Tuesday 30 August 2011

Shambala 2011

Northamptonshire's Kelmarsh Hall was again the beautiful setting for this year's Shambala festival. Using the lawns and woodlands of this magnificent hall, the festival was a showcase of art installations and creative energy from not only the people involved, but also the festival customers.

 The weather could have been a lot kinder with a mixture of continuous drizzle, sunny spells and sudden downpours. I know that everyone carries on regardless of the weather, but we all know the difference a sunny day can make. Wellington boots and a waterproof outer were definitely a requirement.

There was an impressive display of fancy dress on the Saturday as many of the revellers made an admirable effort to bring a smile to everyone's face. There is something for everyone at this festival which was broken down into distinctive areas. The Meadows was a quiet chilled out area for healing, yoga and permaculture. The craft area hosted workshops galore, whilst the woodland area provided an atmospheric area for partying or just relaxing. The main arena was by far the noisiest party area where candles were being burnt at both ends.

If you love to party late into the night and require an exciting, artist and energetic environment in which to do so, you can't go far wrong with Shambala. The size of the festival is perfect for that big festival feel, yet offers the intimacy of a collectively shared experience.

 The festival was brought to a spectacular end on Sunday night with the burning of an art installation and firework display on the lawns in front of Kelmarsh Hall.

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Beautiful Days 2011

Escot Park in Devon was again the setting for this year's Beautiful Days festival. Held from 19th to 21st August and blessed with good daytime weather, this was a big weekend!
Tickets had sold out and the crowd was a nice mix of ages.
It was our first time to exhibit at beautiful Days and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there.

Our stall was located in a fairly chilled out area very near the big top. This made it easy for us to pop over and see the acoustic performances or just relax at our stall and enjoy the music. One delight was the opportunity to see Ade Edmonson perform with his Bad Shepherds (pictured below). The Levellers are the band behind this festival and they played an acoustic set in the big top and finally closed the festival with a set on the main stage.

A small woodland workshop area proved very popular with kids big and small. Activities in this area included pole lathes and wittling. At night the woodland area was closed, but we were treated to fire dancing in an adjacent area. There were so many activities to entertain the youngsters which made this one of the best family festivals out of the larger events.

It was obvious that an awful lot of effort was put in to the decoration of public spaces and additions of various art installations. Willow was used to great effect for several large sculptures dotted around the site.

A collection of very large wooden mushrooms and garden seating had been lovingly carved and displayed near the big top. We had seen these sculptures at Glastonbury earlier in the summer, but it was nice to see them being appreciated at Beautiful Days.

For more information about this festival, please visit their website by clicking here!

Gaunts House Summer Gathering 2011

August 12th to 14th saw this year's Summer Gathering held in the beautiful grounds of Gaunts House, Dorset. It was our first time to exhibit our range of natural fibre and natural dye products at this event.

There were lots workshops being run throughout the weekend for all ages and an abundance of activities to entertain children. Below is a photo of a girl holding the dream catcher she had made. I apologise to her for not getting her name and we look forward to meeting her again next year.

With such a range of activities and entertainment on offer, it is hard for me to list them all and do them justice. For more information about this intimate gathering of like minded individuals, please click here!

Bourne-Craft was a stall that impressed me greatly. These mirrors are all uniquely cut from various types of plywood and have a strong coastal theme ranging from surfing to VW inspired.
Wayne, the sole craftsman behind these creations was on hand to show his techniques for these original mirrors. For more information about these mirrors, please visit Wayne's website.

I have to mention that I was totally impressed with the quality of the compost loos at this festival. They were well thought out and regularly maintained, making them infinitely more agreeable to use than the standard chemical toilets that we are forced to encounter at almost all other festivals.

Tuesday 9 August 2011

What Is Bamboo Fabric?

Bamboo has been heavily publicised by manufacturers as being the ultimate in green fibre. Is this true or are we being bamboozled? I wanted to know how a bamboo T-shirt came to be. The following information is not a complete account, but hopefully covers enough ground to give you a rough idea.

Growing Bamboo

The commercial growing of bamboo has the potential to be quite an eco-friendly process. As with all forms of commercial farming, profit often overides environmental issues. Harvesting wild bamboo in sustainable quantities would ensure minimal impact on the environment, but would sadly not satisfy the world's demand.

With commercial growing operations there is the real fear of clearing vast swaths of diverse wildlife and replacing it all with just the one plant type. Although bamboo grows well without chemical assistance, one would find it hard to believe that all producers resist the temptation of boosting production.

Most of the bamboo used to make clothing is grown in mainland China and bought up by Hebei Jigao Chemical Fiber Company. They hold the patent on the most widely used process for turning bamboo into fabric.

The Process

Modern bamboo yarn is a regenerated cellulose fibre. The fibres may be derived from bamboo pulp, but they have not been made from natural bamboo fibres and are, in fact, rayon fibres made through a chemical process. Bamboo fabrics, for the most part, are synthesised fibres and should really be labelled rayon or viscose. There is a mechanical process for extracting the fibres and producing yarn, but this is more labour intensive, therefore expensive, resulting in a fabric unlike the soft bamboo you would have likely experienced.

