Review: Forbidden Forest 2022

Words: Michael O'Donohoe
Photos: Wei Wen
Thursday 07 July 2022
reading time: min, words

Well established electronic music event Forbidden Forest took place at new local Nottinghamshire location Belvoir Castle last weekend, and we sent down one of our music writers Michael O'Donohoe down to check it out...


I grew up in a small town on an island in the middle of a very large lake. When I was seventeen, I attended a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream put on by a local youth group. It was staged among the trees in a nearby, uninhabited island, and on the wonderful June evening that the performance fell on, it almost felt as though something supernatural was happening. 

I got the same feeling attending this year’s Forbidden Forest festival, which this year took place over two days in the grounds of Belvoir castle (which is pronounced “Beaver Castle”, possibly because it is home to a family of posh beavers). There was something of A Midsummer Night’s Dream about the getting lost in crowd of strangers in a clearing amidst 1600 acres of woodland, particularly when the sun starts to set, and as evening turns to night and the whole place is lit up. Or when you round a corner to the find a crowd losing itself to the inimitable sound of Insomnia by Faithless pulsing through the trees. 

There were four stages in total – Manor, Industria, Bunker and Reactor, of which only the main stage, Industria, was set in the traditional open field. It was impossible to see every act, and I found myself going back and forth between them, as well as relaxing in the VIP Boohoo village beside a tranquil lake, hanging out with people much more glamorous than myself. 

Musically, I think Manor was my favourite stage. Designed to resemble a Halloween-y haunted mansion, it hosted artists such as CDC and Low Steppa who played the kind of upbeat house music that makes me want to leap around. 

The best designed stage was Bunker, which sat atop a soon-to-be muddy clearing on top of a wooded hill. It superficially resembled the pillbox from the start of Saving Private Ryan, but was much better because instead of bullets it fired out music. It was mostly given over to dubstep, which I will admit I am not the biggest fan of, but had far and away the most energetic crowd of the three “non-main” stages. 

Speaking of dubstep, shortly after arriving, I caught Benny L playing the main stage. I’m the first to admit I’m not the world’s biggest dubstep fan, but he may have made a convert of me. Later, Industria hosted Hazard, who blended lyrics straight out of So Solid Crew circa the 90s with drum and bass sounds. Crowd reaction! was repeatedly demanded, and crowd reaction he got.



Being a 90s kid, I couldn’t help but be excited to see Craig David’s set on the second day. Although a lot more mainstream than many of the acts he kept the crowd hyped up with a stream of 90s R&B, dance and rap music, mixed with modern EDM sounds. If you’d told me back in 1998, as I listened to Seven Days that I’d one day be jumping around to Craig David DJing the song Jump Around, I’d have told you that you were quite mad. And, having done just that, I’ve never been so happy to be (hypothetically) wrong. 

In between songs he spoke poignantly, without being Schmaltzy or a downer, about how privileged he felt to be there, particularly after the difficult few years we’ve all had. It added an oddly moving note to the set. That’s not a word often ascribed to music festivals, but it felt right, particularly given how back in 2003 the TV show Bo’Selecta turned David into a joke and seemingly ended his career. It was wonderful to see him up there, all those years later, having the last laugh and doing what he loves, and just as wonderful after the last two gruelling years to be there sharing it with him. 

One gripe was the aforementioned transport situation. While the festival’s organisers had arranged with coach company Tuned in Travel to run shuttle buses from Grantham station, this was pre-book only, a fact that doesn’t seem to have been well advertised. We found ourselves talking to a number of festival goers who had arrived at Grantham Station only to find themselves needing to take a (thirty pound) taxi to the venue. Speaking of which; a special shout out to Maisie and Sarah from Brighton via Manchester, for splitting the cost of a cab with a pair of complete strangers. 


this was most magical weekend I’ve had in quite some time

The festival was closed out by East London songstress Ella Eyre. At only 28, Eyre has the rich voice of an old soul trapped in a young body, and she hopped about the stage with the excitable energy of a festival goer herself. Although she took a bit of time to get crowd with her, she soon hit her stride, playing all the hits, including I Came Here For Love (didn’t we all, Ella?) and Just Got Paid (an anthem for a generation determined to enjoy itself despite soaring rents and bills). By the time she finished, hitting (and holding) a single lengthy warbling note, she had the crowd eating out of her hand. I can think of very few singers who sound the same live as their recorded music does, but she did. 

All in all, despite the transport faff (and a last minute trip to Black’s, the shop that’s always closing down but never actually closes) this was most magical weekend I’ve had in quite some time.

Forbidden Forest took place 2nd and 3rd July 2022 

We have a favour to ask

LeftLion is Nottingham’s meeting point for information about what’s going on in our city, from the established organisations to the grassroots. We want to keep what we do free to all to access, but increasingly we are relying on revenue from our readers to continue. Can you spare a few quid each month to support us?

Support LeftLion

Please note, we migrated all recently used accounts to the new site, but you will need to request a password reset

Sign in using

Or using your

Forgot password?

Register an account

Password must be at least 8 characters long, have 1 uppercase, 1 lowercase, 1 number and 1 special character.

Forgotten your password?

Reset your password?

Password must be at least 8 characters long, have 1 uppercase, 1 lowercase, 1 number and 1 special character.