Hannah Ward, event manager at Westonbirt Arboretum, talks about inspirations, Forest Live and the new Christmas light trail that is set to wow visitors this winter
Forestry England organises a Christmas light trail at Westonbirt Arboretum. This year, you’ve announced plan for a new trail. What changes are you making to the event and why?
Enchanted Christmas has been running for more than 20 years, and in that time has gone from strength to strength to become one of the most popular Christmas events in the South West. Whilst this is an incredible achievement, it is important that we continue to improve and evolve the trail so that it remains attractive to new and returning customers, in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
This year we are working with a new partner, SXS Events, to create an all new trail and experience for visitors, whilst keep the intimate family feel of the event. Visitors this year will see new illuminations along the woodland trail. We don’t want to spoil all of the surprises, but this will include talking trees, created with projections, and the northern lights, created with smoke and lasers.
We are also building on the popular theatrical element to the trail. In previous years, we have had Christmas characters such as Father and Mrs Christmas and Christmas elves in the Christmas village interacting with visitors. This year magical woodland characters such as woodland elves and pixies will be on the trail itself, interacting with visitors and enhancing the magical atmosphere of the event.
However, the core and ethos of the event remains unaltered. It is important to us that the event helps us to fulfil our mission to connect people with trees.
Light trails are increasing in popularity and help draw audiences to specific venues and locations. How important are events to Forestry England?
Hugely important! Not only are they a vital source of revenue for us, enabling us to care for the nation’s woods and forests, they are also a core way of encouraging people to connect with the natural environment and care for trees.
Forestry England also organise Forest Live – what great plans do you have for Forest Live 2020?
Forestry England are currently working on the plans for Forest Live 2020 – and it’s definitely going to be one of our best Forest Live events yet! Forest Live is one of our most important public engagement events, encouraging new visitors to come and spend time in the forest. The events happen over the summer every year in six or seven stunning forest locations across the country, including Westonbirt. Acts will be announced in late 2019 and early 2020.
Where do you get your event inspiration from?
Of course, the beautiful trees of Westonbirt Arboretum! Every event and activity that we put on at the arboretum works to get people to experience our beautiful trees and forests in new and exciting ways.
For Enchanted Christmas, SXS proposed the theme this year of enchanted – the idea being that magical creatures, such as elves and pixies had cast spells on the arboretum, turning it into a magical woodland. We thought this was a fantastic idea, using the trees to conjure a fairy-tale world that would capture the imagination of the whole family.
What plans do you have for the future?
We are already thinking about ideas for next year’s Enchanted Christmas event, and what the theme for next year will be. One of our big goals is to make the event as eco-friendly as possible. We have already taken great steps in this direction this year and working with SXS have halved the diesel usage from previous years, and using low-power, high-brightness LED fixtures on 90 per cent of the lights used in the event