Larmer Tree Festival

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Larmer Tree Festival
KRusby Larmer08.jpg
Kate Rusby at the Larmer Tree Festival 2008
Genre predominantly acoustic folk, world music, reggae, roots and blues
Dates over five days in July
Location(s) Larmer Tree Gardens, near Tollard Royal, on the Wiltshire-Dorset border, England, UK
Years active 1991 - present day
Founded by James Shepard

The Larmer Tree Festival is a five-day music and arts festival held annually at the Larmer Tree Gardens near Tollard Royal on the Wiltshire-Dorset border in England. Described as "One of the most family-friendly festivals around",[1] it is also noted for its "stunning location ... and outstanding eclectic line-up."[2] In October 2008 the Larmer Tree Festival won the Family Festival Award at the UK Festival Awards.[3]


The festival is held in the Larmer Tree Gardens, Victorian pleasure grounds founded by Augustus Pitt Rivers and described as having "an enchanted and tranquil atmosphere".[4] The Larmer Tree itself was an ancient landmark tree on the ancient boundary between Wiltshire and Dorset. The tree was possibly an ancient Wych elm (Ulmus glabra) under which King John (1167–1216) and his entourage were reputed to have met when they were out hunting. The festival takes place in a setting of lawns and carefully tended gardens, dotted with Indian pavilions and Roman temples, with free-roaming peacocks and macaws.[5][6]


Seth Lakeman at the Larmer Tree Festival 2008

The inspiration for the festival came in 1990 when James Shepard came across the Larmer Tree Gardens while out jogging one day in Cranborne Chase. The first festival was held in 1990 and was a one-day event, featuring jazz and blues music, with about 200 attenders. The next festivals were two-day affairs, held over a weekend, with co-director Julia Safe joining the festival team in 1993. In 1995 the festival was extended to include the Friday night, and on-site camping was introduced.[7]

The festival is now a five-day event licensed for 5,000 people. The organisers state that "numbers are still strictly limited to protect the intimate atmosphere cherished by devotees." Tickets for the event have sold out months in advance every year since 1995.[7]

Shepard and Safe's company J & J Events Ltd. produces the festival. Shepard and Safe have rejected several major sponsorship deals as they are keen to protect their original concept. The ensuing independence and lack of sponsors' interference has allowed the small team of staff to develop the festival along its own unique lines.[7]

A community spirit is encouraged at the festival: nearly 500 volunteers from the local area, covering 13 different roles, help out before, during and after the event, and it has links with many local organisations.[7][8]

The festival organisers try to minimise its environmental impact, by such measures as recycling as much as possible and insisting on the use of biodegradable trays and wooden cutlery by the catering outlets at the event. They also encourage festival-goers to take green living measures such as lift-sharing, recycling and saving water on site.[9]


See Larmer Tree Festival line-ups for line-up listings.

In 2008 the festival featured 108 hours of entertainment, including 80 bands across seven stages over five days.[1][10] The festival predominantly features acoustic folk, world music, reggae, roots and blues. Festival areas include the main stage, a two-pole big top, Acoustic Roots Café (ARC), The Club (a "retro-rave environment"), The Social (consisting of three large tipi tents), as well as the Garden Stage, the original wooden Victorian Singing Theatre building.[10] There is also an extensive range of creative workshops for both adults,[11] teenagers[12] and younger children.[13] There are designated teenagers' and children's areas which offer activities and workshops "in everything from baby yoga to unicycling".[14]

Recent developments at the festival include the Club Larmer theatre productions and talks. Recently, film critic and writer Mark Kermode interviewed leading figures in the world of film, including Ken Russell in 2007 and Nicolas Roeg in 2008.[11][15]

Over the years, many different holistic therapies and treatments have been offered in the Secret Garden area, including osteopathy, Swedish massage, Thai massage, Bach flower remedies, Indian head massage, reflexology and shiatsu.[16][17]

In addition to all the festival areas, there are 11 acres (45,000 m2) of gardens for festival-goers to explore.

The 2011 Larmer Tree Festival is scheduled to take place from 13–17 July.


Catering facilities on site provide food and drinks from around the world, served from breakfast through to late night snacks. The site also has three bars.

The campsite next to the festival ground is free, with free hot showers. In 2006 the festival toilets won the UK Festival Awards 2006 Portaloo Sunset Award For Best Toilets.[18]


In 2008 the Larmer Tree Festival was nominated for five awards by UK Festival Awards: Best Small Festival (for festivals of 10,000 festival-goers or less); Best Lineup; Grass Roots Festival Award (for "the king of anti-commercialism"); Family Festival Award and Best Toilets.[19] The festival made the shortlist in three categories: Best Small Festival, Family Festival Award and Best Toilets, and won the Family Festival Award when the results were announced at the awards ceremony in London on 30 October 2008.[3][20]


  1. ^ a b "Larmer Tree Festival 2008". BBC Dorset. Retrieved 2008-10-11. 
  2. ^ "Larmer Tree Festival". Global Rhythm. Retrieved 2008-10-11. 
  3. ^ a b "The Winners of 2008". UK Festival Awards. Retrieved 2008-10-31. 
  4. ^ "Larmer Tree - Wiltshire's secret garden". BBC Wiltshire. Retrieved 2008-10-11. 
  5. ^ "Larmer Tree magic weaves its spell". This is Wiltshire. Retrieved 2008-10-11. 
  6. ^ Keen, Mary (2003-05-24). "A stately pleasure garden". London: Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2008-10-11. 
  7. ^ a b c d "The Story So Far". Larmer Tree Festival. Archived from the original on 19 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-11. 
  8. ^ "Volunteers". Larmer Tree Festival. Archived from the original on 7 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-11. 
  9. ^ "Green Larmer Tree". Larmer Tree Festival. Archived from the original on 13 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-11. 
  10. ^ a b "Venues". Larmer Tree Festival. Archived from the original on 19 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-11. 
  11. ^ a b "For Adults ...". Larmer Tree Festival. Archived from the original on 9 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-11. 
  12. ^ "YouthZone". Larmer Tree Festival. Archived from the original on 2 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-11. 
  13. ^ "Fun For Kids". Larmer Tree Festival. Archived from the original on 16 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-11. 
  14. ^ "Larmer Tree Festival 2005". BBC Dorset. Retrieved 2008-10-11. 
  15. ^ "Festival line-up revealed". This is Wiltshire. Retrieved 2008-10-11. 
  16. ^ "Therapies". Larmer Tree Festival. Archived from the original on 16 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-11. 
  17. ^ "BBC - Dorset - Entertainment - Larmer Tree Festival 2006". Retrieved 2010-11-20. 
  18. ^ "Larmer Tree Festival". Contact Music. Retrieved 2008-10-11. 
  19. ^ "Larmer Tree Festival 2008: Nominated in the following categories". UK Festival Awards. Retrieved 2008-10-11. 
  20. ^ "UK Festival Awards – Vote for Us!". Larmer Tree Festival. Archived from the original on 16 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-18. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 50°57′6.82″N 2°4′59.86″W / 50.9518944°N 2.0832944°W / 50.9518944; -2.0832944