Fantasy Forest interview

Fantasy Forest is a brand new festival, organised by a very experienced group of people, and it will introduce its concept for the first time to England this year! At a gorgeous location, Sudeley Castle in the Cotswolds, they will bring amazing bands to their visitors, like Harmony Glen, PerKelt, The Dolmen and Greenrose Faire. They will organise a market filled with merchants that will cater to all fantasy wishes, and they will even host a costume competition to give people the chance to show off their amazing creations. And that isn’t even the whole of it!

It will also be CeltCast’s first official venture into the UK! In the coming time we will bring you updates on Fantasy Forest, but right now we are starting with an in-depth interview. We had the honour to speak to Martin about organising a festival, about bringing something like this to an area that doesn’t have any experience with it yet. About which bands to book, and how to go about finding a location. And about so much more. If you’ve ever been to a fantasy festival, or you’ve just always been interested in what such an organisation looks like, you can read all about it here. Enjoy, and hopefully we’ll see you all at this beautiful new event!

– First off, please introduce yourselves! Who are you, how old are you, where are you from, and of course, what are your backgrounds regarding festivals?

Well, my name is Martin and I am 48 years old. Born, raised and living in Friesland which is an area in the north of The Netherlands. I started visiting fantasy festivals a long time ago and fell absolutely in love with the concept after the first time. The atmosphere, the friendly people, the music and the smell of campfires and food stalls. Just being there is enough to lift my spirit. After about 5 years I signed up as a festival volunteer for the first time. That was an amazing experience and I never could have imagined how much festivals depend on volunteers and how much effort goes into preparing the venue for a two day festival. Now I volunteer for 4 weeks each year and that basically eats up all my vacation days. 🙂

– When did the first dream of Fantasy Forest emerge?

That was in the summer of 2016. I remember the exact moment well: I had been working as a volunteer at a festival for 7 days already (construction) and the last band was playing their last song on the last day of the festival. I was standing on the stage, to the side where the audience could not see me, but the location gave me a great view of the people dancing in front of the stage. I noticed how happy the people were. How much this festival, this weekend, meant to them and my exact thought was “It must be fantastic to be the organiser of such a festival, stand here and see how much joy it brings to sow many people”. This idea stuck with me and developed in my mind for a while until I decided to move forward and register the company in May 2017.

– We presume that before any plans were made you had to first get your core group of organisers together. How did you go about forming this core group?

After the decision was made to move forward I had to take a good look at the tasks ahead and at my own strengths and weaknesses. What I wanted in the team were people that supplement each other and while each on our own we might not be able to organise a festival, as a group we form the perfect team.

I myself am a project manager (that is my actual paying day job as well) and I can create a whole festival plan on paper, create budgets, host meetings, keep track of tasks and make sure they are completed on time and utterly confuse anyone by producing sheets, overviews and backup plans of backup plans until they are buried in paperwork. But I am at my best in the office. Delegating, organising, problem solving. I needed some “boots on the ground” during the festival. The key to “surviving” a festival as organiser is to surround yourself with people you can rely on when the going gets tough. Enter… Stefan. I had met Stefan before at festivals and had also worked with him at several occasions. Having seen him deal quickly and calmly and efficiently with security and safety incidents I knew he would be the one I would like to have by my side. As a stage manager, often working at festivals throughout Europe, he also had personal contacts with many artists and by adding his personal network to mine we greatly extended our circle of contacts.

That still left a gap though as we are both located in The Netherlands and we had only a few contacts in the UK. I would never have started this adventure without Guy, the third man in our core team. His people skills are second to none. Everybody he meets likes him instantly and I am pretty sure he knows everybody in the UK in one way or another. From his own network and by visiting festivals and meeting people, Guy is responsible for pulling in most of the traders at Fantasy Forest as well as a very big part of the entertainment. He is also our “friendly faced” media contact and our “fixer”. We need a coach company? Guy arranges a coach company. We need a voice over? Guy arranges a voice over. We need an accountant? Guy knows an accountant.

Besides the core team there is a second group of people that play a very important role. Jantien, who is our volunteer coordinator, André who is our Safety Officer, Maria who is our (decoration) advisor, Jurrien who is our design and social media manager and Jessica, our cashflow manager.

– Of course, after forming the initial group there are still a lot of steps to take when organising a festival. How did you end up to where you are now?

Do you have a few hours? 🙂 Selecting a general area in the UK, then the specific venue and the festival dates took the most time. Six months if I recall correct. A process that involved details such using average annual rainfall charts, population density, rail and road connections and creating a huge list of all festivals in the UK, their date, location and genre. And it may sound silly but many people forget about the dull administrative part. Registering a company, setting up a bank account, hiring an accountant, trademarking the name, registering for VAT etc takes a lot of time especially if you are not a UK citizen. Setting up social media accounts, registering and developing websites, insurances, designing and printing flyers comes on top of that.