For the chemical process, the crushed bamboo is cooked with the help of Sodium hydroxide in to a cellulose fibre liquid and then pressed to remove any excess sodium hydroxide solution. Carbon disulfide is added to sulfurize the compound and cause it to jell. Sodium hydroxide is again added to create a viscose solution. The solution is then forced through tiny spinneret nozzles into a larger container of diluted sulfuric acid which hardens the viscose bamboo cellulose, creating tiny threads that can then be spun into regenerated bamboo fibre yarns.

The heavy processing of bamboo cellulose into fibre "can" be cleaner than that of conventional viscose if a closed loop process captures and reclaims all the solvents used in the process, unfortunately this is not standard practice.

The mechanical process involves machines crushing the woody parts of the bamboo plant and then broken down into a mushy mass with the aid of natural enzymes. The individual fibres are then combed out and spun into yarn. This is similar to the process used to make linen.

The mechanical process is much less popular than chemical processing primarily because it is much more labour intensive and costly. If your T-shirt were processed in this way, I am sure the manufacturer would be advertising the fact to boast less harmful processing and to justify why it is comparatively more expensive.

Dyeing The Bamboo

A large amount of industrial water pollution is due to textile dyeing and treatment. Most often, it is the conventional petrochemical dyes from exhausted dye baths that take a heavy toll on our waterways. Undyed clothes are unquestionably better for the environment. If the idea of a totally off-white wardrobe isn't for you, then perhaps it is time to explore the vast range of botanical dyestuffs.

If your bamboo T-shirt's label doesn't boast a natural dye, then the chances are it is almost certainly a chemical colour. Chemical dyes are cheaper, easier to use and offer a wider range of colours that can be repeated and matched time after time.


The main problem for the consumer is lack of information that allows them to make an informed decision. Of course, manufacturers only like to tell us the good things about their products. Law doesn't require labels to state ingredients used in the production process or even what processes are undertaken.

Consumers may be paying more for garments on the assumption that the garments have environmentally friendly qualities. As "going green" becomes ever more important, it is vital that there is adequate access to all the facts as opposed to being "Greenwashed!"

Big Chill 2011

Eastnor Castle was again the setting for the Big Chill festival from the 4th to 7th of August. It was the first time for Sorazora to be exhibiting at this big UK festival.

Located within the Enchanted Garden, Sorazora was there to provide organic products to those who care about the environment as much as we do. The weather was typically British and offered a mix ranging from glorious sunshine, cool grey cloud cover to miserably wet!

Some of the art installations within the festival site were pretty impressive and the Enchanted Garden was very well decorated. The line-up was of little interest to us, but then it would be hard to follow the musical delights from the previous weekend's WOMAD.

A giant birdcage provided the focus for entertainment within the garden, making this area the best for chilling out by far. We rarely ventured into the main arena, although we could clearly hear the happenings of adjacent fields.

This large festival was set up to cater for a crowd between 30,000 to 40,000, but the actual turnout was around 12,000. This made the entire site seem too large with areas left almost deserted for most of the time. Those that did come to party tended to be of a younger non-family age group. The childrens' area was out of bounds for those without children or the correct wristband. It was the first time for me to experience this kind of segregation and it didn't go down too well with the general customers or activities held within that area.

It was a rather disappointing festival for us as we had heard so many great things about this well promoted large festival. Weather can not be blamed for the overall turnout, so I think some positive action is required if the festival is to once again live up to its reputation. For more information about this festival, check out their website by clicking here!

Tuesday 2 August 2011

WOMAD 2011

The 29th to 31st July saw 2011's WOMAD held near Malmesbury near Wiltshire. WOMAD is by far our favourite festival in the UK and there is something new to discover for absolutely everyone. Everyone's WOMAD will be different!

As last year, Sorazora was located right in front of the Charlie Gillett stage. Named after the late British radio presenter who helped promote world music, this stage had a great line-up all through the festival. Pictured below are Shunsuke Kimura & Etsuro Ono who entertained all with Tsugaru-shamisen and a Shinobue bamboo flute.

We would love to thank Kasia & Padro, who both agreed to let us show the world the photo below. Many thanks for your continued custom and we hope to meet you on the festival circuit soon.

Pictured below is Omara Moctar AKA Bombino! Bombino is a Tuareg musician from the Agadez region of Niger, at the edge of the Sahara Desert. This desert rocker has to be one of my favourite discoveries at WOMAD 2011.

Everyone was spoilt by the weather over the course of the festival with just a little drizzle on the Friday and bright blue skies for the remainder. WOMAD is not just a spectator's party as there are plenty of things to get involved with. TASTE THE WORLD is a stage where artists prepare and cook their favourite dishes with a side order of spontaneous music. Workshops were a plenty for both adults and children!

Bellowhead performed on the main stage on Thursday night and proved to all why they have scooped the Best Live Act at the BBC Folk Awards five times over. Pictured below is Jon Boden who provides Bellowhead's vocals, fiddle and tambourine.

Anyone who knows me will have heard me recommend WOMAD festival as a great all round family festival with more musical discoveries to be found than the rest of the entire festival season. For more information on this festival, please click here!