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Thursday 1 October 2015

Helping to make the Meadow beautiful at Shambala festival 2015

Shambala festival 2015

The Shambala festival is held at a stately home called Kelmarsh Hall in Northamptonshire in the UK. Last year, I was asked to come along and make benches from sawmill waste boards, to be put in the Meadow field. I was delighted to be asked to come back this year to do it again.

Shambala festival

The Meadow is a lovely, calm corner of the festival where the healers practice their skills and Tribe of Doris hold music-related activities.

At the end of last year's event, some of the benches were hidden away in a very quiet area of the site and it was great to see that they had survived quite happily. The sturdy larch timbers showed very few signs of decay, even under a layer of moss!

I used the surface darkening of the wood on one bench to carve lighter patterns, which represented the sun and moon:

Under a tarpaulin shelter, in a peaceful spot under a large sycamore by a lake, it was fun to plan new benches for the field. We worked happily under there, even when the rain came down all day! Everything was made using only hand tools, apart from a cordless drill.

There weren't just benches to be made. Annette, who oversees the healing field, had a special request too.

Someone had asked before the festival if it would be possible to create an area in which he could propose to his unsuspecting girlfriend. A particularly beautiful large tent had been chosen in which to do it:

Now five small shrines were needed, to represent the elements of air, water, earth, fire and wood. I made them using slab wood and also tree branches that had been removed by estate workers just before the festival.

The small tables were put around the outside edge of the tent and decorated with relevant things (because of fire risks, candle-shaped lights were used instead of real flames). It felt like a real privilege to make these items to be part of such an important occasion for the two people, their families and friends.

...and she said yes!

I wasn't the only person working with wood in the Meadow. Len sorted out the structures needed around the campsite, as well as designing a covered seat that looked great with foliage draped over it.

Clyde and Nathan also made structures that helped to make the site look welcoming.

Nathan and I dismantled some older benches and he reused the useful boards in new benches that were sturdier and will hopefully last until next year too. They are at the front on the right in the picture below, with Clyde's fence visible behind:

festival benches

One new bench for this year was inspired by the straps that tied together the wood bundles when they were delivered. These straps were tough bands, stronger than the woven plastic ones that such bundles normally have securing them. I'd fancied making a suspended seat since the previous year and these straps would be useful. It was also nice to reuse such items from all around the site, instead of leaving them to be thrown away.

outdoor bench Shambala festival

All of the benches were designed to be comfortable and I liked the deckchair-like slump of this one, even if it was quite hard to get out of (like a traditional deckchair, when I think about it). All the more reason to stay sitting there and relax!

The straps turned out to be quite strong enough to take plenty of people sitting on the seat, even when Len jumped all over it to test it.

The final thing to be made was a gate to separate the public area and crew camping. Nathan and I reused the gates from last year. One had darkened on its top surface, so that was the night sky (with stars and a UFO carved on it) and the other was day. Between them, the rays of the rising sun were fixed on.

After all the building, it was time to go and party! Here's a few final images of the festival itself. Thanks to everyone for making it a great Shambala 2015. I hope to see you all again next year.

iron man sculpture Shambala 2015

dancing shambala 2015

dusk at the festival

shambala meadow

Shambala festival 2015

captain hot knives at Shambala


  1. Was this during the 'magnificent moon' week we're having right now or sometime earlier? Looks great!

  2. It was during the weekend of the 29th August, when there was also a 'super moon'. It was great fun, I think Shambala is my favourite festival, of those that I've been to.