From January 2018 onward bands and entertainment have been contracted, safety plans created, licenses arranged. And we had to hire stages, trackmats, showers, marquees, market stalls, toilets, offices, fork-lifts, fences, barriers, security, technicians, electricians, generators and several miles of electrical cables, first aid, hotels, crew catering, radios, tables and benches, chairs, a shuttle bus…. the list goes on for a while. Today we are in the final stages of planning, which includes an endless list of details to go through to ensure everything runs smoothly in the weekend.

– How did you find such a stunning location as Sudeley Castle? Were they as excited as you were, or did they need some convincing?

After the decision on date and general area within the UK was made I started searching for possible locations within that area. We started with around 11 possible venues and Guy and I visited each of them. Sudeley Castle was the second location we visited and we were both blown away.

With the castle, the gardens and the amazing views. We did not discuss price with them on that occasion but as we walked out we both said “Wow, how great would it be if we could have the festival at this dream location. But we will probably never be able to afford something like this.” Well we could and here we are!

Astrid (event manager at Sudeley Castle & Gardens) embraced the idea from the very first meeting. She played a big role in our final decision on the location. We were very lucky to arrive at just the right moment as well. Sudeley was at that moment not hosting any large events and it was mainly used as a wedding location. One of the most sought after wedding locations in the UK. They had just decided to allow 2 large events each year and we just slid right in. Today it is no longer possible to organise a new event at this location as all slots are filled. We truly have been very lucky!

– Fantasy Forest seems to combine several aspects, be it music, costumes, markets, re-enactment etc, into one event, but what would you say is the main aspect? Which is the most defining element of the event?

I would say the main aspect is different for each visitor. We have added an abundance of entertainment and activities throughout both days so that if there is something going on that does not interest you that much you still have several other activities going on at the same time. If you would ask me personal I could not even make a choice. I think we excel in many areas. I could not even name you my personal favourite but I am very pleased with the Wickerman Ceremony. That is going to be absolutely amazing. The Wickerman will be built on site by Pyrite Creative who create the most beautiful structures. And Stefan has been working for months on the ceremony itself. Also the costume shows are slowly developing into something amazing. “Costume and Play” is the company that takes care of the organisation and each meeting we have they manage to impress me with their ideas. With a stage, catwalk, monitors and professional sound and light equipment this will be quite a spectacle. The line-up of the bands is a dream line-up. Not just for a first-time festival but for any festival. We also have the top of the fantasy artists worldwide. Imagine Brian and Wendy Froud, Anne Sudworth, Linda Ravenscroft and Anne Stokes all together at one festival on the same field! And I’m particularly proud about the quality of the trader stalls. We have a very impressive selection of around 100 high quality stalls, selling items you are not able to buy in the mainstreet.

So a main aspect.. no, I really could not name it.

– Like the organisers themselves, the bands you invited come from several different countries. Can you tell us a bit about them, and about how you chose these particular bands for your first ever edition?

Well most of them we knew already through Stefan’s network and of course we have seen them play many times at different festivals. That was not the main reason for asking them to come though, we actually did have a plan. 🙂

From day 1 we wanted Harmony Glen as our headliner, closing the festival on Saturday and Sunday. They may not be that well-known in the UK yet but their performance is highly energetic, is very accessible and easy to dance to even if you have never heard it before.

Celt-N-Folk XVI And they will get any crowd dancing and singing in no time. And that is how we want people to go home after the festival.

The Dolmen of course is very well-known in the UK.

They have a very large fan base and it is a pleasure working with them and an honour that they will perform on this first edition.

Greenrose Faire from Finland is another band that was our personal favourite. They are very well-known in the Nordic and Baltic countries and even organise their own festival in Finland once a year. Very talented and professional musicians who compose all their own songs. They have never performed in the UK before but having seen them play before we just know they will be a big hit with the UK audience!

– Fantasy Forest is of course a brand-new concept, but we presume it has its background in one or more other festivals. Which festivals would you say have had the most influence in forming the concept of Fantasy Forest?

Haha, well in preparation I have visited a lot of festivals in 2018. A terrible job but someone had to do it. 🙂 I cannot name a specific festival but I have seen a lot and learned a lot. Not only about what does work but even more important ideas that did not work.

– Did you need and receive a lot of cooperation from the local government with things like permits?

