Maurice Sendak would have approved
In The Woods Festival 2012

Finding ourselves in the back of a small but speedy shuttle bus, we zoomed through narrow roads and past quaint white houses until the outside view changed to nothing but tall trees and dark shadows. Twenty minutes later, we stepped out of the bus and into a large field of long grass, few cars, a farmhouse and dots of sheep in the distance.

Now in its seventh year, In The Woods started off as a small festival for the friends of indie-pop outfit Laurel Collective, and it has grown to a capacity of 1000. Set in a beautiful section of private woodland in Kent, In The Woods prides itself on nurturing up and coming talent and has previously been host to acts such as Anna Calvi, Lianne La Havas and The Invisible.

Walking into the woods as London-based four-piece, Fiction, played; it was impossible not to be drawn into the bohemian atmosphere and the “dressing” of surrounding nature. Suspended light bulbs overhead, hay-lined pathways and hundreds of pastel, fabric streamers individually tied to chocolate-coloured branches throughout the space.

Sitting on one of many (surprisingly comfortable) wooden logs in front of The Quarry Stage, Raisa K’s synth-heavy set was capped off with a solid round of applause before Xfm’s John Kennedy introduced Peter and Kerry, the latter of which resembled an East London Janelle Monae. Explaining that this was the “highlight of their year”, the impressive outfit launched into ‘Cirque’, which was dedicated to Kerry’s parents in the audience, also seated on wooden logs.

What was supposed to be a quick bite en route to the acoustic-focussed Laurel Lounge turned into an elaborate conversation at a heavily decorated dining table with a slew of actors inhabiting various roles such as the well-dressed psychopath, the crazed musician and a scripture-reading Mormon complete with braids, long black gown and dour expression. This Alice in Wonderland-inspired installation was the work of The Dinner Party who created an interactive environment for feasting festivalgoers.

Cocooned between trees and smiley faces, we listened to the Zimbabwe-born, London-raised artist ESKA who powered her way through a vocally flawless set as listeners climbed trees and relaxed in nearby hammocks. A short walk away was “Curry Corner”, the camping site, a small Silent Cinema tent, a large Silent Disco tent and an impressive pyramid of sticks, shrubs and other flammables in preparation for the late-night bonfire.

Just when we thought we’d seen it all, we followed a previously unnoticed flower path, which led down to the spoken word poetry stage, where new and emotive life was being injected into Eensy Weensy Spider following a more aggressive and, shall we say, colourful collection of poetry.

Wondering back up the garden path, it was impossible to ignore powerful vocals echoing through the forest and so we ran towards The Quarry Stage just in time for AlunaGeorge’s energetic performance, which was clearly a crowd favourite. This pattern of running from stage to stage continued as night fell with the ever-considerate community continuing to lap up the real-life playground. Maurice Sendak would have approved.

Words by Natalie Reiss
Photo by Poppie Skold

Follow Clash: