Night in the forest

Thetford gigs, July, EDP Norfolk

Thetford gigs, July, EDP Norfolk - Credit: Archant

When the Forestry Commission began its Forest Live programme, the aim was simple - to find exciting new ways to introduce new audiences to its stunning woodlands.

Fourteen years on, more than a million music fans have attended one of the atmospheric gigs, raising its profile and helping fund vital conservation work.

“The programme is self-sustaining and provides valuable revenue to plough back into our management of woodlands in a variety of social and environmental projects,” says Rachael Miller, event manager for the Forestry Commission.

In recent years projects which have benefited have included everything from habitat creation for endangered butterfly species to health projects such as mountain biking and T’ai Chi to encourage young and old alike to get out in the natural environment.

All venues are carefully vetted to ensure the concerts will not have an undue impact on the local flora and fauna.

“One of the many strengths of woodland as a habitat is its robustness and its ability to ‘carry’ people, and absorb sound and activity,” says Rachael. “The concert sites are not linked to any of our sensitive areas, and the tour is all about encouraging responsible enjoyment of the forest.”

In on the act

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Fastest selling Thetford Forest gig – East Anglian star Ed Sheeran in 2012.

Biggest Thetford Forest attendance – for The Script last summer.

Most appearances – Paul Weller in 2004, 2009, 2013.

It takes about 72 hours to de-rig the infrastructure and return the site to its original state.

Around 18pc of the country’s woods and forests are managed by the Forestry Commission.

In England, more than 50pc of the population live within 10km of a Forestry Commission managed wood or forest.

The first forest tour was launched in 2001 with Jools Holland and the Levellers.

What a year!

When Katherine Jenkins returns to the stage under a canopy of stars in the heart of Thetford Forest, it will follow a momentous few months for the singer, who recently got engaged to film-maker and artist Andrew Levitas.

In March, she was awarded an OBE and admits it was an amazing experience: “It’s crazy. I never in a million years thought I would get an OBE and to get one at 33, it was even more emotional than I think I gave it credit for. I was quite overwhelmed.”

It was lucky that she made the ceremony at all after the official notification was sent to an address neighbouring her mother’s house in Wales rather than her home in London! “Luckily, Wales being as it is, everybody knows everybody so the neighbour brought the letter and said ‘I think this might be important’,” she laughs.

The award was in recognition of not just her contribution to music, but also for her charity work, in particular with the British Forces Foundation for which she has visited troops in various war zones.

“You really appreciate these men and women do this day in, day out, so I’m very, very proud I got to go to Afghanistan again,” she says.

She can’t wait to return to Thetford Forest, this time with the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Anthony Inglis. “I’m really excited about it, because when I did the Forestry Commission shows before they were so lovely and outdoor concerts are my favourite.”

The audiences can expect songs from her previous nine albums with everything from opera arias and songs from the shows to pop numbers given a classical twist.

“We’ll be ending the show with a big proms segment where we get everybody up, waving their flags and singing Rule Britannia. It’s really fun.”

Saturday, July 12. £39.60.

Brilliant blue

With hits such as Real Gone Kid, Dignity and Fergus Sings the Blues, Deacon Blue are renowned for their catchy pop-rock sound and brilliant live performances. The band has released several critically acclaimed albums, and in 2012 released their first album in more than a decade, The Hipsters. Sunday, July 13, £40.70.

The boys are back

Boyzone will be playing at Thetford Forest as part of their BZ20 anniversary celebrations. The Irish band has sold more than 25m records worldwide and scored 16 consecutive top five hits, including six number ones. They will be supported by former Westlife singer Kian Egan, who has just released his first solo material and was crowned King of the Jungle in last year’s ITV show I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. Friday, July 11, £42.35.

Tickets still available for all shows, on 03000 680400;

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