and having a great time in a sunny field.

The name 2000trees reflects our desire to promote green issues and awareness, particularly the threats from man-made climate change. We believe it is our social responsibility to have as little negative impact on the environment as possible. In a time where intervention on a governmental level is essential, we also want to show that individuals can take positive action to reduce their own carbon footprint.

2000 Trees Camping

Looks a lot more tempting than a swimming pool of a field eh?

I’m quite interested as to what audience you managed to pull last year. Do you think there really is a genuine demand for smaller, independent festivals compared to the behemoths that are Reading, Download etc?

We had almost 1,500 people at last year’s event which told us there is a demand for good, value for money music festivals. Many more tickets have flown out of the door this year which have been purchased from across the UK. I think music fans have many reasons for attending festivals and we hope that we offer most of them.

There must be quite a lot of challenge in organising something like this – what did you find to be the greatest problems?

Starting from scratch was both our greatest problem and our greatest strength. We knew we wanted to achieve something special but we also knew it would be a mammoth task, so we had to work out how to do it along the way. There were no major headaches and seeing the festival in full swing made it all worthwhile.

You are clearly set out to be anti-corporation. This is great, but how have you overcome the issues of funding and supplying the campers with much needed resources (toilets, food and most importantly alcohol!)?

The issues you mention are only issues when pursuit of profits is the primary objective. Yes, we have done everything ourselves in order to keep costs down – including training as SIA security – but no, we have not compromised on providing the facilities that festival-goers expect. And each year we will strive to improve those facilities as word spreads about 2000trees.

Frank Turner @ 2000 Trees

Frank Turner will be making a return to this years event.

You’ve gone a long way to emphasize the green nature of the festival. Do you really feel it’s possible to have a festival that is wholly eco-friendly, given the almost contradictory nature of thousands of people revelling in a field which is sure to cause a mess?

Our aim is to minimise environmental impact while raising awareness of ways festival-goers can take action – and the field was left spotless last year. Recycling stations and compost waste facilities on site helped us to recycle 66 per cent of waste in 2007 and our aim is to have zero waste. Where possible only locally-sourced, organic food and drink is sold – except our Fair Trade coffee stall. All food and drinks are served in either reusable or biodegradable (corn starch) containers.

Various environmental campaigners are situated on the festival site providing information on how we can all do our bit for the environment. Our policy is that the vast majority (if not all our bands) are UK-based, resulting in less miles travelled to reach the festival and zero use of air transport and there is a car sharing scheme in place.

All power and lighting is produced using locally-sourced biodiesel (recycled chip fat), which is significantly better than any petro-chemical alternative. At last year’s festival it ensured that we saved over two tonnes of carbon (in just one weekend!). That’s great, but the use of solar, wind and even pedal power is more environmentally friendly and our long term plan is to increase our use of renewable energy sources.
We realise that we still have a long way to go but we will never stop striving to improve. As well as sustainable energy sources we are also currently looking into sustainable festival travel and onsite composting.

Of course, you aren’t the only people to start developing a festival with green credentials, the most famous example being Glastonbury. But what do you think of Eavis’ weekend yourselves?
Glastonbury is the world’s best-known music festival so they must be doing quite a lot right. I think they have enjoyed a few years of uber-coolness – with famous faces queuing up to be photographed – but even with less tickets sold this year they are at the top of the festival tree as far as I’m concerned. A great event.

Inme @ 2000 Trees

Last year InMe were one of the headliners. This year 2000 Trees offers Reuben and Art Brut

Ok, let’s move away from the issue of the environment onto something a little more personal. I myself have become pretty disillusioned with festivals, not least because of the line-ups and corporate nature, but as a result of people’s behaviour at these events, with attendees seeming to think that because it’s a festival they can get away with whatever behaviour they wish. When I went to Download a few years ago, there were riots and a whole mass of tent burning, and it was pretty sickening. How do you go about combating this kind of care-free attitude?

Last year, after most people had packed up and gone, I watched someone carry her bags of rubbish across the full width of the field to the bin. She dropped them half way but rather than walk away, she gathered them up and put them all in the bins provided. This effort was brilliant and was typical of the attitude of pretty much everyone at the event. There was a really relaxed vibe and we hope that will continue. We want people to enjoy themselves but we encourage them to think about their actions too. It is about a love of live music and we are there to make sure that everyone gets that experience. But should anyone break the rules, they will be ejected.

This is only the second year for 2000trees, but already you seem to have had a really positive take up, and are really showing off a great knowledge of smaller bands that deserve more attention (as well as Frank Turner, two other bands who I have covered on the blog are playing, Reuben and Future of the Left). But where do you see the festival in a few years time? Do you want to see it grow to a wider audience?

I’m delighted to hear you say that because the criteria for performing at 2000trees are that bands have to be good and they have to be live. We had more than 1,000 bands approach us to play and we chose the best mix we could. As I said at the very outset, we are passionate music fans who are doing this out of a love for it all and it is great that we can bring together such an eclectic mix of artists. We are also supporting grass roots bands from Gloucestershire and the surrounding counties by giving them a greater platform to perform on – including our annual Battle of the Bands contest – which will always be important to us. I’m sure better-known bands would bring in bigger crowds but I would like the emphasis of our event to remain the same, so that if we grow it will be because it is a fantastic weekend of live music, regardless of how famous our acts are.

Guys, I wish you the utmost best of luck with this venture. It’s great to see some genuine music fans out there take the reigns and make a change, instead of someone in a suit. Is there anything you’d like to close on?

Rather than more from me, here are the words of two 2000trees festival fans who wrote to us after last year’s event:
Anna Hartwell: “It is amazing to go to a festival which focuses on music rather than money-making with good quality food and nice drinks.”
Jeremy and Freya Swan: “It felt like some older festivals did, a long time ago. Good bands, lovely crowd, great idea. Loved the walk to clear the head.

We hope to see you there.

200 Trees Revellers

The 2000trees festival takes place at Upcote Farm, Withington, near Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. GL54 4BL. on July 11th and 12th, 2008.

More than 60 acts including: Reuben, Art Brut, The Duke Spirit, In Case of Fire, These New Puritans, Frank Turner, Future of the Left, The King Blues.

Tickets are £39 for a weekend camping pass. Other options are £20 for youth (10-15 years), £4 for early entry pass (from 4pm Thursday July 10th), £55 for joint ticket with the Y-Not festival, £40 for coach travel (return ticket: London – 2000trees). Under 10s get in free, but must be supervised at all times by an adult.

For tickets and more information, visit www.twothousandtreesfestival.co.uk.

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