IN a year defined by uncertainty, one of Oxford's friendliest and greenest festivals is making a triumphant return to Oxfordshire this weekend.

Treehouse Festival of Music and Art has returned to its wooded setting in Uffington, near Wantage from now to Sunday.

The festival was one of the very few in the UK to take place last summer – with full council permission – and even more impressively, the safety protocols put in place meant there was not one reported or suspected case of Covid-19 as a result of the event, according to founder Tom de Wilton.

This year’s line-up includes eclectic and emerging artists such as Chi Virgo, Worldwide Welshman and Jen Berkova from Oxford's Young Women’s Music Project.

Also on the program for the weekend is a foraging activity and aerial silk performances.

The festival has three core principles: creativity, collaboration and connection, Mr de Wilton explains, as the pandemic has only heightened how many are seeking exactly these principles after multiple ‘alienating and uninspiring’ lockdowns.

However, after such a long period of isolation, it cannot be easy to achieve creative and collaboration connection.

With a capacity of only 250 attendees, Treehouse seeks to create genuine and meaningful energy exchange rather than an anonymous event comprising of superficial connection.

Mr de Wilton, who also co-founded Oxford ec0-washing business Oxwash, said the festival's ‘more intimate and mindful’ experience had made Treehouse a model for a more ‘rewarding and responsible’ festival.

The entrepreneur, who studied engineering at Oxford University, said: “In much the same way as at American festival Burning Man, you are expected to get involved, if you come to Treehouse, you do not just sit back and watch.

“Connection is the real backbone of Treehouse. In a world dominated by loneliness and screen-time, we believe it’s essential to give people the opportunity to connect in person.

“Whether that is a new friend, lover or business partner, Treehouse is designed to bring people together.”

This year, the festival site has tripled in size to include a new area that will focus on workshops, activities and experiences.

The expansion has also allowed extra camping and parking space.

This means visitor numbers have increased while maintaining 50 per cent of the site capacity to still accommodate for social distancing.

Treehouse also represents a more sustainable way of running a festival as this year the event aims to be carbon neutral.

Outlining plans to keep this goal, Mr de Wilton said: “We will be recording where all of our guests have come from, as well as their transport method and then combining this with the numbers of litres used in the generator, the kilos of wood burnt in the campfire and gas used by the food traders to build a robust model of the carbon cost of the entire festival.

“We have partnered with The Rewilding Trust, to plant several hundred native species trees on the festival site to offset the carbon emissions over the next 20 years.

“I am a real sceptic when it comes to carbon offsetting at an industrial scale, but having done my research I am confident that by planting native trees in ancient woodland that was managed for centuries to provide building materials for local houses, this is a great solution.

“New for 2021, we have organised a group cycle from Oxford to the festival site and those who arrive by pedal power will be rewarded with a free beer and unique Treehouse 2021 medal.”

To build on the year-long legacy of Treehouse, Mr Wilton revealed expansion plans, which include regular events in Oxford, Cambridge and London with the aim of giving ‘Treehousers’ the opportunity to continue to connect throughout the year.

In addition, there is an aim to introduce two new festivals to run alongside – the Treehouse Retreat and Treehouse Festival of Human Connection.

The founder explained: “The Treehouse retreat will aim to cater for those who are looking for a little more luxury in their festival experience, with glamping, vegan catering and showers, while the Festival of Human Connection is all about fostering connection between guests through a line up of workshops, activities and experiences that are carefully curated to create connection.”