Once upon a time and pre-covid, the world of festivals, with over a 1,000 events per year, was a market that looked endless. Then came the crisis and with events not able to take place the sector lost some 90% of it's revenue. As the House of Commons Select Committee noted.
"Festivals were harder hit by the pandemic than many other creative industries: as typically seasonal and one-off occasions, events and their supply chains were unable to generate income for an entire year, rather than experiencing a temporary shutdown."
Even though the big events survived and are now selling out as before, for smaller events life has become much harder. As the promoters of Sumemrfest reported in June 2022.
“ It’s a 30,000 capacity site and tickets stopped selling at around 16,000, so it wasn’t financially viable to run. Three other festivals went that same week. It’s been a domino effect. With the cost of living crisis, people are struggling to pay for tickets and production costs have gone through the roof.”
Yet some of the smaller festivals have survived and indeed are flourishing. One such is 2,000 Trees set in the heart of the Gloucestershire countryside. Not long after the height of the epidemic AWTY spoke to Andy Rea, co-founder and organiser of 2000 Trees Festival, about how they survived and what it takes to set up and run an award winning event.
The impact of Covid
“It was really hard to go on that rollercoaster where you are working towards one festival a year and then it doesn’t happen. Financially it wipes out your income, and emotionally it’s hard to handle, because it’s such an important part of our lives. So much of a festival is money put up before the event. Some of that we could get back but some we couldn't, such as the spend on marketing."
In the beginning how did ‘Trees’ come about?
“Some friends and I were at a major mainstream music festival, that we had been going to for years, and were getting frustrated with it. You were crammed in and treated like children, the security was nasty, food was terrible, drinks were generic, and the atmosphere just wasn’t great. I even felt they were struggling with the line- up. It just felt like they didn't care and showed that in the way we were treated. We felt it was the right time to start a festival that put the fans first. We were music fans, so it was one of those campfire conversations that escalated into weekly meetings and planning, and from that ‘2000 Trees’ was born.”
How did you manage to find a decent site?
“We picked Gloucestershire as there weren’t any events that were doing anything similar to what we wanted. I wrote a letter and sent it to 150 farmers, pitching our idea, thinking people might jump at the chance. We had 8 replies some of which were just saying no. Then we found Upcote Farm. We were delighted with the site and it has been our home from the start. Since then we have been amazed how generous the family that live there have been, with their time, enthusiasm, and support for us. It’s been wonderful!”
Apart from Covid what’s the worst thing that’s happened at Trees…
“Undoubtedly the weather. Most years we’ve been lucky and had fantastic weather. But one year which I’m trying to erase from my memory, it was just awful. It meant everything needed more time to make right and it took a lot more energy to do that. We were just so exhausted by it!"
"It’s safe to say I’d only ever heard wonderful things about 2000 Trees prior to going and having been in and amongst it for three busy and stiflingly hot days I can understand why." Cameron Miller
…and the biggest mistake you’ve made?"
Going back to the first year, even though it was the most rewarding, we were slightly under prepared for the task ahead. We had a barn at the top where we were preparing artwork and building things. We then realised we had no way of transferring stuff onto site. We just hadn’t thought about that. If it hadn’t been for the generosity of the farm lending us their tractors there would have been many tasks we wouldn’t have been able to do.”
"2000 trees is undoubtedly one of the best, if not the best festival in the UK. This may sound like a bold statement but anyone who has been to the festival will likely vouch for this. The people, the music, the environment, and the surroundings of the stunning Upcote Farm in Cheltenham all combine to make this the festival to go to for fans of music from all backgrounds." Joe Loughran
What has been the best moment of running 2000 Trees?
“It sounds cheesy but every year there’s so many, the atmosphere and the vibe at Trees Is so special. Everyone goes away having had a good time and you take credit for putting those things together. It’s being able to spend time with your friends (6 organisers), family, and volunteers that come along for the event. Seeing everyone having a good time and receiving emails from people and volunteers of how much they enjoyed the event.
So, in the end how did you survive.
With no event 'Trees' faced significant debts, that was until a crowdfunding appeal raised an astonishing £120,000 from 1,361 people to help keep the festival alive. Comments on the appeals funding page revealed the level of support it enjoyed:
"This festival is responsible for some of the best memories of my life, growing up. They deserve nothing less,’ ‘You were my first ever festival 4 years ago at the age of 47 and I would love to continue my love affair with you for many years to come’."
“It blew us away,” says Rea. “It secured the future of the festival and was a silver lining to a horrible situation. You hope, but you never know, and then to see that level of support was just a testament to the fans we have.”
Trees in 2023 will run at Upcote Farm from 5th-8th July