Celebrating a rock decade at Thetford

PUBLISHED: 14:21 19 May 2011 | UPDATED: 19:24 20 February 2013

Celebrating a rock decade at Thetford

Celebrating a rock decade at Thetford

The successful Forestry Commission concerts at High Lodge are now into their 10th year. We ask two of the founders how it all got started.

The successful Forestry Commission concerts at High Lodge are now into their 10th year. We ask two of the founders how it all got started.

David Barrows earliest memory of starting up the forest concerts was a meeting with Mike Taylor from the Forestry Commission in 2000. I thought: this could turn into something very big, remembers David. Mike had the vision and drive to see the idea through and I had the programming and production know-how to get it working. The rest is history.

Mike, who was then the environment (recreation and conservation) manager for East Anglia Forest District, adds: I was trying to come up with ideas to generate a more diverse business and user base. I just thought what a fantastic place to stage a concert! Was it difficult getting the acts to come to this little-known corner of Suffolk?

Says David: Naturally new artist agents and their managements wanted to know what was what. My background with The Cambridge Folk Festival and National Trust shows helped things along. In the early days there were no major competitors and East Anglia had no big indoor venue to speak of so acts liked the idea of hitting markets they would not normally hit on main UK tours.

In fact, the first concert was a classical one with a laser light show and had to be staged late in the summer. Explains Mike: We used a locally based orchestra so the production costs were reasonable and set a modest audience target of 2,000 people it actually sold out. It was also a great team building experience with significant voluntary support from the Commission staff and family. It gave me the confidence to be more ambitious we staged our first rock concert with Jools Holland the following year.

Both men have seen their share of acts at the venue and they have their favourites. Pulp way back in 2001 were a very cool act to book, says David. While for Mike it is the Levellers in 2001. It was the first year that we moved the programme to other Forestry Commission sites (we currently have seven sites around the country) and the Levellers, along with Jools Holland, played all four forest venues as a mini tour.

Inevitably some big acts have turned High Lodge down. This could be due to financial offers, the date does not fit into their schedules or they are on a festival exclusive. There is one big act that did initially turn us down this year but persistence paid off and they are coming, says David. Personally I would have loved to have seen Johnny Cash at Thetford and it would have been great to have had Lowestoft band The Darkness do a home show before they split up!

There have been some challenges along the way, in particular toilets at the first concert. We were not used to staging events in the dark and omitted to wire in the lights in the hired units, says Mike. The High Lodge septic tank hit capacity and we ended up directing gentlemen to the trees and ladies to the functioning loos issued with a free glowstick!

So what are the things the audiences dont appreciate in terms of organising these events. The planning must be quite involved?

Says David: On the booking side getting an artist confirmed can take hours of calls and meetings spread over many months, in some cases well over a year! Programming is a year round process. I am already in discussions with potential bands for 2012.

For tickets visit www.forestry.gov.uk/music



Who are they? Scottish rock band with a big stadium sound who had a succession of hits in the mid 80s and early 90s, notably Alive and Kicking and Dont You (Forget About Me)..

State of play: Bringing out their 16th album in 2012. As well as playing Forestry Commission venues the band will tour Europe this year.

Faces in the crowd: Forty-something 80s rockers who like big production, surging rock.

Alive and Kicking? Still sprightly. Founder and lead vocalist Jim Kerr is 52 and rest of the band are tour-hardened so expect fine musicianship plus lots of hand waving and some gyrating from Mr Kerr.


Who is he? The original lounge lizard of rock/pop. Quirky and inventive with Roxy Music, he now fashions the smoothest of adult rock as a solo artist.

State of play: Critical plaudits for his last album Olympia though sales were a little disappointing.

Faces in the crowd: Former art rockers from the seventies, eighties soulboys, some swooning housewives . . . a crowd with a certain amount of sophistication.

The Same Old Scene? Now well into his sixties, it will be interesting to see if his voice stands up away from the recording studio. Expect some gentle swaying from Mr F and what should be an excellent tour band.


Who are they? Where have you been? One of the biggest boy bands the charts have known

State of play: First seven singles went straight to number one and have sold more that 46 million records. Still popular if no longer in their pomp

Faces in the crowd: A sea of thirtysomething females. Screams will echo around this forest glade

Flying Without Wings? They dontneed a safety net, this group will use their young voices to serenade their adoring following with a succession of ballads and love songs. The backing band will have the instruments


Who are they? English synthpop duo, consisting of songwriter and keyboardist Vince Clarke and singer Andy Bell, who were chart regulars in the mid-eighties

State of play: All set to bring out theirnew album and, like Simple Minds, touring Europe in mid-summer.

Faces in the crowd: Gay icon Andy Bell may bring out a collection of similarly blond-highlighted andhigh-spirited lookalikes. Expect an audience ready to party whatever theweather.

Show A Little Respect? Clarke toplay the straight man behind a bank of keyboards while Bell will be a whirl of high-pitched, cheeky pop sensibilities.


Who are they? Melodic Irish pop/indie band with a string of recent hit singles. Lead singer Danny ODonoghue has a distinctive voice.

State of play: Their winsome songs regularly pop up on television shows. Latest album is Science and Faith and they are touring extensively.

Faces in the crowd: Mainly female; teenagers and possibly twentysomethings, perhaps bringing along their boyfriends.

Following the Script? Should be fine performers, they are a young band on the up and we have heard good reports of their live shows.

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