I don’t think they gave us any special treatment but they are familiar with large festivals in their area so they were not afraid to allow this festival to take place and also knew how things worked and which questions to ask. During our first meeting we handed them an impressive amount of documentation which clearly they were not expecting (their actual words: “Wow, we have never seen anything like this before, you are very well prepared”). They took it home with them to read and during the second meeting we received the green light without having to provide any additional information.

– We are all obviously actively hoping for a massive success for this first ever edition. Even though you are still in preparation mode, would you say that there are already things that you would like to do different next year?

Oh yes! In my mind I’m already working on the 2020 edition. We are already discussing which bands we would like to have in 2020 and have reserved the dates (July 18th and 19th 2020, mark it in your agenda). 🙂 Of course the real evaluation will come after the festival, which will also include feedback from visitor experiences, traders and entertainment.

– Where can people find more information about the festival, like dates, sleeping or camping options, and how to acquire tickets?

All the information can be found on our website. Also follow our Facebook page to stay updated on the latest developments. The festival will take place at Sudeley Castle (near Cheltenham) on July 20th and 21st. Camping is available on the venue (though selling out fast!).

– Lastly, what message would you like to pass on to the people reading this interview?

Don’t be one of those people who afterwards posts on Facebook “That looks amazing, I wish I would have been there…”. Just come. It will be grand, amazing and over the top. You cannot compare this with anything in the UK that you have ever been to before.

– Arjan de Groot

Photo Harmony Glen:
– Hans-Heinrich Breuer of Heiners art

Photo Greenrose Faire:
– Mariëlle Groot Obbink

Photos castle gardens: (excl. aerial shot)
– Alex Sealgaire

Sowulo have a new single out called Brego In Breoste. We had an interview with Faber Auroch telling all about it.

It will not have gone unnoticed by the fans of Sowulo that there is a new album on the horizon. The last two months Faber has been visiting Fieke van den Hurk in her Dearworld studio to record the vocals, and mix all the songs that will be on the upcoming album. To shorten the wait a bit Sowulo have released a first single, Brego In Breoste on the 6th of May and it is, in one word, impressive. Brego In Breoste is modern Viking Folk at its best, grand, theatrical, impressive and spiritual. Fans of Wadruna, Heilung and Kati Rán will definitely embrace this new single too.

On Sowulo’s facebook page Faber already hinted that the sound of the new album would be a bit different from the previous two albums, Alvenrad and Sol. When you hear the teasers he put up, it’s clear the sound is more powerful, shifting slightly from acoustic Celtic Pagan Folk towards powerful acoustic Viking Folk. He also hinted that the theme of the new album would be a new one. Alvenrad and Sol were, of course, themed around the Neo-Pagan feasts, the circle of the seasons. This time the theme seems to be more personal, more about an inner journey.

We contacted Faber a few weeks ago for an interview, so he could tell us all about Brego In Breoste, and the upcoming new Sowulo album. The first question of course was about the different theme running through the new music we are hearing.

– Through your updates on Facebook the last two months, I noticed that this album is not so much a journey around the sun but rather an inner journey, can you shed more light on this?

My music with Sowulo is strongly connected to my real life’s quest for what you could call the “cyclical life” or the cyclical nature of existence. The first three Sowulo albums contained compositions which, for me personally, expressed the external four seasons and the Pagan festivals. Now I wanted to express an inner cyclical pattern which presented itself to me in these past years. The third Sowulo album actually contains a musical manifestation of my experience and interpretation of the “inner four seasons”, presented as “the four archetypes”. The archetypes were described by Carl Gustav Jung and can also be discovered in various myths and pantheons. I converted the archetypes into a symbolic tale that worked for me. I ended up with the following archetypes: the Warrior, the Lover, the King and the Magician, connected with (inner) spring, summer, autumn and winter in a cyclical or spiral-like movement.

-So the new single Brego In Breoste represents a tale of one of those archetypes, which one and what does it represent to you?

The Anglo-Saxon meaning of Brego in Breoste is something like “King in Chest”. This archetypal figure of the King presented itself to me during a time when my outer world looked like it was going to fall apart. It was a period when it felt like I was losing my crown, throne and kingdom (material wealth). During this time, I discovered my “inner king”. I realized that I didn’t really need a material kingdom, and that I was more interested in discovering my inner resources.
The music and lyrics of Brego in Breoste invite me (and the listener) to gain a deeper understanding of the fact that you don’t need material riches to feel more whole. Outer riches will only feed what I call your ego-king. The king in your chest lives inside you and doesn’t need any crown, throne or kingdom. This inner king rules wisely, responsibly and with a lot of honour. Within as well as toward the outside world.

– There are some changes to be heard in the choice of instruments and sound. The most striking one is the much more prominent use of vocals. Could you tell us how this came to be.

