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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

Elfia Haarzuilens 2016

Kees - Elfia Hz 2016 - Podium (750p)
A little over a month ago we kept you up to speed about Elfia, and now after some delay we proudly present our festival report! 🙂
Read all about the fun we had getting to know great new bands (well, new to CeltCast anyway) like Unicorn, Accordzeam and Love Street, and about our first face to face encounter with close friends and members of the CeltCast family Greenrose Faire. Despite the dreadful weather it was an amazing weekend filled with joy, dancing, great people, awesome costumes and just loads and loads of fun!


It’s Saturday morning, 08:00 am, and I’m driving on a nice sunny morning towards… no wait, it’s raining… I mean, now it’s sunny again… or, no, snow? Really?
Anyway, I’m driving towards the largest and most luxurious castle in the Netherlands, Castle de Haar, where the grounds are transformed each year into the Kingdom of Elfia, traditionally an event that signals the opening of the festival season in the Netherlands.

Elfia started in 2001 as Elf Fantasy Fair at the historical theme-park Archeon, and the next year it moved to Castle de Haar. This makes Elfia one of the longest running (maybe the longest running?) large scale fantasy events in the Netherlands. The edition I was heading to now was the 23rd event, since 2009 they organise a second event each year in Arcen on the Dutch/German border, so that is definitely quite the achievement! With their key concept being “You’ll never dream alone”, Elfia has a large focus on the expression of dreams, with costumes as the most obvious way to shape these dreams. Going to Elfia will always mean being treated to a visual extravaganza, with costumes, cosplay and crazy characters all around, all weekend long!

After driving through all of the seasons of the year, even though it was only a fifteen minute drive, I arrived at the castle gates, which were buzzing with activity! Entertainers getting ready for the day, merchants bringing in their last merchandise, festival volunteers flying all over the place to get everything ready for the first visitors, and security guards helping everyone get to where they needed to be. There was already a strong festival vibe in the air! The reason I was this early was that I was invited for a little chat by the festival’s stage-manager, Steef, and well, once the doors open to the public someone in that position has little to no time to spare. My tickets were waiting for me at the entrance, but since the festival wasn’t open yet, and wouldn’t be for quite some time, there wasn’t anybody there yet. But no problem there, because the events many volunteers are all easily recognisable, as they are all dressed in tabards, bright red and yellow robes that have the logo of the festival on them, so I just grabbed the nearest one 😉 and a few radio calls later I had my very own golden armband and I was on my way to the Elfia stage, walking through the gorgeous castle gardens that would not look out of place in any movie about renaissance era courts.

The first thing anyone notices when approaching the main stage area is the bar. A huge pirate ghost-ship that seems to sail through the fields, a very recognisable sight, and a clear indication of having entered a different world! Close to opening, the stage was crawling with sound engineers, light technicians, and all sorts of other stage crew. The buzz of anticipation was heavy in the air, that special type of feeling when you know that months of hard work are coming to life in these last minutes and hours. Having agreed to meet Steef here, but not having any clue as to what he looked like, I thought I would just try my luck and call out his name, and it worked. A very friendly gentleman in an Elfia tabard responded and invited me backstage. In keeping with good Dutch tradition, after a first handshake I was shown where to find the coffee, the life juice of any event. It turned out that Steef had that specific combination down to perfection, where one combines professional attitude with a very friendly posture, that makes you feel right at home! We briefly talked about what what we were both exactly doing there, and what we could do for each other. I could tell right away that this was going to be an awesome weekend!

20160423-001 Koffie After this introduction, and of course the first coffee, I had some spare time, so a chance to wander around the grounds a bit. It is very hard to put into words the feelings you get from just casually walking around here. Winding paths take you from merchant filled market squares, through tree lined walkways to grass fields, all filled with the most amazing and wonderful people and sights. Smells of wood-fired grills and steam-powered popcorn machines, sounds of birds and people having fun. All of this combines to create a truly magical atmosphere where one would expect fairies and other mystical, mysterious creatures to pop up around every corner.

20160423-002 Bateria Volle Petaj But it was time to get to work, as the powerful sounds of Bateria Volle Petaj were pumping up the visitors! This Dutch percussion group has been around since the early 90’s and they originated from the Carnaval in the south of the Netherlands. Their rhythms are based in Latin music, mainly samba and samba related sounds from Brazil. They know how to play together and they know how to party, and all of that comes together when they perform. They seem to radiate joy and enthusiasm, and that is contagious! It is almost impossible to keep yourself from moving to their pounding percussion! This is a great wake up call, thank you Bateria Volle Petaj, and thank you Elfia!

