Driving through the cotswolds you’d be forgiven for thinking you have fallen into some chocolate box faery realm, but that’s just on a normal day. Last weekend the fae folk flocked, swarmed and pirouetted amidst the beautiful grounds of Studley Castle nestled in the cotswolds hills near the Medieval market town of Winchcombe. Steeped in history this beautiful estate even has Tudor Queen Catherine Parr buried in its grounds. This provided the stunning backdrop to the wonderful creatures of the Fantasy Forest Festival.
Only in it’s second year (first one being 2019) you wouldn’t know it from the slick organisation and sheer size of the fest. With three stages, battle arena, chapel talks, medieval village, wondering performers as well as a variety of activities for the children – it was truly a festival for all. We even decided this would be the perfect event for my son’s (aged 3) first festival experience! But you don’t need to have children to attend – it’s a place for children of all ages from 3 to 300 (well I’m not sure how old some of the fairies and witches were 😉).
This year dubbed “year of the phoenix” risen from the ashes of last year’s covid cancellation – saw a beautiful phoenix wicker man set alight on ceremony as the sun went down. However, this imagery was more fitting that expected with the scorching temperatures soaring past 30 degrees! But us delicate fae folk were saved from the sun’s harsh rays with the “forest” of the festival title wrapping its shady arms around our countenance. The abundance of shade, much of which was still in full view of the entertainments, was definitely a highlight of this summer festival – and one which many open-air fests seem to lack.
What I loved was the vibe of the place. The stunning surrounds set off the friendly inclusive atmosphere beautifully. And you found anything from Daleks, to Orks, to Goths, to Mermaids, Fairies, Pirates, Knights and any manner of wonderful magical concoctions.
Band spanned genres with the like of goth festival favourites Inkubus Sukkubus, Pirate tunes in the form of The Boarding Crew, the marvellous musical mélange that is Captain of the Lost Waves, Perkelt with their pagan speed folk and much more! What was nice was that sone of the bands rotated and played different stages at different times and days. When you’re marching to the beat of the drum of a three-year-old, being able to be flexible and free flowing is essential – and this meant we could still catch some of the performances.
While we were still technically in lockdown with restrictions only actually lifting on the Monday. The only hints that this was not “the new normal” was social distancing recommendations, seated performances (no dancing!) and staff mask wearing, as well as masks worn indoors for the talks from the likes of Anne Sudworth. But being able to hear one of my favourite artists talk about her work in the stunning surrounds of the 15th century chapel made it worth the mask + heat combo.
Unfortunately, we only made it for the day on Saturday, but camping is available as well as cottages in the castle estate. But I know for sure this is going to be a fixture on our calendar. And perhaps next year extending the family outing with a grandmother on board, who can then tuck the children up in bed after a fun filled day so we can then party into the evening with a flagon (or two!) of mead.