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Twinwood Festival and Glenn Miller Festival at Twinwood Arena






Vintage clothing, music and dance has been on the ascendant in recent years.

Twinwood Festival incorporating The Glenn Miller Festival, an annual event at Twinwood Arena near Bedford has become Britain's biggest vintage festival.

Here, Digger talks to Liz and David Wooding, whose family have been running Twinwood Festival since its inception in 2002, about the vintage 'phenomenon' and about the Twinwood Festival.





Scenes from Twinwood


Digger: Hi David and Liz. My partner Avril and I came down to this yearís Twinwood and we had a great time. It was a really good day. Great music and a great atmosphere.

David: That's good to hear.

Digger: That's a great location and position you've got there at Twinwood.

David: Weíre up high on an airfield.

Liz: In previous years people have said that we have a microclimate because weíve been warm when everywhere else has been cold.

David: I think a measure of how successful we are is that we had the biggest crowd when the weather was lousy and nobody could even fly in it. Most years though the weather has been fantastic. And in 2012, weíre having a massive marquee put up which weíre calling The Colonial Club. That will be done up in art deco style. Weíre featuring Max Raabe and one of his performances will be in there.

Digger: Is the idea there to be weatherproof?

David: The idea is to provide more things to do for people both in the daytime and at night. And then the knock-on effect of that is youíve got more shelter. Itís primarily there to give people more to do, because a festival is an eclectic mix of things to do. Thatís what weíre aiming at. Thereís just one or two extra things weíre going to do next year. One or two of the nightclubs will get some changes and additions. The site is finite in terms of size and we can only get so many people on it and there's only so much we can do.

Digger: Do the grounds belong to you?

David: Yes, we own it.

Digger: And where does the name Twinwood come from? Is it from your family name in some way?

David: No, itís all coincidence. Our name is Wooding, we live at Brownís Wood Farm, the festival is Twinwood at Twinwood Road. We do burn a lot of wood! Wooding actually means 'the family of wood' so itís fitting that we run the Twinwood Festival. Itís quite a famous wood, because in the middle thereís a clearing where they originally did the testing for the Harrier jump jets. That was developed up there at the RAE, which is next to Twinwood airfield.

Digger: Youíve got Cardington on the other side of Bedford where the airships were made and launched in the thirties and then up the road there's Bletchley Park. Thereís quite a vintage and wartime theme going on in this neck of the woods!

David: Theyíve also got all the wind tunnels at the RAE which were originally used for the V2. After the war they were all brought back here to the UK.

Liz: They realised that the German technology was so advanced...

David: Red Bull racing are now using one of the old German wind tunnels.

Liz: ... when the British and Americans originally found the testing sites, the British thought they could use it for their space programme. But the Americans pinched all the space scientists and took them to America and developed NASA. So we were left with just the aircraft stuff.

Digger: We did quite well with the aircraft post-war Ė the Comet, Concorde, Harrier and so on.

David: Yes, thereís a vertical wind tunnel up there and itís used these days for the world skydiving championships.

Digger: You say Twinwood has been going for ten years?

David: 2011 was the tenth anniversary. The reason that it started was that Glenn Miller took his last fateful flight from Twinwood in 1944 and did his one and only performance to an RAF audience outside in August 1944. When the BBC announced that they were broadcasting from ďSomewhere in EnglandĒ during the war, that was actually Bedford. All the entertainment was there Ė Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Glenn Miller, The Andrews Sisters, David Niven. They all used Twinwood to fly into and out of so the Twinwood control tower was the departure lounge for the stars on a daily basis.

Digger: Thereís quite a forties and fifties thing going on around here, isnít there?

David: Thatís why we opened up the museum ten years ago and we had a concert with the Glenn Miller Orchestra UK in the arena. It was built originally for show jumping and we did a few shows there and we did a concert that was so successful we said ďRight, weíll carry on doing it.Ē Itís now on an annual basis. It was originally called The Glenn Miller Festival and it still is called Twinwood incorporating the Glenn Miller Festival. Itís always over the August Bank Holiday and it usually coincides with the day when Glenn Miller last played there.

Digger: The forties and fifties people seem very devoted, don't they?

