The New Forest Folk Festival is a small family run event held on our farm which is located on the edge of the National Park. When we launched in 2012, we wanted to create a festival that we would really enjoy attending ourselves, focussing on good wholesome food, drinks, music and clean toilets, all at an affordable price.
In recent years our ethos has developed to include green credentials. We have introduced reusable beer glasses and our waste supplier recycles 100% of our dry waste at their recycling centre just six miles from our site. But out biggest step, and we believe we are the first green field festival site to do so, is to run our power entirely from the National Grid without the use of generators.
The hot topic in sustainability is definitely electricity and it was on Saturday 10th November 2018 at the AFO Conference in Stratford that Helen and I sat in on a session and heard Tim Benson from Smart Power chatting about power and all the options available. Inspired by what we heard, the session planted a seed that would change the way we saw power and what we could do to help the environment.
We had looked into the power supplies at other green field festivals sites and the many hybrid options in use but had yet to come across another that runs entirely from the National Grid and completely without the use of generators etc. With many larger festivals considering following suit we looked at ourselves as potential trend setters.
As owners of the farm and the festival we are in a unique position to improve the site throughout the year and for the last 11 years of our festival we have invested most of the income generated back into improving the festivalgoers’ experience. This is in the form of site works, infrastructure, new equipment etc and this project has taken it to the next level.
We decided that to rely on generators for our power, the environmental impact from the carbon footprint was very high due to transporting generators to and from the site and then running the sets on diesel, creating numerous vehicle movements.
Secondly, we were running the generators on diesel which was expensive (and now extortionate) whilst being bad for the environment and finally the generators (some running 24 hrs a day) were noisy and smelly.
We realised if we grew with more generators, that both our costs and carbon footprint would continue to grow. Our environmental credentials would diminish and with our audience being folkies, very green minded and environmentally aware, we felt we needed to follow another path.
Our solution was to supply an alternative cleaner more environmentally friendly power for the site with our National Grid three phase supply. At the backend of 2018 we started looking seriously at this option and during 2019 we found a Grant for Rural Development. After many months of paperwork and great support from New Forest Leader Local Action Group we had our funding.
The project was partly funded by the leader Grant which was a European agricultural fund for rural development and partly funded by the New Forest Folk Festival with advice and a lot of support from our electrician Terry Smith of S & G Management who has been with us from the beginning in 2012 and is now our main sponsor.
Terry was on board from the outset and worked out how we would implement this. We then turned to Scottish & Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) and asked for a 120 kVA three phase supply (roughly a 2"/50mm cable for the non electricians reading this.) Everything was finally powered up in December 2019.
As we all know the pandemic scuppered 2020’s events so we eventually showed of our hidden gem in July 2021. Having laid around 1500m of underground armoured cable around the site and other than a huge transformer hanging off the 11,000 volt cables running through our farm and the silence, nobody would know we had done it. We have laid an additional 500m of cable for the 2023 festival.
Fortunately, we have structures in place such as the main stage, front of house, changing rooms and festival office so being permanent we have power to them throughout the year which really helps with set up, and we do not need to worry about getting generators in early with all the logistical headaches and costs.
When the festival is finished, we can simply turn the electric off. This isn't without its issues as we are obviously tied to a contract and have to pay the electric supplier throughout the year but this is a small price to pay to help with the environment.
Our attendees love the fact that we are on mains and not using generators and we really do need to show the industry that if our small family-run festival can do it then the bigger ones with their resources should be able to as well.
Until now we hadn’t really had time to tell the story of our foray into mains power but seeing Tim Benson at the Showman’s Show in 2022 reminded us just how important it is to share our journey.
This year’s New Forest Folk Festival will take place from 5th- 9th July 2023.