For the first time, this winter Nene Park will be hosting their very own Winter Festival – a woodland wonderland complete with poetry, live performances, toasted marshmallows and mulled wine, and the opportunity to watch a beloved Christmas classic on the big screen. We spoke to PETE EDWARDS, Events Manager at the Trust, to find out more...
First of all, tell us a bit about how the Winter Festival came about?
I was sitting here looking at what we’ve got on site, and thinking about how we could convert or even just tweak some of our areas into welcoming people for the winter. I remember, I was standing in our old car park about ten weeks ago, just looking around and thinking: It’s an old car park – what can I do with it? Then I realised we had a small woodland area to the left-hand side of the car park, which is used as an education space for Forest School. I emailed our Education Manager and asked if there was any way I could use the Forest School space for a month in December. She said yes!
You already had ideas for what you could do with the woodland?
I did! Off the back of securing the Forest School space, I started meeting with local organisations and companies about what we could put together as a partnership. I went to the Young Technicians Academy, based in Yaxley, who train young people who aren’t necessarily sure what they want to do, but they know they’re interested in music and performance.
Then, I reached out to Eastern School of Performing Arts just down the road and said: Look, I’ve got this woodland – it’s December, it’s going to be freezing, but when I put my ‘Winter Festival glasses’ on I see this magical, enchanted forest, and I really need performers to bring that alive. They came for a visit and fell in love with the place, and agreed to get involved. They will be mixing with visitors in the Enchanted Forest and the Willow Trail using a combination of interaction and live performance.
I also reached out to a lady called Leilah, who runs willow sculpture courses. I asked if she had any stock and luckily for us, she had, so we’ve also got 38 different willow animals – everything from a squirrel to a wolf! These will form part of a light trail that will weave through the woods.
What else can visitors look forward to?
I contacted a local organisation called Syntax Poetry Collective – I explained that I’m imagining this magical woodland and I can hear poetry coming out of the trees! I asked if they’d like to work on writing some poems as part of the installation – the lights, the performance and the animals – and they were really enthusiastic.
We’ve got poets such as Mark Grist, and former Peterborough Poet Laureate Charlie Geneva is involved so; all in all it’s a proper festival, with a core of top-notch local arts and entertainment, the best the city has to offer in terms of making, doing and creating.
It sounds incredible! How long are visitors able to stay and enjoy all of this?
Following the light and willow sculpture trail then exploring the Enchanted Forest will take about 45 minutes (including the opportunity for roasted marshmallows and mulled wine). After that, you’ll emerge into the Lakeside area where we’ll have a huge, amazing heated mobile cinema truck – as part of your ticket price you can go inside the cinema and watch Christmas classic, The Snowman.
We’ll be doing three sets of timed tickets each day, 4pm, 5.30pm and 7pm, and part of my goal is to keep everything affordable. Many events at this time of year – some I’ve worked on myself in the past – range from £15 to £25, and that’s a lot of money for a family of, say, four. It all adds up. My aim was to keep the ticket price to under £10, but still give people the festive
tingles they came for.
There will be extras as well, in terms of food and drink such as hot dogs and coffee, and our Christmas pop- up shop will be open for last-minute gift buying, but the core ticket price per person is £9.50 for over an hour of creative, immersive, festive loveliness! All the profits will be put back into Nene Park too, for keeping it a safe, welcoming green space for the whole city, all year round.
People are going to see the Park as they’ve never seen it before, aren’t they?
It can be very quiet in the Park during December – people want to come down here but with it being cold and getting dark early, we’ve got to give them a little bit of a reason to visit and see how much it can offer at this time of year. And it is glorious, absolutely glorious – the lakes, the woodlands, you know. It’s just an amazing place!
NENE PARK TRUST WINTER FESTIVAL
Running from 1st to 24th December, entry tickets are £9.50 per person (free for carers and under 3s) and include parking, with sessions starting at 4pm, 5.30pm and 7pm daily from 1st December. All ticket proceeds go straight towards the upkeep of Nene Park.