2000trees Festival ‘The British rock scene is in the rudest health since we started ten years ago’

One of the most beloved festivals in the UK celebrates its tenth birthday with its finest line-up to date. We interviewed one of the founders and organisers, James Scarlett, and asked a wealth of people associated with the festival’s history to reveal their memories from the event 

Remfry Dedman
Tuesday 14 June 2016 13:39 BST
Festival revellers at 2000trees in 2014
Festival revellers at 2000trees in 2014 (Ross Silcocks)

The origins of 2000trees are well-documented; disillusioned with a festival they had attended for several years (along with a further 90,000 punters annually), six friends, in a possibly intoxicated state, bemoaned the facilities, the layout, the extortionate ticket prices, the over-priced beer, the lacklustre food, the hideous toilets, the abundance of corporate sponsorship, the lack of any kind of attention to detail and the overwhelming feeling of being just another punter willing to empty their pockets. It wasn’t long before the six inebriates started to conceive of a better way of running and organising things. Buoyed by a confidence that only being three sheets to the wind can bring, they set out to do exactly that.

It’s a sentiment that has no doubt been expressed around a plethora of campsites across the country come Britain’s more-often-than-not rainy summer festival season but few have the enthusiasm or mental smarts to follow through with their sozzled schemes in the sadly sobering sunshine of the Sunday morning light. The organisers of 2000trees however had no such qualms, putting on a modest but successful first incarnation of the festival in 2007 with a line-up that included Frank Turner, InMe, Brigade and Devil Sold His Soul. This summer, 2000trees returns for its tenth iteration, and includes performances from Refused, Twin Atlantic, SikTh and The Bronx amongst 80 other bands across five stages; not bad for a festival conceived by six friends with no previous experience. ‘The weird thing is we never really imagined we would get to 10 years,’ says organiser and band booker James Scarlett, ‘and now suddenly, here we are! After the festival last year, we sat down and said, 'we're 10 next year, what are we going to do to celebrate it?' and it sounds stupidly obvious but the main thing we wanted to do is put on the best version of what we do. We've spent a bit more money on booking bands; we could never have had bands like Refused play in the past. As far as I'm concerned, without praising ourselves, it's definitely the best line-up we've ever had.’

Minor changes have been made to the operation of the festival; The Croft stage has moved next to the Main Stage with both running in tandem, the camp site has been expanded to give more room to patrons and the Forest sessions have become a more integrated part of the festival, but the main goal for the organisers is to provide the best 2000trees experience possible … after all, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? Despite this modus operandi, it must be tempting to mark the tenth 2000trees with some kind of outlandish self-congratulatory display, such as a gigantic fireworks spectacle? ‘There will be a few surprises when people turn up, says James ‘but there's no fireworks or anything … that just feels a bit lame. I love Metallica … but it's a bit Metallica!’

The trajectory of British rock music’s ascendance in quality has run in tandem with the history of 2000trees and other grass-roots, independently-minded festivals of its ilk. Not since the heady days of the turn of the 21st century have we had such a diverse, eclectic range of rock bands that we can truly stand behind as not just quality acts, but innovative as well. Whilst James is far too humble to admit it himself, festivals like 2000Trees give these brilliant small bands a platform to excel and be the best they can be in front of a wide and appreciative audience. ‘I think the British rock scene is in the rudest health since we started 2000trees ten years ago’ says James. ‘You can reel off reams of great bands in our scene at the moment; Black Peaks, Milk Teeth, Muncie Girls, Heck, Creeper, Black Foxxes, Grumble Bee, there are a ton of great British bands that feel like they're about to break. I almost feel like I'm cheating a little bit this year, it's been so easy to put together a good line-up because all of those bands are so great. You don't have to do loads of research to work out that Black Peaks or Heck or Creeper are amazing, you just book them.’

So as a man with his finger firmly on the beating feral pulse of the underground British rock scene, what bands is James particularly looking forward to? ‘Black Peaks, I think their record is amazing. My brother (Robert Scarlett, fellow 2000Trees organiser) pointed out to me that Glass Built Castles is a world class song and that's totally true! Name me a band that wouldn't be happy to have written that song; If System of a Down wrote Glass Built Castles they'd be f**king happy with that! It's a massive anthem but it's also quite weird as well, so I’m really looking forward to them. We've got lots of people playing one-of-a-kind acoustic sets as part of the Forest sessions as well. It’s an incredible stage and we’ll have Moose Blood, The Xcerts, Arcane Roots, Black Peaks, Ginger Wildheart, Jamie Lenman playing a stripped back covers set … that’ll be pretty special.’

