Indie Oxford Interview: Treehouse Festival of Music & Arts
Today on the blog, Tom from Treehouse Festival of Music & Arts shares the story behind the Oxfordshire festival, his plans for the future, highlights from past years and a special discount for Indie Oxford readers! Lead the way Tom! >>
Tell us about yourself and why you decided to set up Treehouse Festival.
Hi, I’m Tom de Wilton and I’m the founder of Treehouse Festival of Music & Arts. I grew up in the Oxfordshire countryside and was lucky enough to spend my childhood building ever more elaborate treehouses on my Grandma’s farm in Uffington. This hobby turned into a passion and after four years at Wadham College, Oxford, studying Engineering, I found myself in Thailand building a luxury treehouse on a 5* Eco Yoga retreat. On returning to the UK I landed a job designing and building bespoke treehouses around the UK.
Treehouse Festival of Music & Arts is centred around my current beloved treehouse constructed in a 150 year old ancient Oak tree. The two-storey treehouse is accessed by a spiral staircase around the trunk of the tree and has a wood burning stove and bedroom, and can hold up to 20 people.
The idea for Treehouse Festival came about when drinking beer on the treehouse balcony one summer’s evening. We’d thrown endless parties in the woods below the treehouse, but had always wanted to extend the event further than our friendship group. The festival was born!
2017 was our first year, with 50 friends and one stage. 2018 saw 100 people across the weekend with the addition of the Green Box Co food truck. 2019 expanded to 150 people with two stages, food truck and bar. 2020, amidst the global pandemic, was Oxfordshire’s only socially distanced music festival, with 100 guests. We also ran a virtual 10 hour event back in May 2020, with performances from living rooms across the country!
Tell us about your vision for the festival.
My vision for the festival is to create an event that grows over time with the guests. Right now, most of our Treehouse guests are carefree young professionals who want to escape the city for the weekend and dance and connect in beautiful surroundings. In five years time I anticipate babies, showers and glamping will be front and centre in my planning!
Wilderness and Secret Garden Party are my inspiration and I love the high production and exquisite attention to detail that has gone into their past events. We are limited to 500 guests by the size of the site and I hope that will ensure that we never lose the intimate nature of the event that people love so much.
How important is hosting the festival to you?
Hosting the festival is incredibly important to me. It’s a passion project that is both rewarding and exhausting in equal measures! I run Treehouse festival alongside my day job as the COO of Oxwash, the on-demand laundry and dry cleaning startup that is also a member of Independent Oxford! My role at Oxwash has really helped me to approach the festival from a business perspective to ensure that I am making decisions that are financially sensible and will ensure the festival can continue for years to come.
Running Oxfordshire’s only music festival in September 2020 felt like a huge achievement. We were acutely aware of the risks involved with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, but also had faith that our Treehouse guests would follow all Covid-19 protocols to the letter.
I approached the event license application process with optimism and determination. After a robust period of back and forth with the local authority, we were granted an event license on the assurance that all of the Covid-19 measures would be upheld throughout the event. These included track and trace for all guests, social distancing throughout the site, one way systems, mask wearing in front of both stages, hot water and hand sanitiser for hand washing and regular extensive cleaning of all the touch points.
Many of the 2020 guests expressed how grateful they were for the event in respect to their mental health. We are facing a loneliness epidemic and the opportunity to connect, socialise and let loose is essential after such a tough year.
How do you ensure everyone feels safe?
Ahead of our 2021 event we have conducted a Covid-19 Risk Assessment and produced a Covid-19 Safety Action Plan. These are required when submitting the event license application to the local authority and is part of a wider Event Management Plan. In total, I submitted 111 pages of documentation!
We don’t yet know what the government restrictions will be for outdoor events in July so we are planning for a socially distanced event like 2020. We have tripled the size of the event site, meaning we are operating at less than 50% of capacity so have ample space. We learnt a lot from the 2020 event and will be implementing all of the same Covis-19 protocols. SIA security and trained paramedics will be onsite throughout the event.
For anyone that hasn’t been to the festival, what can they expect?
Good question! Each year is different but you can expect an intimate, boutique festival where you are almost guaranteed to come away with several handfuls of new friends. Expect to watch some exceptionally talented performers within some truly beautiful surroundings. You’ll have the opportunity to learn through our workshops and experiences, as well as pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Whether it’s music, art, experiences, nature or simply people that get you out of bed in the morning, we’ve got you covered!
What makes the music line up at Treehouse unique?
Eclecticism! We have no fixed music genre for the festival so are always open to new bands and performers joining the Treehouse family. We have some exceptionally talented performers who come back year after year, as well as new performers joining us. Jazz, rock, pop, folk, disco, dance, electronic, you really can expect a little bit of everything!
We aim for the highest enjoyment to quality ratio possible. We might not have the biggest names out there (yet!), but I can almost guarantee you’ll leave each set with a huge smile on your face. Particular highlights include the now infamous Worldwide Welshman, who is truly a spectacle to behold, Steph West the ethereal harpist and Robi Mitch, acclaimed Bristolian indie rock singer-songwriter.
This year we are striving to improve the diversity of our performers, so please do get in touch if you know of anyone who would be interested in joining us!
What are your personal festival highlights and memories from previous years?
The Saturday night of 2017 was out of this world- the weather was perfect and the headline performance rolled into a jam session around the campfire that went on long into the early hours.
The surprise aerial silks performance in 2019 was out of this world! No one knew it was going to happen and we dropped the silks from below the treehouse in the gap before the headline set. It was truly amazing to witness 150 people watching in awe at the performance.
How important is community to the festival?
Community is at the heart of the festival, alongside creativity and collaboration. Treehouse is all about the people and we are building a community of like minded individuals who come together to create a magical event.
Our focus for 2021 is to expand outside of the annual festival, to run regular events in Oxford to bring a bit of the Treehouse magic into our day to day lives. We are already planning a Treehouse Retreat for September 2021, as well as smaller creative events throughout the summer.
Where can people grab a ticket?
Head to https://www.tickettailor.com/events/treehouse/496365 and use the promo code INDIEOX for 5% off weekend tickets.
We’re really looking forward to this gorgeous festival this year. There’s nothing like being out in the countryside, listening to live music and being part of a warm and welcoming festival community to restore wellbeing and equilibrium! What’s more, Tom is hosting fellow indies, Tap Social and Jericho Coffee Traders, on site for the weekend, to keep us all in beer and coffee!
Treehouse Festival of Music & Arts runs from Friday 30th July to Sunday 1st August in Uffington, Oxfordshire. Tickets are selling fast, so if you’d like to join us there, head to the ticket site and use INDIEOX to get a 5% discount.
See you in the fields!