Gigs are far more than just a chance to dance

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THE rain came down ... but spirits remained high as Ed Sheeran entertained a sell-out crowd at Thetford Forest on Thursday.

I was in my customary spot - promoter JD even joked about putting a bench there for me.

But huddled under a sibling’s coat and singing along to one of 2012’s stellar acts got me thinking.

Access to Thetford Forest has always been easy and fulfilling for all ages: My boys always loved the squirrel maze before Go Ape! had put up its first rope swing; I remember getting miserably lost around Mayday Farm on a bike ride once and just making it back to my car before last light; then there are the new Segways - a sort of balancing act on two wheels which I’ve now sort of mastered.

Thetford Forest really does rock - and it’s not just when the summer gigs take place.

But these musical feasts are a vital part of the Forestry Commission’s plans for the future.

The Commission is keen to get more and more people to enjoy the forest – and the gigs are a great way of doing just that.

Environmentalists will rightly be concerned about the impact of 8,000-or-so concert-goers in a green setting. But it takes just 72 hours to de-rig after a concert and just an hour or so to clear the site of traffic after the last note has been belted out.

Add to this the robust nature of a forest and the ‘damage’ done to flora and fauna is nothing like you might imagine.

The Commission feels that the best way of getting people to engage in the importance of woodlands, and to teach them about respecting their environment, is not to preach at them ‘but to ensure they value and feel for the environment around them’.

The Live Music programme is self-sustaining, providing valuable cash to plough back into the management of woodlands in a variety of projects. Examples include work on habitat creation for endangered butterfly species and projects to encourage young and old alike to get out and about in the natural environment - from mountain biking to T’ai Chi.

We are so lucky to have a green space the size and quality of Thetford Forest right on our doorstep and should make even better use of it than we do currently.

Barry Peters is editor of the Bury Free Press.

Next week: Ben Keenan