With milestones often comes reflection and James is adamant that 2000trees keeps its independent spirit and reputation for providing a wonderful fully-rounded experience as opposed to simply sticking some bands in a muddy field. ‘I think it's important not to forget where you came from; we didn't really know what we were doing in the first year but we pulled it off. My favourite memory is probably the day after that first year when all the organisers were sitting around going 'f**king hell! … I can’t believe we did it!' All of us were basically crying, smiling, laughing and then crying all over again. That first year will always be special; we don't get quite the same lows that we used too but that means we don't get quite the same highs either. That's the way life works I think; when something's really hard, it gives you a big buzz when you achieve it.’


We asked a swathe of musicians, organisers and record labels that have been involved with the festival over the past ten years to summarise some of their favourite memories from the illustrious history of 2000trees.

James Scarlett (Band booker/Artist liaison)

It’s so difficult to pick my favourite 2000trees memory of the last 10 years ... So with apologies to The Bronx, Maybeshewill and Future of the Left, I’ll have to go with Frank Turner in 2013. He was booked to headline our main stage, but also agreed to play his Love Ire & Song album in its entirety on our second stage (the Cave). He had just sold out Wembley Arena so to get him to play a smallish stage at an independent rock festival was a real coup for us.

Love Ire & Song is an album I loved when it came out in 2009 and it really felt like it had a big place in the history of 2000trees. I can still remember the moment when Frank walked on stage with acoustic guitar in hand. I stood there surrounded by my friends (mostly the other Trees organisers) and about 1,000 very happy 2000trees punters. We sang every word back at him and for those 40 minutes I forgot all about my responsibilities as an organiser and just lived in the moment. Without wanting to sound cheesy (probably too late for that), there was this feeling of togetherness, of us all sharing the joy and passion together - it really was something very special that I will never forget.

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Jamie Lenman

Jamie Lenman playing the Cave stage at 2000trees in 2014
Jamie Lenman playing the Cave stage at 2000trees in 2014 (Ben Morse)

2000trees have been really good to me ever since I left them in the lurch and cancelled my headline appearance at the last minute eight years ago. You wouldn’t think that would be a particularly firm basis for an enduring relationship but I’m glad to say it was – they extend the hand of friendship every year and I’m always over the moon when I’m able to shake it vigorously.

Like any musician worth their salt, I’ve played more festivals than there are teeth in The Osmonds and there genuinely is something different about this one. I don’t know what it is but for some reason the vibe is super relaxed and friendly, everyone’s always smiling. I can’t wait to play it again in 2016.

Andy Rea (PR/Marketing/Trader liaison)

2000trees has been the most amazing adventure, encapsulating thousands of micro-moments that each add to the achievement. Through the festival I met my wife, made hundreds of friends and enjoyed one hell of a journey with my co-founders that has provided memories to last a lifetime.

We didn't even know if we would do a second one, so to reach 10 years is a massive milestone. It will be a truly beautiful feeling when the event is live – and as an organiser the best emotional high is immediately after it is all done and dusted.

In year one, we underestimated almost every element of the task in hand and were rescued by the farmers’ goodwill providing a tractor and trailer and the incredible support of amazing volunteers who wanted to help for the love of live music.

Working 20 hour days in the first few years was as exhausting as it was exhilarating. I drew the short straw in year one (2007) and had to do campsite patrol in the rain at 4am; that was a particularly miserable job, but then I was stood in the main stage security pit watching our first headliner – Frank Turner – and realised this was the best feeling in the world.

For me 2000trees is now synonymous with summer – sunny days, fun and friendship in the fields, creating memories, and enjoying a pulsating line-up that really represents the future of British rock music.

Frank Turner

Frank Turner headlining the main stage at 2000trees in 2013
Frank Turner headlining the main stage at 2000trees in 2013 (J.Sadler)

The histories of my career and that of 2000trees have been intertwined over the years. I played the first one, it was my first ever festival headline (and I've been back to headline again since). It's become the main festival of the scene I'm part of, the central date of our summer.

My memories of it are many and fond; perhaps my favourite year was 2008, when I played a solo set, a set in the campfire, a record in-store in town and then a full-band main stage set. After the last show, I dragged myself into the van to drive home, leaving my ruined shoes behind in the mud, where they may still be, for all I know. They're my little contribution to the festival site.

