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Saturday 30 December 2017

Helping to put together the Meadow at Shambala festival 2017

Shambala festival 2017

Shambala is a music festival held in Northamptonshire in August. Since 2014, I've made furniture for the Meadow area at the event every year and was invited to do it again in 2017.

The Meadow houses the Healing Field, at the centre of which is a fireplace surrounded by seating and plants. It's a beautiful spot and I love to see people relaxing and unwinding on seats that I've made, surrounded by tents that healers are working in.

Shambala Meadow yoga

A week beforehand, bundles of scrap wood from sawmills are delivered to each area of the festival to build seating, fences or whatever else is required. It's always exciting to cut the straps, pick through and see what timber there is to work with! It could be oak, larch, lime, cherry or something else and much of it is reused from previous years. Sometimes even the strapping itself is reused in a design...

Shambala festival bench

This particular festival is very keen on having as little environmental impact as possible. To help with that goal, we try to reuse as much as possible from previous festivals when making new furniture. Since a lot of the benches and tables are made from durable timbers such as larch or oak, they last well outdoors and so between festivals they are often used by visitors and fishermen on the estate. At the beginning of the next festival, we wander around hunting out each piece from wherever it has been spirited off to. There is always real excitement when a particularly-loved item of furniture is found!

Shambala meadow African-style chair

Some of the benches from 2014 are still going strong today. When much of the rest of the site has new woodwork every year, I really like that the Meadow has furniture that is really 'of the place' - it stays there all year round. The patina of age suits it well.

Another thing that I really love about working in the Meadow area is that many of the crew have been doing this for years and know each other well. Some benches reuse pieces of timber that were originally part of seating made by Bertie, a stalwart crew member who sadly passed away before I started helping at the Meadow. It's nice to think that his work is still present in some of these benches.

I also enjoyed working with some of the younger crew members on making items for this festival. This seat was a joint effort, using materials found onsite, and we had a great time putting it together!

Meadow swing seat

It's not just seating that gets made for Shambala. For the last two years, one of the featured workshops has been paddleboard yoga. The people doing it head out onto the lake on their paddleboards and do yoga there. 

We were asked to make a jetty, so that the attendees could get onto the water easily. It's now a permanent feature in the grounds. 

Shambala jetty

It's not only useful for the workshops but is also a nice place to sit, surrounded by swan mussels and water plants. Don't try swimming though! The water is quite shallow and the thick, black mud is deep. The swan mussels shouldn't be eaten either, by the way. Just relax and enjoy the view.

Shambala festival relaxing


  1. Wood always has such a history before it becomes a piece of furniture or other object. My dad has just made a television stand from an old apple tree in the garden - beautiful wood patterns and lots of memories attached to that particular tree from when we were growing up. Reclaimed timber has a longer story to tell as it enters its third life.
    I had to look up paddleboard yoga as I'd never of it before and I can't imagine doing too much stretching and bending when out on the canal in the rowing skiff, and certainly not in this weather, for fear of falling in!
    How's the driving getting on? I had my test on the 2nd of January and......

  2. It's true, the story of wood before it gets to me to carve it has always interested me. In the studio, I've got a few pieces of yew from trees that are thought to be about 2000 years old (although yew is hard to date accurately). I'm still thinking what to carve from them.
    Still no progress on driving at this end. How did you do in your test?

  3. Well, I failed on the 2nd of January! Things were going quite well, until I suddenly realised that I had forgotten to put on my glasses. I'm not that reliant on them, but as you are supposed to wear them when driving, I started freaking over the dilemma of whether I should tell the examiner or not. From then on, I was just too distracted and nibbled the pavement kerb with the tyre - he yanked the steering wheel, and that was it! However, I retook the test two weeks later - poor performance but no faults so I passed!! How about you?

  4. Congratulations - well done for passing! Hope I get to eventually