Follow the track down into a clearing in the wood and there is a stage, a barbecue and the makings of a bonfire. On that stage, a young Amy Winehouse-lookalike in leopard-print dress, high black belt and fake tattoos is working through the hits with more precision than Amy herself can muster, these days.
This is the first Lovewood festival, a collaboration between the Love Is All You Need charity and Little Dernwood Farm. The plan is to raise money for the charity and its work in South Africa, including an education centre in Mdumbi, caring for children orphaned by HIV and AIDS in communities where 170 adults die every week.
A handmade, friends-of-friends type of event, Lovewood is not so much a festival as an expression of goodwill and support for this charity.
I don’t dance for the same reason I don’t walk around in a pair of speedos – out of consideration for others
Little Dernwood can be found along the narrow country lanes around East Hoathly, and the campsite has a growing reputation for providing an experience closer to wild camping than the manicured order of the nearby Caravan Club site. There is no shower block. There is a composting toilet somewhere but I can’t find it. As it is late Spring, the bluebells turn down their bonnets in the dappled glade. On stage, a collection of children called Jazz Code come on. The adults hide behind the barbecue stall, smoking the cigarettes they promised their children they had quit.
A Streets-style trio called Twisted Link perform an impressive collection of raps over beats taken from the 8-bit and 16-bit videogames of yesteryear. I look around for their parents. No sign. Perhaps the boyfriend of the daughter of someone. Their set coaxes a few more bodies into the big empty rectangle at the front of the stage. Now the Mum and Dad dancing begins in earnest. Mum grooving her baby’s arms in time to the beat, Dad gallumphing around in front of the stage with his son on his shoulders. The baby is in a papousse, and its arms and legs flail around as Mum dances.
Dirty Ugly Punk Monkeys play a set that turns a variety of beloved classic songs into shouty musical mince
Needless to say, I don’t dance. Not anymore. I can’t lose myself in the beat. These days, my mind wanders off and starts thinking about bills and art and things and before I know it, I am just standing in the middle of the dancefloor as if startled from a dream. Nor do I encourage my children to dance. I don’t dance for the same reason I don’t walk around in a pair of speedos – out of consideration for others. Emo offspring skulk around, discover their parents having a cheeky fag in the woods, and roll kohl-rimmed eyes. I’m with them.
The land cools quickly. The pylons with their rigging are ship masts sailing off into the sunset. My brood returns to its tent. It takes longer than ever to load the children into bed. Elsewhere, the party is just starting. Soon the bonfire will be lit, and Dirty Ugly Punk Monkeys will play a set that turns a variety of beloved classic songs into shouty musical mince. And somewhere in the woods, a grey-haired old badger will put its paws over its ears and suffer for a good cause.