Rob Scarlett (Art development/Site design)

2007 - Year 1 Painting the front of the bar. Everyone went home for showers and I stayed at the site until late finishing it off. I didn’t really consider the fact that people stand in front of the bar and you couldn’t see a thing! That was my first lesson in not getting bogged down in the detail. Looking back I can’t see how we survived the first year, but we did and the feelings of elation at pulling it off have never really been beaten.

2007 - Year 1 Building the Tree sculpture. Me and our artist friend Holly rescued an ancient Oak which had been struck by lighting and fallen the previous year. With a few of the large branches we created a new (albeit smaller) tree in the centre of our camping field. This was my first proper piece of public artwork. It created a really important focal point to an otherwise featureless field and even to this day I hear people saying ‘meet you by the Trees sculpture’. Meeting points are super important seeing as we have no phone signal.

2008 - Year 2 Mixing an open mic evening. I’d never been behind a desk before but I got a 30 second explanation and I was off! True DIY. That was the origin of our Thursday early entry night, a special gathering for people who want to get set up early and relax rather than arrive with hundreds of others and have to rush to find a camping space.

2014 – Year 8 We always wanted to have some secret/special locations and we decided to explore a little stretch of woods that could potentially provide a really lovely relaxing environment. We found a beautiful and natural (with a little pruning) amphitheatre where we could host some bands that became the Forest stage. The lovely farmers John and Sheila actually allowed us to build a permanent stage there (ably designed and built by our Architect friend Rich Bryant). The area provides shelter from Sun or Rain and is a great retreat for people wanting a little relaxation. With hammocks and hay bales this is an area I’m really proud of.

Every year! Swimming in the lakes at the end of the day. As long as it’s slightly warm I love having a little dip in the ponds at the end of each setup day. So refreshing, if a little swampy!!

Murray Macleod (The Xcerts)

Murray Macleod of The Xcerts playing the main stage at 2000trees 2015
Murray Macleod of The Xcerts playing the main stage at 2000trees 2015 (Jess Jones)

2000trees is a festival incredibly dear to my heart. The line-ups are consistently brilliant, the community spirit between the bands and music lovers alike is unparalleled and 2000trees 2015 provided us with the greatest show we've ever played. One of my fondest memories from the festival involves our tour manager giving Darren from Crazy Arm £20 to jump into the lake that runs alongside the festival site. To say the water is murky and mucky is an understatement! Needless to say, Darren was an absolute champ and took the bet. He jumped, he swam, he got incredibly ill.

Brendan Herbert (Event Manager/Photography co-ordinator)

There is no single standout story that I can relate – largely due to the fact that there is always some emergency to be dealt with. Rather, I most fondly recall the dynamic that transcends a single experience, and it is all about the people who make 2000trees happen. The festival is so much more than the organisers. A whole army of friends and volunteers bring the event together over a couple of weeks. For the most part, these are individuals who are spread across the country and so don’t necessarily see each other from one 2000trees to the next.

Yet, as each arrives on site for the year’s event, warm reunions take place, and for a week or two each year we live and work together cheek by jowl. I LOVE these people, and am as close to them as I am to friends that I have known a lifetime, yet our cumulative time spent together in the grand scheme of things is minimal. However, our relationship is forged through the blood, sweat and tears of bringing the festival out of the ground, come rain or shine.

Their involvement and commitment is the cornerstone of what makes 2000trees a success – passion, enthusiasm, dedication and commitment, all for a genuine enthusiasm of the event itself, and the music that we put on. Legends, one and all.

Sam McTrusty – Twin Atlantic

Sam McTrusty of Twin Atlantic
Sam McTrusty of Twin Atlantic (Getty)

2000 trees was the first festival outside of Scotland that gave us a chance to play. It was a big moment for us and the festival didn’t disappoint or leave our expectations underwhelmed. The turnout for our set was intimidating at the time. Hundreds of people moving in one big swell as we rushed through our set loving every second of adrenaline and fear. They knew the words!!! People in another country know the words to our songs. It was a milestone. Then a surreal turning point as a guy in a chicken costume appeared in the crowd, then onstage. We had a guy in a chicken costume rock out with us onstage.