David: Itís a passion. Itís been around for a long time.

Digger: They seem more loyal somehow...






David: Youíve got your hardcore of forties and fifties followers. Liken it to a football team like Northampton Ė itís got 3,000 supporters. When itís doing well and it becomes fashionable it sells out and gets 10,000. The vintage forties and fifties scene has got a hardcore audience and that doesnít change terribly but what has changed is that a fashion has come along where young people are into vintage. So now it has gone mainstream by default. What will happen in a few years time is that it will go back to the hardcore, but a lot of the young people who have come along because itís fashionable will have seen what swing music and the sceneís all about will stay with it. So it will increase.

Digger: And thereís a bit of natural wastage with the older generation.

David: Youíve got old people who donít attend much these days, the hardcore who tend to be middle-aged and then a lot of young people. Itís peaking, I donít know when it will peak and then it will drop to a level. But it will be a higher one than it was before.

Digger: Youíve seen a steady rise since you started?

David: Yes, every year.

Digger: I have noticed it generally too since I started this in 2001. Retro and vintage seems to be popular on all fronts.

David: I think thereís several reasons. People like to look back to the good things about the 1940s and they forget we had a war going on then. The good things were people were more respectable and respectful, people dressed better and they had better manners. A lot of people hark back to that and itís almost like youíre setting the clock back when people come to the festival. To a nicer time, although itís a contradiction in truth as there was nothing nice about being bombed or wondering what was happening to your loved ones.

Digger: What sort of feedback are you getting from the businesses that show there and the acts and how do you deal with feedback?

David: We get a lot of positive feedback and this year we had no negatives. None. Which was amazing. Over the ten years weíve had a fair bit of criticism, some good, some bad, some irrelevant and what youíve got to do is listen to what everybody says and try and sift out the important ones that mean something. You do get people who have got a grudge for one reason or another and will make an adverse comment. There are some who are jealous because they run their own shows and come to ours and realise how good ours is and they donít like it, which is a bit of a stupid thing really. You just disregard those. There are people like that.

Digger: What gives you most fun and enjoyment from Twinwood?

David: Itís the year preparing it. It takes twelve months to prepare the festival and thatís full on.

Digger: Thatís amazing, isnít it?

David: Itís virtually every day of the year and itís getting the preparation right, planning it and putting it on. Thatís what itís all about, itís not about the show itself because we donít see the festival. Iím usually dashing around fighting metaphorical fires, although sometimes actually (Laughs) Thatís what gives me the satisfaction.

Digger: Itís totally a family affair?

David: Yes.

Digger: So itís got quite a future. Itís already established as the biggest and you have your children who have taken over the reigns. How has it achieved being the biggest vintage festival David?

David: Itís giving people what they want. Itís doing the best that you can within your budget and itís also important to keep the ticket prices, bar prices and food prices sensible for the working man. If you compare us against some other stows and festivals, we are good value. Some festivals go from the thirties right through to the nineties and thatís spreading the net a bit thin. Saying the nineties is vintage is open to argument. We will stay focused on the forties and fifties. As far as weíre concerned, when people stopped dancing together and dressing well then thatís as far as we want to go. Our festivalís all about people getting together and dancing together, men and women dancing proper dances, looking good and feeling good. That stopped in the mid-sixties when they stopped wearing these big dresses with petticoats and then things like Twiggyís fashions came in. All the other stuff that we like stopped and everyone became very hippy.

Digger: Followed by unisex and glam and punk and disco?

David: Yes. Nobody danced together anymore and nobody dressed up and I canít see the point of going into that. Having said that, youíve got to listen to your audience, but I canít see our audience being remotely interested in going to that stage.

Digger: And we have people like Dita Von Teese and M Bublť to thank for their contributions to the boom in vintage interest.

David: Yes.

Digger: What has been your biggest achievement and what would you still like to accomplish?

David: What weíd like is to reach a standard of music that appeals to everybody who is interested in vintage, the older ones, the middle aged and the younger people as well. Because all these younger people coming into vintage, in my view, donít necessarily appreciate the older music. They like the fashion, they like the look, they like the scene but they still like the modern music.

Digger: So they're not listening to the Andrews Sisters etc?