20160423-003 UNICORN Next up: UNICORN! This self described “Irish swing-folk band” was formed in 1996 by Martien Tijburg and John Kuiper, and has since then had various other band members. Nowadays it consists of the founding members, joined by Betty Borstlap, Jolanda Traarbach, Martine Nijenhuis and Erna Sommer, though they play in various configurations with not always all six of them on stage. Their performance on this Saturday started with a Balfolk dance workshop and that’s where one can see the experience of these performers come to light. The dance instructor would explain some moves, and the band would seamlessly join in with some appropriate music, as if a director was conducting it all! Highly trained in the musical arts, these musicians swept up the dancers and definitely owned the stage. What a joy to hear both some well known traditionals as well as their own music performed brilliantly!

20160423-004 Accordzeam After a short break there was another Balfolk workshop, this time by French musical wonders Accordzéâm. These men have all received higher education in music and that reflects in everything they do! Since this started as a Balfolk workshop things started out slowly, and with a lot of repetition for the new dancers. But once a few dances were taught, wow, did these guys give away a show! From very recognisable traditionals, to their own style of sounds that just feel like “home”, and to top it all off several very well known modern anthems turned into folk, in a way that makes you wonder if they weren’t actually meant to be played like this. Who knew that you could dance Balfolk to folky versions of The Emperial March and theme songs of Ghost Busters and Indiana Jones. But maybe the one that caught me most of guard and pleasantly surprised me was the heavily folkyfied version of AC/DC’s Highway To Hell that had the dance-floor go absolutely mad!

20160423-005 Greenrose Faire A 45 minute break in the programming allowed me to get a drink and slowly sink back to earth after this awesome performance, but I might as well have stayed up there in music heaven, because after a quick sound-check it was time for Greenrose Faire to take the stage! We’ve known these guys and girls ever since they boldly just sent us their CD’s, and we’ve loved their unique sound from day one! But being from Finland it’s not like they’re in the area a lot, so this was the first time we had a chance to see them live. And man, what a show it was! As said, Greenrose Faire have their own specific sound, and it connects amazingly with the Dutch crowd. I was fortunate enough to already know their songs, so I was very content being right in front of the stage singing along. But behind me the dance-floor filled up, and filled up, and then filled up a bit more, as everyone just walking by got caught in the flow and energy of this awesome group of people and immediately decided to stick around for the show. Aside from the fact that they are amazing musicians, and they seem to have a great talent for writing music that connects with the listeners, the one thing that I really want to point out about their performance is that they radiate fun. They enjoy their time on stage, they enjoy being together and playing together, and that shows!

20160423-006 Love Street After a very swift turn around, much respect to the stage-crew and technicians for their quick and professional work there, it was time for the last band of the day, Love Street. This band, mainly based in England, plays what they call Celtic Folk Rock, and I think that that description is spot on! They are a powerhouse on stage, seemingly born to perform, and they certainly Celtic-Folk-Rocked Elfia! Their take on some of the more well known folk anthems gave those songs a flair that almost turned them into completely new songs, and that is something I really love to see. Combine that with their own work, and you get a show that I will remember for a long time. Their music is a style that you won’t hear on CeltCast, too much amplification for our little gentle stream 😉 , but they are definitely a band that I will keep an eye out for, and will most likely be visiting again!

Unfortunately life caught up with me after that, and I had to leave, thereby missing the day’s finale, stuntmen and a fire-show. I was bummed about that back then, and after having seen the photo’s of that show I am bummed out even more! Extravagant and massive, the show was a fitting end to an amazing day of music, dance, fantasy and friends!


20160423-007 The Instant Voodoo Kit Sunday was focused on one thing, and one thing only: recording! After having had technical difficulties with our recording equipment all through Saturday, causing all of the day’s recordings to be useless, this was the day to get down and dirty. The day started with a show by The Instant Voodoo Kit, a band from Germany that has their own style of entertaining. The show was much more than a musical performance, it was a combination of music with storytelling and an almost circus-like appearance that blended together to create their own atmosphere, their own little universe. It is a combination that one usually either loves or hates, and I certainly enjoyed myself, so you can count me in the first category.

