Festival fever hits Suffolk

THIS year sees the biggest number of outdoor concerts, festivals and gigs the UK has ever witnessed.According to industry experts, by September there isn't a public area of parkland that won't have had a festival playing on it.

By Tracey Sparling

THIS year sees the biggest number of outdoor concerts, festivals and gigs the UK has ever witnessed.

According to industry experts, by September there isn't a public area of parkland that won't have had a festival playing on it. Features editor TRACEY SPARLING reports on the growth of Suffolk's festival culture.

EVER since Stackridge played the debut note of the first Glastonbury Fayre, the idea of worshipping your favourite tunes in the open air has been an attractive one.

A mere 1,500 flowery moon-worshippers pitched their tents at the first Glastonbury in 1970. But when fans had a good time, they started to tell their friends, who tended to tell their friends. This year's Glastonbury will be one hundred times the size of the first - and sold out within hours of tickets being released last month .

Suffolk's own homegrown festivals and outdoor concerts are growing too. This year Thetford Forest will welcome 30,000 people at more concerts this summer than ever before - six dates to build on the success of last year's four.

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It was the Forestry Commission concert manager Mike Taylor's idea to start the concerts at High Lodge, Thetford, back in 1997.

He said: “I thought the place would make a great concert arena, it's a unique woodland setting and as long as the weather's pleasant it makes a great venue.” Now the Forest Tour has grown to include seven UK sites.

Mike said: “We're building on the two Thetford weekends this year, with the addition of a Thursday night to expand the programme and also attract the slightly different crowd of a younger audience.”

Six thousand tickets for James Morrison sold out within two weeks which Mike said was “pretty impressive' although still not the best seller ever. The Feeling is also 'nearly sold out' and Travis, and Blondie are expected to be sell outs. MPeople and Van Morrison will also do very well.

Mike added: “The acoustics are great and the trees hold the sound, but we also have a very sophisticated sound system.”

Newmarket Racecourse is also proving popular for outdoor concerts…………..

These concerts attract people to Suffolk from neighbouring counties, but diehard fans come from much further afield leading to a boost for the tourist and accommodation businesses.

Meanwhile Amy Winehouse who is headlining every major event this summer, has a few tips for fans heading into the wilds to watch their favourite bands. She says to eat pie and mash, and that women need to wear shorts, not skirts, “because ladies do tend to fall over.

She said: “I'm not really a festival goer but I like them because everyone's there to have a good time. You know the people who go to a gig and get p***** off? It's not like that - people at festivals have no expectations.”

Thousands of people converging to party affects the area, and there's a growing pressure within the music business to reduce environmental impact.

Mike said: “Tickets are limited partly because of the car parking restriction, and there is probably less impact on the environment than people would think. The forest is a robust environment which can absorb and disperse people with minimal impact.

“Thetford Forest is a Special Protection Area and an Site of Special Scientific Interest - two of the highest levels of protected sites, and concerts don't have any adverse impact on that. We have rare ground-nesting birds and bats close by, and I've seen deer on the site even as we've been clearing up immediately after a concert.”

In recent years, revenue from concerts has also enabled the Forestry Commission to create habitats for endangered butterfly species; health projects from mountain biking to T'ai Chi; install woodfuel heating systems to help the fight against climate change; to regenerate industrial sites and disused areas into community woodlands; and many more schemes.

But according to Ben Challis, whose website agreenerfestival.com provides information for festival organisers, the only truly green festival is one that doesn't take place. “I'm not saying cancel all festivals; most of our leisure pursuits have a carbon footprint,” he said. “It's more helpful to look at how these events can be improved.”

Glastonbury still has a pile of stinking wellingtons left behind from the mudbath of 2005 and water pollution cost the organiser Michael Eavis £10,000 in 2003 when he was fined for allowing the toilets to leak and kill fish in the nearby river.

The Download Festival, known as 'the headbangers' Glastonbury,' admitted to being the dirtiest festival of 2006, spending £250,000 on sending its waste to landfill. This year it pledges to spend the same amount on green initiatives, such as recycling, to improve its reputation.

This year the V Festival offers recycling, and recommends getting there by lift-sharing.

T in the Park is declaring itself “carbon-neutral”, which involves having its emissions assessed and investing money in forestry projects across the world.

Then there's a little-known festival called the Sunrise Celebration that takes place over the summer solstice in Devon. Best known for its pioneering compost lavatories, the festival is powered solely by renewable energy, has an organic-only food policy and appoints eco-rangers to oversee carbon-reducing measures.

The Who kickstarted the festival experience back in the late 1960s when its performances at Monterey, the Isle of Wight and Woodstock attracted a generation.