When I started composing the music that would ultimately become the upcoming Sowulo album, it was for a different purpose. In fact, I started to compose this music for a film project. This film was going to be about a Dutch tribe in the early Middle Ages. Due to the theme of the film, I started composing single conceptual tracks with my early medieval lyre as the main instrument. I added jouhikko, a traditional two or three stringed bowed lyre, the nyckelharpa, Irish bouzouki, percussions, humming and a few cinematic sounds to it. During this composition process, the production of the film came to a halt but it will hopefully resume in the future.
I had created a number of beautiful songs and decided to use them for my music with Sowulo. I thought about a concept for an album which would work with the music I had already made at that point. The theme was eager to be found, hence it was easy to create more tracks with this concept in mind. At a particular moment, I was pointed to a magic Anglo-Saxon rune poem that fit in really nicely with one of the tracks. The text fit in perfectly with the vocal line. This was a point of no-return and suddenly, all the tracks required their own lyrics.

– You recorded the last album Sol at your own studio and the mixing was done by Fieke van den Hurk at her, then Orchus studio, now the Dearworld studio. How did the recording proces go this time?

Apart from the vocals, I recorded everything myself. I locked myself in my small studio two days a week for over a year to work on this album. When all the songs were recorded and I had pre-produced versions, I made more recordings to include Celtic harp, violin, shakers and woodblocks. Once this was completed, I went to edit and mix everything with Fieke van den Hurk, a super talented sound engineer, in her Dearworld studio. I find it very pleasant to work with Fieke. I also edited and mixed the album Sol with her, and Fieke was also responsible for all the recording and mixing of the Alvenrad album. For this new album, we recorded my voice in Fieke’s studio because I sing my lungs out most of the time.
The experience was comparable to my past voice recordings with Myrkvar, there were only three major differences: I “roared” a bit less, I sang in a higher pitch for the first time and all the lyrics were in Anglo-Saxon. The latter was often the biggest hurdle. Luckily, I got help from my good friend Veerle Verhagen. She corrected all the texts for me and let me hear the correct pronunciation. I’m making slow and steady progress in Anglo-Saxon!

– The sound of Brego in Breoste tends more towards the Norse spiritual epic. Without much of a stretch, a link can be made with Wardruna’s music. What can we expect from the upcoming CD?

Brego in Breoste is a good sample of the sound and energy of the album. But given the different characters of the four archetypes, there will be audible differences between the compositions. You can possibly imagine that a song about a Lover character would sound completely different than a Magician’s, just like when comparing music about summer and music about winter.
The sound is much more cinematic and epic, this is very much the case throughout the entire album. This is thanks to the origins of this music which was initially meant for a film. Until recently I tried to avoid the sound of Wardruna out of respect for the music. However, since in the past few years so many bands have been inspired by this sound, you can, by now, easily call it a genre. I have honestly been longing for years to produce music with a Wardruna flavour. And since I originally designed the music for a film about a Dutch tribe in the early Middle Ages, I now, for the first time, allowed myself to put this into practice. I am tremendously happy with the further developments. Within this genre, I managed to concoct a unique sound. Now to hope that there is also an audience for it!

– Last but not least, when can we expect the new CD?

The album will be released this coming summer. A lot still needs to happen with regard to the artwork but with a bit of luck, it will be done in time for Castlefest 2019!

– Cliff

Dutch to English translation:
– Diane Deroubaix

– Anna Schürmann, Cliff de Booy

Spiegelwelten photography
Ruben Terlouw

Sowulo on bandcamp:click here
Sowulo on Spotify:click here

A special Rapalje Celtic Folk Music livestream!

A special Rapalje Celtic Folk Music livestream tonight, as our own Alex joins in! Come be a part of all the fun and ask all the questions you’ve ever wanted ask, and share your own stories too!

And one very special treat. If you click on the following link, not only will you see the tracklist of Rapalje’s newest album, you will also be able to vote on which song we will be playing as Monthly Marker! This will also be the first song that Rapalje will release on various platforms! So head on over to and VOTE!

Live in the livingroom with Meidi makes Music and Hanna De Wijs – van Gorcum!

LIVE IN THE LIVINGROOM: Rob van Barschot – artist page ft. Guinevere

As promised, we bring you a special Live in the Livingroom session, straight from the home of Guinevere!

All of us know Rob mainly as a percussionist, bringing the base line rhythms for Omnia and ThunderCrow, but on his musical journey he has discovered the beauty of the Guda drum, and has now released his own solo album “Home” centered around this atmospheric marvel of an instrument.

Join us as we take you along on this journey and float away with us on the beautiful sounds of Rob and Guinevere. As always, feel free to ask anything and everything you’ve always wanted to know and we’ll try to work your questions into the interview!

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