After this performance there was a 45 minute window, and I ran backstage to used that to get an interview with Niilo and Salla of Greenrose Faire. I had spoken with them and the other band-members several times during the weekend, and what continued to amaze me is how lovely these people are. But don’t just take my word for it, stay tuned, we will publish the interview sometime in the future 😉

20160423-008 Accordzeam Next up was another great show by Accordzéâm. I would love to describe this performance in great detail, but I doubt there are enough adjectives in the English language to do it justice. What I would like to point out it that despite the fact that the Sunday is traditionally a bit of a quieter day, as most visitors that choose to go one day will be there on Saturday, one hardly seemed to notice that on the dance-floor. It seems the Sunday visitors are the hard core of fantasy-folkers, and they were there to party the entire weekend! Accordzéâm certainly gave them what they came for, and mental pictures of a massive “cercle” are stored under “awesome” in my mind!

20160423-009 Greenrose Faire Then another quick turn around (really guys, resetting the stage and sound-checking in 15 minutes, awesome stage crew!) and it was time for another Finnish fest with Greenrose Faire sharing their magic on stage. Feeling very confident with myself I sang along to every song I knew, but not too loudly, as the recordings were going great today and I wanted to record Greenrose Faire, not “Arjan’s impression of Greenrose Faire”. I have talked about the chemistry these people have on stage, but that is only one way to describe the professionalism of a band. Greenrose Faire showed us another sign of being an amazing band. During their last song of the set (fortunately) all of a sudden the power went out. No lights, no sound, nothing. But even before the engineers and stage-crew had a chance to respond to this, Tomi, the bands drummer, seamlessly moved into an amazing drum-solo, as the drums were the only instrument that didn’t need amplification. Turning a bad situation into something impressive, that is awesome!

20160423-010 Love Street Unfortunately, resolving the power crisis took some time, leaving not too much time for Love Street to wrap up the festival, but they did do that in style! Even their rather short show was a lot of fun, and again they surprised me with their power and sheer pleasure in being on stage! Their last song was accompanied by streamers and confetti canons, and that was a fitting way to end the day, go out with a bang!

There are so many things I could, and would like to say about this weekend. At the beginning of this report I touched briefly on the weather. This stayed the same all through the weekend. Rain, sun, hail and even snow, all made repeated appearances both days, and if you didn’t like the weather at some point, all you had to do was wait five minutes, because that’s how long it took to change. Surprisingly though, the weather didn’t seem to stop the dancers, and once they started dancing the sun seemed to show itself every time. Maybe there is some truth to the old concept of rain-dances, and Balfolk is the sun-dance equivalent, who knows?
With Elfia being very oriented towards costumes how could I not take a moment to appreciate those? I am not a costume wearer myself, but I do love to see people enjoy themselves by being themselves, or by being whoever they want to be. To see so many people that have clearly put a lot of effort into this, ranging from zombies, through animé, to complete historically correct Victorian dresses, that always gives me a warm feeling inside!
And this warm feeling also extends to the organisation. When we first reached out to the with our ideas we never expected such an enthusiastic an friendly response. From the very first day we felt welcome and we felt a part of the family, how awesome is that? We already can’t wait for Elfia Arcen in September! A special thank you goes out to one member of Elfia in particular. The stage-manager Steef made not just the backstage area, but the whole festival feel like home! From the first second we met to the last handshake at the end this guy was both professional and a friend, and that’s a noteworthy combination! Dude, you are awesome, and don’t let anybody tell you any different!

Now, with all of that said, and it turned out to be a lot longer than I originally expected, with Elfia “in the pocket” I would like to officially declare the festival season open! We hope you’ll enjoy many festivals and we hope to meet you all there! Stay safe and keep folking!

– Arjan

It’s festival time!


Bright sun, blue sky, green fields, and birds happily singing along, this can mean only one thing:


The first festival we will be attending is Elfia Haarzuilens.

This edition’s theme is “Time & Space”, so we’re looking forward to meeting astronaut André Kuipers ànd The Doctor in his TARDIS, as well as many other wonderful creatures in these magical lands! 🙂

And of course we will be meeting up with some amazing musicians! This will actually be the first time that we will see and meet the awesome Finnish band Greenrose Faire face to face. They are a group that we consider to be part of the station’s family!

But that’s not all!
There will also be some groups there that we have not yet worked with, like Accordzéâm, Unicorn, Love Street and many more. We’ll keep you posted on them. 😉

We have received a special dispensation from the organisations that work for artist rights in the Netherlands. We are now allowed to start broadcasting concerts for one hour every week! So that means that we will also be recording some of the shows at the festival, with the cooperation of the bands and Elfia! Exciting times!!!!

So who will we be meeting in the Kingdom of Elfia on the 23rd and 24th of April? If you see any of the CeltCasters, feel free to come and say hi, we always love a good hug! 😀


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