June-August Newmarket nights Music: INXS (June 22), Sugababes (June 29), Madness (July 20), Pet Shop Boys (July 27), Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra (August 3), The Ordinary Boys (August 10) Wet Wet Wet (August 17) Contact: 08707 200 201 www.newmarketexperience.co.uk Tickets: Garden enclosure £12, Grandstand and paddock £22, Premier enclosure £32. Limited child admissions £5 each. 5 per cent discount on adult prices at www.newmarketracecourses.co.uk

May 11-27 Bury Festival

Music: A varied bill of jazz, classical and pop. Featuring: Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, John Williams, Stacey Kent, the King's Singers, the Philharmonia Orchestra, the English Chamber Orchestra. Contact: 01284 769505 www.buryfestival.co.uk

Tickets: free to £15

June-July Thetford Forest

Music: James Morrison (June 7), Travis (June 8), Van Morrison (June 9), The Feeling (July 12), MPeople (July 13), Blondie (July 14).

Contact: 01842 814612 or see www.forestry.gov.uk/music

Tickets: From £24.50

June 2-3, The 3rd Suffolk Folk Festival, Woodbridge

Music: Dancing in Woodbridge Saturday and Sunday, Saturday evening ceilidh with Mawkin, Sunday concert in Elmhurst Park. Camping for performers

Contact: Paul Salmon Tel: 01473 785180

June 8-24 Aldeburgh Festival

Music: The theme is Venice, for Aldeburgh's 60th anniversary. Highlights will be Yoshi Oida, Anna Dennis. June 9 is Faster Than Sound at the Bentwaters Airbase, a sound experiment joining music and digital art. See www.fasterthansound.com

Contact: 01728 687110 www.aldeburgh.co.uk

Tickets: £8-£55 for Aldeburgh Festival, Faster Than Sounds costs £17.50 in advance £20 on door.

July 1, 12-8pm, Ipswich Music Day, Christchurch Park

Music: best of jazz, soul, blues, rock, punk, dance, rap.

Contact: book on 01473 433100 www.ip-art.com

Tickets: Free

July 12-15 Latitude, Henham Park near Southwold

Music: Headlined by Jarvis Cocker, The Magic Numbers and The Good, The Bad And The Queen, Snow Patrol, Antony & The Johnsons and Mogwai.

Contact: www.latitudefestival.co.uk, www.meanfiddler.com

Tickets: £112 buy in person from HMV in Ipswich and Norwich, or online from the above (Latitude Festival and Mean Fiddler) websites.

July 14, Blickling Hall's anniversary show, near Norwich

Music: 1980s' chart stars mark the hall's 10th year of concerts. Bananarama, Gloria Gaynor, Midge Ure and Paul Young.

Contact: Blickling Hall on 08700 0104900

Tickets: £37.50 from credit card hotline 0871 424 4444.

August 3,4,5 giginthepark, Halesworth

Music: Echo and the Bunnymen, The Blues Band, Neville Staple, The Dojo Drummers, The Hamsters and Audio Porn.

Contact: www.giginthepark.co.uk

Tickets: Prices tbc. Available from The Adshop, Halesworth, The Bookshop, Halesworth, Morlings, House of Music in Lowestoft and Beccles, Out of time in Fore Street Ipswich.

August 18 and 19, V festival, Hylands Park, Chelmsford.

Music: Three stages host The Fratellis, Kasabian, Foo Fighters, The Editors, Manic Street Preachers, Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse, The Kooks, Primal Scream.

Contact: www.vfestival.com/index. Many outlets sold out.

Tickets: £63.50 + £6.35 max booking fee, to £130 + £8.25 max booking fee weekend with camping.

Open Air Cinema returns on July 6, when Top Gun is shows on the big screen in Christchurch Park. Tickets are £5 (concs £3). Book on 01473 433100 or see www.ip-art.com/index.php

1 Let there be Light - Eurohike Summer of Love Lantern - £29.99 from www.millets.co.uk

When the sun disappears over the horizon don't let that put a stop to your festival fun. This dual-power ultra-bright LED lamp will ensure the fun stops when you decide.

It can be powered via its wind-up mechanism or from the rechargeable battery and can take plenty of thrills safe inside its rubber casing.

2 Small Fry - Grilliput - £24.99 from www.iwantoneofthose.com

This ultra-portable BBQ is ideal, and rolls up into the size of a large stick of rock.

3 Stressless tent - Quick Pitch 2 man tent - £34.95 from www.firebox.com

A few tent pegs to secure the structure, is all the effort that is needed.

4 Drinks dispenser - The Beerbelly - £29.95 from www.firebox.com

Lugging a flask around might be a bit too geeky for funky festival types; this method of drink transportation is almost guaranteed to avoid having to share too.

5 Pocket power plant - Freeloader - £29.99 from www.solartechnology.co.uk

This solar powered battery booster is one of the cheapest and best on the market right now.

It works with mobiles, iPods and handheld gaming consoles; you'll be able to offer a service to those around you in desperate need of a recharge.

6 Don't stop the music - Freeplay DAB radio - £79.99 from www.simplyradios.com

The battery gives six hours of playback and then, just crank up the handle and the music returns.

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