David: No. If you said to a twenty five year old girl who comes to Twinwood Festival who is dressed in all vintage clothing  "Who's your favourite artist?" They probably say somebody like Rihanna, Beyoncť or Katy Perry or someone like that.  That's the reality,

Digger: They can't enjoy both?

David: They'll enjoy swing music when they're there, but that's not what they'll buy.

Digger: When I was at the Isle of Wight 'Bestival', it was predominantly youngsters and a lot of them were playing things like Matt Monro and Frank Sinatra on their music players. There doesn't seem to be any snobbery about music (and the music of our parents) like we had in our day.



David: That's true.

Digger: The forties and fifties were very different from each other but Twinwood covers both...

David: Yes and no. We had come out of the war so there was a lot of optimism. But there was also austerity. That's probably one of the golden eras of our culture in the last century in every respect. Everybody had great expectations, industry was doing well, everything was on the up and we were working hard. As far as the music and the dance was concerned, it merged in. There was no such thing as a forties scene and a fifties scene. Big bands were in the thirties, forties, fifties and very early sixties. No difference - the same music and dancing.

Digger: We tend to pigeonhole into decades, don't we?

David: Yes, but you can't do that. The only difference was that in the forties we had a ruddy war and in the fifties we were getting out of it. So there was depression in the thirties and forties and optimism in the fifties. Then Rock and Roll came along, but even then there was music similar to Rock and Roll in America in the forties.

Digger: Yes, you're right. If you watch the movie A Matter Of Life And Death, for example, there's the courtroom scene in heaven, with the British and American defence and prosecution battling it out, where they play some music from BBC radio and it's very Rock and Roll.

David: Our festival is based on thirties to the late fifties. This year we've got The Pasadena Roof Orchestra and Max Raabe. Max is absolutely fabulous and because The Pasadena Roof Orchestra are playing stuff from the twenties and the thirties, they appeal to the Germans. Most of their gigs are in Germany and their offices are even in Germany. Max Raabe is obviously German, from Berlin.

Digger: Do you get many Germans coming over for the event?

David: We have one or two but we expect more next year.

Liz: We get a lot of Europeans. Dutch and Scandinavians, but Dutch mainly.

David: I don't think there's much of a German forties scene for obvious reasons. And they probably don't celebrate the fifties either, because of the Russian occupation and so on. They still felt bad about things then so their vintage scene is the twenties and thirties. The German visitors coming over next year will probably find it quite amusing to see people strutting around in uniforms.

Digger: It will be interesting to see what the Germans are dressed up in.

David: We actually get loads of people dressed up in German uniforms. We don't encourage it, though, and medals and insignia are certainly not allowed. If people want to re-enact, and some do, then we have an area in the woods where they can indulge in that and anyone who wants to watch can specifically head down to the woods to see it. We have a lot of veterans at the festival and we must show them the greatest respect. You have to be careful to let people have fun and not to offend people as well.

Digger: I can see you're both very sensitive to that. So what do you think the future holds for vintage?

David: I think people are going to be more into the vintage with the recession - Secondhand fashions, particularly the women. The number of vintage markets out there are now is amazing and people love buying old stuff.

Digger: It used to be called hand-me-down or secondhand stuff.

David: Not these days. Good vintage items are much sought after.

Digger: You had a lot of vintage stalls there this year.

David: Yes, loads of them. It's all vintage markets these days, vintage is very valued and has become highly-fashionable. It's very female-led. But Twinwood remains all about the music and dance. And nobody comes close to our standard for live music.

Digger: Or for the authenticity of the event. It was like going back to the forties and fifties.

David: That's very nice.

Digger: Best of luck for Twinwood 2012 David and Liz. And I look forward to seeing you there.

David and Liz: Thanks David.








  The Annual Ultimate Vintage 1940s and 1950s Music and Dance Festival Twinwood, Clapham, near Bedford

We have already rebooked your favourites from past festivals along with some fabulous new acts that have never appeared at Twinwood before. There will be more venues and performances than ever before.

Telephone:01923 282725


Twinwood Arena & The Glenn Miller Museum
Twinwood Events Ltd
Twinwood Road
MK41 6AB


www: Twinwood Festival









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