The following time we returned to the festival they had picked a photo of me out as the cover design to the festival programme. We weren’t even a headline act. It just made us feel like we belonged. This festival had embraced what we were all about. Hard work and community; taking risks but having fun when it all goes wrong and you end up with a rubber chicken mask on stage singing in the sun. We love that the festival has stayed true to its roots by giving people an alternative take on a music festival where all the clichés you’d expect are drowned out by the intimate setting and quirkiness.

Mark Gardiner (Production/Site infrastructure)

The festival has so many special memories for me including some of the best and most stressful of my life. The experience of growing a very small amateur event into what has turned out to be a pretty slick professional operation has been so special, especially having done it with five mates who have all grown with it.

The majority of our customers are unaware of the amount of pre-planning and behind the scenes during the weekend that takes place to make 2000trees happen. It’s on the weekend itself where most of the more stressful memories occur, including the generator failing during Alkaline Trio's headline set in 2015, full toilets having to be moved in 2008 as the cleaning truck could not get to them due to the mud, creating new routes to the stages in 2012 due to yet more mud (this time, knee-deep), numerous artic-trucks getting stuck over the years and having to be towed out by the farm tractor, high winds and generally praying it doesn’t rain.

Despite all this and numerous other challenges we have overcome, the memories that really stay with you are the reactions of the customers, including friends and family, to the changes we make and the bands we book. The one that particularly sticks in my mind is when we created The Cave stage in 2011. There was a significant amount unknown factors in that first year with regards to positioning the tent and working out the stage height, but we felt pretty happy before any bands had stepped foot on it. After all that work it was then so great to see it packed and going crazy for headliners …And So I Watch You From Afar. I couldn’t resist getting in the pit for their last song Set Guitars to Kill.

Charlie Caplowe (Founder of Xtra Mile Records)

In 2013 Xtra Mile took over The Greenhouse stage; it was scorching hot, beautiful sunshine beating down on us all day. We had acoustic sets from Jim Lockey & The Solemn Sun, The Xcerts, Emily Barker and many more; and elsewhere throughout the festival we had full band sets, including Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls headlining the Main Stage and Future Of The Left headlining the Thursday night. With so many friends in one place, in the sun, in a stunning setting, on a glorious British summer's day - it was only going to be a lot of fun. There was a swingball competition, some impromptu sing-a-longs at fan's tents and a good amount local food and drink consumed.

This year we're back taking over the Axiom Stage with Beans On Toast, Ben Marwood, Oxygen Thief, Rob Lynch and Crazy Arm - with The RPMs, Recreations, Will Varley and Johnny Lloyd playing over the weekend. Plus more to be announced! If it’s half as good as last time then we're in for a real treat.

Jack Clothier (Founder of Alcopop Records)

2000Trees is a spectacular place, with every hidden nook and cranny across the festival a mini theatre playing out some magical scenarios - and that's alongside the awesome bands playing. Personally I've put our label's bands on, played in a ridiculous jurassic park indie-punk fusion band, sold lots of nice merch to incredible people and basically loved it for the last few years, enjoying the privilege of bringing a little bit of what we do to the huge independent party organised by a team of people who really f**king care!

I still remember the inflatable dinosaur we borrowed from the silent disco crowd-surfing across the busy Croft Stage as we sung about Jeff Goldblum complete with a raptor-headed guitarist and local quasi-hero Oxygen Thief drunkenly belting out incoherent film samples, or a group of campers winning the opportunity to have Johnny Foreigner help put up their tent (uselessly as it turned out).

Kev Douch (Founder Big Scary Monsters Records)

Big Scary Monsters have had bands playing - and absolutely adoring - 2000trees for almost as many years as I can remember now, although my personal experiences of the festival began THAT year when it rained like I've never previously seen (2012). Strangely though, as hard work and bleak as the moments of watching rivers of mud flood by, people up to their waists in it, desperately searching for shelter, it's those moments which really encapsulated what the festival is about for me - no-one complained, nobody packed up and went home, everyone dug in and got through it with smiles on their faces and having the best time.

2000trees isn't just another festival, it's a highlight of the summer, a feel-good event where it's totally normal to see three generations of families walking around, pints of cloudy cider and fair trade coke in hand, discovering their new favourite band whilst meeting soon-to-be friends for life. I've never once had to sell the festival to any of our bands and since that first, mud-bathed year, I've not for a second considered missing it myself. Roll on July!

Tickets are available for 2000trees 2016, which takes place between 7th – 9th July at Upcote Farm in Cheltenham

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